For Scrivner Hoppe-Glosser, a small farmer in Pleasant Grove, Calif., he can't help but beam at the newest thing to pop up in his farm field. It isn't one of his 40 different specialty crops that he grows for popular restaurants in the Sacramento area but a structure made of wood, metal and plastic tarping.
"When I first heard that NRCS could help me install a high tunnel, I applied but didn't really believe that it would happen," said Hoppe-Glosser. "But then it did. I couldn't be happier. This high tunnel will help me extend my growing season so we can grow more crops and generate a full year's income from our farm." With the help of the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) and their high tunnel conservation practice, Hoppe-Glosser has achieved his goal.
NRCS in California began assisting farmers with high tunnels, sometimes referred to as hoop houses, in the 2008 Farm Bill and the conservation practice's popularity has only skyrocketed throughout the 2014 Farm Bill. In Fiscal Year 2014, NRCS provided approximately $400,000 to assist farmers to install the structures. This past fiscal year, 2018, NRCS provided $1.4 million to new farmers to install the same practice. Over a five-year span, NRCS provided $4.4 million in total.
Similar to Hoppe-Glosser, Tong Vue of Beyond Bok Choy farm in Fresno, Calif., was attracted to NRCS's high tunnel practice because it would allow her to grow more Asian crops, year round, protected by winter's elements. It's common to see at least four different crops growing inside her high tunnel, especially basil which typically has a short growing season.
High tunnels have created a niche for smaller farming operations and historically underserved landowners who had not previously taken advantage of Farm Bill programs. The high tunnel frame must be constructed of metal, wood, or durable plastic; and be at least six feet in height at the peak of the structure. The covering must be either polyethylene, polycarbonate, plastic, or fabric.
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