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Family farm gets high tunnels to protect against excess of rain

Connie Locklear owns the New Grounds farm in Pembroke with her husband, Millard. It's been in Millard's family for generations, and they've noticed more severe weather with the passage of time. That severe weather comes in many forms, including deluges of rain in the summertime.

With support from the Environmental Defense Fund and the Cooperative Extension at N.C. Agricultural and Technical State University, they started using special structures to avoid the harm caused by severe weather. Now, there are several "high tunnels" situated around the Locklears' farm. They're tall metal structures that form a half-cylinder of protective plastic sheeting over bare earth. "There’s almost no waste," Connie said. "So almost all your fruit is sellable fruit. It makes a big, big difference.”

The high tunnels protect finicky fruits from oversaturation in the rain, and they also extend the growing season. The tunnels have sidewalls made of polyvinyl that can slide up to let air pass through or come down to keep the heat in at night.

Connie said they've planted tomatoes in June and been able to harvest all the way through March of the next year. “We'll put these walls up this afternoon in trying to contain some of the heat inside. Because even in the dead of winter, when it's 30 degrees outside, when these walls are closed up, and the sun is shining, I'm working in the tank top inside. It generates that much heat.”

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