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High Tunnel Field Day Highlights Benefits to Growers 

High Tunnel Field Day Highlights Benefits to Growers 

High tunnels in Delaware have received an extraordinary amount of attention—especially from small and organic farmers statewide.  And for good reason.  Not only do high tunnels extend the growing season, but there are numerous associated conservation benefits.

Potential natural resource benefits from using tunnel structures include:  improved plant quality, improved soil quality, and improved water quality through methods such as reduced nutrient and pesticide transport.

On September 29, Delaware State University (DSU) Cooperative Extension sponsored a field day in which USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) conservationists were invited to speak about the agency’s high tunnel initiative.  The event brought in 45 participants to see a working high tunnel firsthand on a small farm located in Hartly, DE.

The hosts, landowners Janice and Ralph Truitt, thanked the staff of DSU and NRCS for the technical and financial assistance provided to their high tunnel project and for their continued support.  Each partner discussed their role during the field day.  DSU representatives gave an overview of the project, discussed their assistance with Truitt’s ethnic crop selection, and elaborated on the tunnel’s construction process.  NRCS representatives discussed the application process for financial assistance, along with eligibility and maintenance requirements. 

To be eligible for NRCS funding of high tunnels, an applicant must meet the basic requirements:  applicant must have control of the land for entire contract length (up to 4 years), and must be engaged in agricultural production.   Additional eligibility details are listed here.

Mrs. Truitt sought out a high tunnel because she wanted to grow ethnic crops geared toward a niche market.  The Truitts currently grow both ethnic and traditional crops in the high tunnel; vegetables include African eggplant, okra, sweet potatoes, collard greens and hot peppers, among others.  In her own words, Truitt emphasized to the crowd that help is available for small farmers if you are determined to find it.  

Landowners interested in receiving financial assistance from NRCS on high tunnels should contact their local USDA Service Center.  In Sussex County, call 302-856-3990, ext 3; in Kent County, call 302-741-2600, ext. 3; and in New Castle County, call 302-832-3100, ext. 3.  For more information on other NRCS programs and services, visit www.de.nrcs.usda.gov.  For information on DSU programs/services, contact John Clendaniel at 302-857-6425.

 always be willing to learn. 

 

Caption: NRCS State Conservationist Russell Morgan and Clarimer Hernandez-Vargas, soil conservationist,  provide participants with an overview of NRCS programs and services, as well as requirements specific to obtaining NRCS funds for a high tunnel. 

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