USDA Announces Wayne County Local Food Initiative
EAST LANSING, Feb. 14, 2014 – USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service has $150,000 in financial assistance available for the construction of seasonal high tunnels in Wayne County. Seasonal high tunnels are used by producers to extend the growing season for fruit and vegetables.
“Seasonal high tunnels help vegetable and fruit growers increase the availability of locally grown, healthy food while protecting the environment,” NRCS State Conservationist Garry Lee said.
The Seasonal High Tunnel Initiative is a part of the Environmental Quality Incentives Program, which provides landowners with financial and technical assistance to conduct voluntary agricultural practices that will improve environmental outcomes. The initiative specifically directs technical and financial assistance to support the installation and management of seasonal high tunnels in agricultural production.
Seasonal high tunnels, or hoop houses, protect the soil, extend the growing season, reduce the need for pesticides and reduce the loss of fertilizers through runoff. High tunnels are made of ribs of plastic or metal pipe covered with a layer of plastic sheeting and are easy to build and maintain. Applications for financial assistance are due by March 21.
“We’ve seen an increase in demand for high tunnels in our urban areas,” Lee said. “With 80 percent of the United States population living in or around urban areas, high tunnels offer these areas an opportunity to support their own food supply.”
NRCS currently has 23 total contracts for seasonal high tunnels in Wayne County, most of which will be completed this year.
In the past five years, NRCS has supported nearly 10,000 high tunnels across the country. High tunnels have been found to be particularly effective in urban and rural communities as a way to improve access to local healthy food and are a core element of USDA’s Know Your Farmer, Know Your Food Initiative which coordinates the Department’s work on building stronger local and regional food systems.
Eligible producers selected for financial assistance receive payment after the seasonal high tunnel is installed. For more information, contact the USDA service center in Ann Arbor at (734) 761-6722 extension 3.