Cleveland High Tunnel Initiative
The High Tunnel Initiative is a voluntary program that provides financial and technical assistance to agricultural producers to extend the growing season for high value crops in an environmentally safe manner through the Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP), a Federal conservation program. High tunnels are steel-framed with removable heavy plastic sheets covering structures that extend the growing season. High tunnel benefits include better plant and soil quality, fewer nutrients and pesticides in the environment, and better air quality because the crops are usually sold locally, decreasing fuel use for transportation.
High Tunnels usually cost a few thousand dollars, making them unaffordable for most people who don’t grow food for profit. If a high tunnel application is approved, NRCS provides financial assistance for part of the cost of building the high tunnel using EQIP. The United States Department of Agriculture’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) created the Cleveland High Tunnel Initiative in 2011, so more people could grow fresh vegetables longer while managing water and pests effectively. Since 2012, NRCS installed 65 high tunnels through the initiative in the Greater Cleveland area. In 2016, NRCS will accept applications from the Greater Cleveland area and give higher priority to applicants located in city-targeted agricultural use areas, areas designated as food deserts by USDA, and applicants from one of the 20 HUD SNP target areas (see maps below).
The City of Cleveland allows high tunnels in areas zoned residential and non-residential. The person or organization building the high tunnel must have a building permit from the City of Cleveland and follow the set-back distances and other requirements of the zoning ordinance. Information on building permits is on the City of Cleveland Building and Housing website at http://www.city.cleveland.oh.us. The City of Cleveland's Division of Water established reduced hydrant permit fees for certain areas of the city and areas approved for urban agriculture projects. Refer to the City of Cleveland's Division of Water website for more information.
How To Apply
NRCS accepts and processes EQIP applications on a continuous basis. However, established deadlines are set for application periods in which to consider eligible applications for funding. Applications submitted after these dates will be evaluated and considered for funding during later funding opportunities. Producers must submit a complete program application and other documentation to support eligibility to be considered for financial assistance through EQIP.
The NRCS Urban Conservationist in the Cleveland area manages EQIP Cleveland High Tunnel Initiative contracts and helps successful applicants work through the contract process. The Federal Government considers the high tunnel payment as part of the contract holder’s annual household income. Non-profit organizations can also apply for high tunnels if they grow food.
Information about how to apply for assistance through EQIP and specific application period deadlines are available on the Ohio EQIP home page.
To schedule an appointment, contact the Natural Resources Conservation Service office located in the USDA Service Center, Genesis Building, 6000 Lombardo Center, Suite 110, Seven Hills, Ohio 44131.
Learn more about the Cleveland High Tunnel Initiative, in this printable Factsheet.