Seasonal High Tunnels Focus of Recent NRCS Presentation
story by Beverly Moseley
As the movement towards growing and purchasing locally grown foods continues to trend upwards, experts recently shared the benefits of seasonal high tunnels at a meeting held outside of Houston in Waller.
More than 50 people attended the seasonal high tunnel meeting which was hosted by Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service and the Cooperative Extension Program at Prairie View A&M University.
Trey Bethke, District Conservationist for the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) in Hempstead, who spoke about NRCS’s Seasonal High Tunnel National Initiative, was one of six speakers at the event.
“I was very excited to see the response to this meeting. The genesis of the meeting is that Waller County recently developed a local farmers market here in Waller,” Bethke said. “So, the meeting was to let folks know about various opportunities available to area produce growers. What was most impressive about the turnout was that folks came from far and wide. I met folks from as far away as Jasper, and nearly every neighboring county to Waller County.”
The benefits of high tunnels can include extended growing seasons for fruits and vegetables, improved air and soil quality, along with reduced nutrient and pesticide transport. The national initiative is administered through NRCS’ Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP).
“These high tunnels are useful in allowing producers to start their growing season earlier, maintaining it through the driest, hottest period of the summer, and then extending the growing season further into the winter time. This allows vegetable growers to offer produce to the community that would normally not be available at certain times of the year,” Bethke said. “For example, offering tomatoes and squash through the heat of summer when most farmers’ gardens have lost their bloom due to the heat or by offering fresh vegetables well into the fall.”
He added that water resources can be conserved under a high tunnel structure through reduced evaporation and even a reduction in plant transpiration. Fertilizers and chemicals also can be contained more easily within these structures.
After the meeting, Bethke said some of the attendees he spoke with had smaller properties, such as five to six acres in size.
“They are trying to find ways to make their land produce some tangible income, while also allowing them to engage in an outdoor activity while enjoying the excitement of having their own business and being a "farmer.""
Trey Bethke, NRCS District Conservationist in Hempstead, speaks at a recent seasonal high tunnel meeting in Waller, which was hosted by Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service and the Cooperative Extension Program at Prairie View A&M University.
The benefits of high tunnels can include extended growing seasons for fruits and vegetables, improved air and soil quality, along with reduced nutrient and pesticide transport. The national initiative is administered through NRCS' Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP).