NRCS Supports Local Food Systems By Funding Seasonal High Tunnels
Richmond, March 7, 2012 – As we celebrate National Agriculture Week, which runs March 4 - 10, it is important to remember the contributions of Virginia farmers in meeting the ever growing demand for food and fiber. Farmers generate $55 billion a year for Virginia’s economy and are good stewards of the land.
For more than 75 years, NRCS has helped thousands of Virginia farmers install conservation practices to improve soil and water quality. Healthy soil helps increase productivity and that’s important as our nation seeks to feed a population that is expected to grow to nine billion by 2050. For those who think that food comes from the grocery store, the USDA’s “Know Your Farmer, Know Your Food” campaign has helped put a face on production agriculture. It has also strengthened local and regional food systems.
NRCS supports these efforts through its Seasonal High Tunnel Initiative. Unlike greenhouses, high tunnels require no energy, relying on natural sunlight to modify the climate inside to create more favorable conditions for vegetable and other specialty crops. Where high tunnels are used year-round, they provide a source of steady income for farmers — a significant benefit to owners of small farms and to limited resource and organic producers.
Since launching this three-year pilot in 2010, Virginia NRCS has helped farmers install 108 tunnels. During the first ranking period for 2012, NRCS pre-approved 62 more applications totaling over $417,000. Here are just two success stories:
In Charlotte County, vegetable producer Amy Carwile was looking for a way to extend her growing season. She worked with NRCS to install a seasonal high tunnel at Archlynn Farms and has seen at least a threefold increase in yields. She was so pleased with the NRCS-funded high tunnel that she purchased a second one to expand her vegetable business from home and farmer’s market sales to a Community Supported Agriculture.
In Charlottesville, The Local Food Hub installed a high tunnel at their Maple Hill Farm in September 2010 and saw yields of more than 500 pounds of spring mix before a storm destroyed the structure. The non-profit group went back to NRCS to get funding to purchase a replacement structure, which will soon be filled with hundreds of heirloom tomatoes.
Contact your local NRCS field office to learn more about available funding for seasonal high tunnels or other conservation practices. Applications received after March 30 will be ranked in the next funding group on June 1.