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Success Story

High Tunnels Help Community Supported Agriculture

Publish Date
ar county high tunnel

By Creston Shrum

Public Affairs Specialist

Brandon and Cat Gordon, owners of Five Acre Farms near Pleasant Plains, Ark., are proof it doesn’t require a lot of land to be a successful farmer.

In fact, just over an acre of their five acres is in crop production. But, by using three seasonal high tunnels they’ve obtained through USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) programs they are making the most of their space.

“I’ll have four cropping seasons in my high tunnels this year,” said Brandon, who signed up for three Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) contracts as a beginning farmer. “So far this year, I’ve grown lettuce, tomatoes, cucumbers, peppers and squash in my houses. In the fall, I’ll plant cool season vegetables like cabbage and beets.”

Brandon, who has been farming for about seven years, began selling his produce at the farmer’s market. That is where he first heard about assistance through NRCS.

Soon after, he visited the White County Field Service Center in Searcy to learn about NRCS assistance.

“We have been working with Brandon since 2013,” said Reginald Cunningham, White County district conservationist in Searcy. “Last year, he installed his third high tunnel, 200 feet of irrigation pipeline and a micro-irrigation system. His contract also calls for irrigation water management through 2020.”

“The plants seem much healthier in the high tunnels. Being able to control when and where they receive water makes a big difference compared to the crops I grow outside of the houses. There are some issues you encounter using high tunnels such as plant diseases you wouldn’t otherwise see. But, by using disease resistant plants that can be controlled,” Brandon said.

“There is a bit of a learning curve when you start growing in high tunnels,” he said. “I’d suggest people wanting to get a high tunnel, talk to someone who has been growing produce in them.”

Brandon has recently began selling his certified naturally grown produce through a Community-Supported Agriculture co-op in Little Rock.

The co-op allows people to subscribe to receive a box of fresh, locally grown produce weekly from around the state during the growing season. The boxes include things like arugula, beets, broccoli, cabbage, tomatoes, kohlrabi, squash and salad mixes. His produce is also used at local restaurants.

“We don’t have a lot of high tunnels in White County, but it is something small farmers and alternative crop producers could benefit from,” said Cunningham. “In the future, I hope to work with farmers like Brandon to have a field day so people interested can learn about using high tunnels and the assistance NRCS can provide.”

Seasonal High Tunnel at Five Acre Farms in White County, Arkansas.

White County District Conservationist Reginald Cunningham, left, and producer Brandon Gordon talk about the produce in the high tunnel.