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Cleveland High Tunnel Initiative

The United States Department of Agriculture’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) created the Cleveland High Tunnel Initiative in 2011 to give more people an opportunity to grow fresh vegetables for most of the year while managing water and pests effectively. NRCS uses the voluntary, Federal Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) to provide financial and technical assistance to purchase high tunnels for people that grow food since the larger high tunnels may cost several thousand dollars.

High tuVegetables growing inside a high tunnelnnels are steel-framed structures with removable heavy plastic sheets that cover the frame.  Unlike in many greenhouses, the plants grow directly in the soil.  The environmental benefits of a high tunnel system include improved plant, soil, and water management requiring fewer nutrients and pesticides, and improved soil and water quality.  Air quality may improve as well because usually the crops are consumed locally, decreasing emissions from long distance transportation. 

The City of Cleveland allows high tunnel in areas zoned residential and non-residential, requires a building permit from the City of Cleveland for the person or organization building a high tunnel, and requires compliance with the zoning ordinance, such as following setback distances. The City of Cleveland's Division of Water reduced hydrant permit fees in certain areas including those approved for urban agriculture projects.  Visit the City of Cleveland Building and Housing website for building permits, zoning requirements, and hydrant permit fees. 

How To Apply

In 2016, NRCS will accept applications from the Greater Cleveland area, giving 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 NSP target areas (see maps below). While NRCS accepts and processes EQIP applications at any time, deadlines are set to review applications received by the deadline for funding. Applications submitted after a deadline are held and considered for the next funding deadline.  All EQIP applications submitted must be complete and include the documents required to assess an applicants’ eligibility.

The NRCS Urban Conservationist in the Cleveland area manages the EQIP High Tunnel contracts and helps applicants work through the contract process.  Non-profit organizations can also apply for high tunnels if they grow food. The Federal Government considers the EQIP high tunnel payment as part of the contract holder’s annual household income. 

Visit these links for EQIP application funding deadlines and information about how to apply for EQIP.

To schedule an appointment with the Urban Conservationist, contact the Natural Resources Conservation Service office located in the USDA Service Center, Genesis Building, 6000 Lombardo Center, Suite 110, Seven Hills, Ohio 44131 or call 216-503-9230 extension 9283.

Learn more about the Cleveland High Tunnel Initiative, in this printable Factsheet.

Map of Urban Agriculture Target Areas


Map of HUD NSP 2 Target Areas


Map of USDA Food Desert Locations