A Hoophouse on the Horizon


| 5/9/2011 12:45:20 AM


sherryveggies 

Last summer I signed up for what will be a great opportunity. Early in the growing season I heard of a grant that helps cover the cost of buying a hoophouse. The friend that told me about this is a fellow farmers market seller, and he said I should go to the local USDA office and ask them for the details.

What is a Hoophouse? 

A hoophouse, also called a high tunnel, is a plastic sheeting covered structure. It is usually supported by metal posts, frame and pylons connected to each other making a Quonset or pagoda shaped building. It is used similarly to a greenhouse, but it's primarily used for extending crop seasons.  

I didn't know a whole lot about hoophouses, but was intrigued enough to dig deeper. In this part of Missouri there aren't many growers using hoophouses (greenhouses are more common). I went to the county NCRS office and talked to our local DNR representative, Dan. He wrote my information down and sent me home with some paperwork.

The grant is open to persons who own property and have raised crops on that land in one of the last 5 years. Any size hoophouse kit may be purchased if you are part of the program, but the NCRS will only pay $1.89 per square foot for up to 2178 Square feet (one fifth of an acre). I qualified for an extra allowance and gained an extra $0.35 per square foot to make it $2.24. There is also another allowance for those growers wanting to gain their organic certification. Some of the standards vary by state and only 38 states are included in this EQIP program.



Think Before Signing! 

I talked it over with my husband and read as much as I could about it and tried to consider all the requirements. Signing up for a government program and having to share information with the government is one consideration. Also, when signing up you become obliged to follow through with the agreement. This included not only setting up the hoophouse, but maintaining it and keeping certain records of it for four years. The hoophouse must also be a kit that is approved by them (for example, the entrance must be at least 6 feet high), and must be purchased and set up before they will reimburse the money. A hoophouse is also not to be permanently heated through the winter like a greenhouse, and all crops in the hoophouse are required to be planted in the ground. Lastly, with the new hoophouse comes more work in planting and harvesting that many of us growers are already overwhelmed by.





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