Agriculture Deputy Secretary Kathleen Merrigan announced that more than 2,400 seasonal high tunnels are being constructed by growers in 43 states through a pilot project initiated by USDA in fiscal year (FY) 2010. “By capturing solar energy, seasonal high tunnels create favorable conditions enabling farmers to grow vegetables, berries, and other specialty crops in climates and at times of the year in which it would otherwise be impossible,” Merrigan said. “Farmers who sell their high tunnel produce locally benefit from the extra income, and the community benefits from the availability of fresh, locally grown food.”
USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) is providing financial assistance for seasonal high tunnels as part of a three-year trial to determine their effectiveness in conserving water, reducing pesticide use, maintaining vital soil nutrients, and increasing crop yields. The pilot is offered under the Know your Farmer, Know your Food initiative, a USDA effort to connect growers and consumers, strengthen local and regional food production, increase the use of sustainable agricultural practices, and promote consumption of fresh, local food. In FY 2010,NRCS provided $13 million to landowners through its conservation programs to install high tunnels, and additional funding is available in FY 2011.
►Click here for a breakdown of fiscal year 2010 high tunnel funding by state.
At the end of the pilot, NRCS will assess the conservation impact of seasonal high tunnels. To view a video of how NRCS-funded seasonal high tunnels are helping growers extend the growing season and reduce inputs, click here.