Detroit Seasonal High Tunnel Educational Initiative launches
USDA and Southeast Michigan Resource Conservation and Development Council provide education and training for using hoophouses in urban agriculture
Through funding from the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS), the Southeast Michigan Resource Conservation and Development Council will begin providing workshops and technical assistance to local producers in the Detroit area interested in extending their growing season. As part of its Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP), NRCS has been leading a Seasonal High Tunnel Initiative (SHT) across the country to provide landowners with financial and technical assistance that supports the installation and management of seasonal high tunnels, or hoophouses.
The hoophouses are steel-framed, unheated, polyethylene-covered structures that protect crops from severe weather, allowing producers to extend their growing seasons and increase their production with overall improved quality. By increasing their education on the use of hoophouses, urban producers can continue to grow fruits and vegetables that would normally be killed off by a cold Michigan winter and increase the availability of locally grown food in Detroit for its residents and those in the surrounding cities.
Seasonal high tunnels are especially effective in urban areas as a way to increase access to local food for city residents, and in Detroit, this initiative is expected to help boost the effectiveness of the many pre-existing organizations and advocates of healthy food access in the city. Training will be provided not only to teach how to improve the installation, management and maintenance of the seasonal high tunnels, but also how to improve on the production and marketing of the crops they will help produce. The Council is currently working on creating educational materials to provide information to local producers, and expect to begin holding workshops on these topics in mid-2014.
“What we are doing is important because one of the keys to being successful with high tunnels is being informed and educated about how best to use them to grow crops,” said Morse Brown, president of Southeast Michigan Resource Conservation and Development Council. “In Detroit, there are a number of farmers that are installing or have installed high tunnels. We are providing training and tours that will help them be more successful.”