Return to the Market Gardener Forum | Post a Follow-Up

 o
NRCS high tunnel program continues for 3rd yr

Posted by myfamilysfarm 5b (My Page) on
Tue, Jan 24, 12 at 17:51

I just received my copy of "Growing for Market", thank you Lynn Byczynski for writing it.

She posted information regarding the high tunnel program.

"USDA's Natural Resource Conservation Service has expanded its Season High Tunnel Initiative to ALL 50 states this year" "Now there are 3 signup periods in every state, ending Feb 3, March 30, and June 1"

you should contact your local USDA Service Center to find out how to apply.

I thought I would pass this information on, just in case someone did not know about it.

Again, thank you Lynn for informing me about the up-to-date information.


Follow-Up Postings:

 o
RE: NRCS high tunnel program continues for 3rd yr

Thanks for the info, Marla. I am going to make some calls on that.
Rustico:
In search of government cheese.


 o
RE: NRCS high tunnel program continues for 3rd yr

They do limit the size of high tunnel, but any help nowadays is appreciated. In my state, there was NO help prior to this year.

This was just 1 small article in the current "growing for market". This issue was worth the $36 that I spent for the year. Hope the rest are as good as this one.

Marla


 o
RE: NRCS high tunnel program continues for 3rd yr

I want one but I rent my land to grow on so I have assumed they wouldn't give me one. But to assume makes an a** of u and me (get it?).


 o
RE: NRCS high tunnel program continues for 3rd yr

Little minnie,
I got my package yesterday and there are paths for people with a lease. It does look like it would require significant cooperation from the land owner though. Verify, as I really know nothing and am just trying to help. MA has a nice summary of the program http://www.ma.nrcs.usda.gov/programs/eqip/MA_HighTunnel_FactSheet.pdf

As the property owner where I grow, there are conditions that have me a little squeamish on the idea,but I am trying not to be paranoid. Most specifically, there is an addendum that gives some conservation group ,federal I think, the right to inspect in perpetuity to see if "ecologically sound" practices are maintained on the farm. This mostly relates to wetlands and "highly erosive" sites, as far as I can tell.

Overall, I think this could be a very good opportunity for those selected to participate. I have read comments that support this in some threads on other sites that,unfortunately, I did not save. Maybe someone else has links?


 o
RE: NRCS high tunnel program continues for 3rd yr

I wouldn't be surprised that in the future, hopefully in the FAR future, all places that grow may need to be inspected. Just more government involvement.

I don't like the involvement, but we are asking for some help, financially, and for that reason, we have to bend over.

Minnie, I use presume, more than assume. I do enough assuming unintentially without any more help.

Rustico, I can't remember your name, Sorry I don't remember the links, but there are a wealth of information on this site.

Marla


 o
RE: NRCS high tunnel program continues for 3rd yr

Yes, Marla, I am thinking the same thing.That inspections are inevitable anyway....and it's still scary.


 o
RE: NRCS high tunnel program continues for 3rd yr

when i applied for this a couple of years ago an agent came out to my farm and said my land is highly erosive. i live in the blue ridge mountains. i would have had to agree to let them pretty much control how i use my land. the inspecting agent came here when no one was home and without making an appointment.
government money is not for me.


 o
RE: NRCS high tunnel program continues for 3rd yr

Well, I'll be finding out alot tomorrow morning, as I called my local NRCS this afternoon, made an appointment to get my paper work rolling. The guy I talked to told me that no one has applied for the HT financial assistance yet from the county I live in. But the county next to mine has had pretty many apply. I know there will be inspections, but I,m kind-da use to that because I have to get my 1/2 acre (field grown) of perennials inspected for pests. If I can get this HT, I'll hold off on converting my GH for now.


 o
RE: NRCS high tunnel program continues for 3rd yr

The inspector coming out alone would bother me too, Randy....and the addendum gives them that permission. It's going to take some risk/trust or something.

I have dealt with inspectors and rules as a general contractor for a long time. It was awful at times, so I understand and share some wariness, but also have some confidence that it will be manageable with the hi tunnel. On the other hand, I think nothing would "grandfather in" a hi tunnel more than getting it installed with cooperation of the government. In some jurisdictions you need everything you can get along these lines. I am just going to take the info as it comes ask lots of questions, try to understand worst case scenarios etc. and weigh the gamble before participating in anything like this.

I think they are mostly concerned about the "water slug" that the tunnel poly will create. If they have expectations that runoff be managed well, under reasonable guidelines, that's fair enough. I would just point to the roof on my house and give them the facts, it isn't hurting a thing, no matter how much it rains, and it is bigger than the hoop houses under consideration.


 o
RE: NRCS high tunnel program continues for 3rd yr

One thing I have been told about this program is you are far more likely to get the grant if you sign up for other NRCS programs that could help your farm. And if you do not get the grant this year you will be far ahead next year when funding cones back around if you do sign up this year.


 o
RE: NRCS high tunnel program continues for 3rd yr

O.K. Folks,

I just thought I would let you know how the visit with the NRCS planner went. This is my first time ever visiting with a government rep over anything farm related.

I was a bit surprised when he immediately started a discussion about a "farm plan". I think, as boulderbelt said in the post above, they would like to have us participate more broadly in the services they have to offer on a cost sharing bases, with more or less cooperative planning. All I can say is be firm but fair and see where it goes.

The man from the NRCS was very nice, I rather enjoyed the visit.He was quite knowledgeable, but also humble enough to credit my local expertise even though I am a relative new grower. I let him know that even on a cost sharing basis many of his programs don't payoff for me, or have other drawbacks at this point. He was quite sympathetic, not problematic at all. He agreed to focus on the high tunnel, which could be a boon to this small farm. I agreed to keep an open mind towards working with him over time and told him that I would entertain any suggestions. Some of the things he mentioned that could be part of a "plan" are, windbreaks, mulching, cover cropping, and irrigation plans, including water pumping

We will see how the follow-up goes.

Also on this topic. It appears that Grower's Supply will distribute a high tunnel, with no upfront costs, after looking at the contract with the NRCS . Don't quote me on how that works. I spoke with Matt at Grower's Supply and he said the tunnel that works best with this program is the 30x72. Price per square foot goes up quickly as they get smaller and it is a cost sharing program. If I get approved, I will compare that cost with sourcing all the materials separately and go from there.


 o
RE: NRCS high tunnel program continues for 3rd yr

Windbreaks are great, especially with the winds that we get here on this farm. We have a 'fence row' windbreak about 400" away, and I wish it was about 1/2 the distance. I use a lot of 'plots' to help with possible erosion, they like that. Cover crops help with erosion and after you till them in before spring planting, it will help with the organic matter in the soil. Irrigation isn't as important to me, but I may be changing my mind this year, we're putting a Truck Gardening set-up from Growers Solution (40 rows, 50' long with all supplies, less than $300 plus tax).

All this is my personal experience and topics in my Soil Science class.

I do not have 'help' from the government.

Marla


 o
RE: NRCS high tunnel program continues for 3rd yr

rustico - remember that any assistance is worthwhile if it can be leveraged into a more profitable operation without getting bogged down into too much regulation and red-tape. In my experience, the high tunnel is one of the best technologies going in terms of a rapid pay-off and a relatively accessible technology. Information is $ if you know how to use it.


 o
RE: NRCS high tunnel program continues for 3rd yr

We were able to place our hoop house near the driveway, and made the doors big enough, that we can bring a vehicle into the house when not being used as a plant sanctuary. We don't have a garage otherwise.

Just another use, if allowed.

Marla


 o
RE: NRCS high tunnel program continues for 3rd yr

I wasn't going to follow-up on this till I knew more, but I,m getting excited and rustico started it up again. The NRCS man I met and worked with "Tom" was very nice also, as I said earlier, I was the first one to apply for this in my county, and still the only one. As Tom and I filled out paper work he was very surprized that I had done as much homework as I did. My first bunch of paper work is done-1/27/12, this also included my bank infor for the gov funds to be transferred into and I'm now in the NRCS system. They also gave me a copy of the Appendix/Conservation Program Contract to look over (good thing my daughter's Father-in-Law is in LAW/"Attorney" he would help me out if ever needed), It was way easier then I thought it would be (so far). On 2/14/12 I went in and filled out and signed more paper work, the "Conservation Plan and Schedule of Operations"(pest/nutrient). This is planned for 2178 sq ft (gov in put on this is $2.57 per sq ft/$5,597, which would be real close to the 30'x72=2160 sq ft (this is the size I was looking at). So as of right now I'm still waiting to hear from Tom, hoping he'll have the almighty "Contract" ready to be signed. They told me at the NRCS office that I was preapproved and that things were lookin Good for me. I'll keep my fingers crossed for now!!
Deb


 o
RE: NRCS high tunnel program continues for 3rd yr

I'm "APPROVED"
Deb


 o
RE: NRCS high tunnel program continues for 3rd yr

YEA!


 o
RE: NRCS high tunnel program continues for 3rd yr

Congratulation, Deb,

I am trying to get a little more per square foot for being a "new farmer", which is true. There is nowhere on my 20 acres level enough for a 30'-72', but with a skip loader I can get it done. For leveling, the planner wants to have an engineer look at the site first. If they won't go for that, or if its to much trouble for some requirement the engineer imposes, I guess we will be looking at something smaller....or nothing.


 o
RE: NRCS high tunnel program continues for 3rd yr

This is pretty much looking like a done deal. I have to decide on a site.

Does anyone have reasons to favor a tunnel of 26'x96' or a 30'x78'.
Those two will fit my two best sites.
It's hot here, so maybe narrow gives better cross ventilation? I can open it to work from the outside pretty much any day of the year because of no snow and little rain.
Is 96' too long for the roll-up to operate properly,or does it work just as well as on the shorter kits?

Can plastic over a 6' rafter spacing of galv. pipe handle a direct gust of 5O mph? I am leaning towards 4' because of this wind issue and a general liking for things overbuilt


 o
RE: NRCS high tunnel program continues for 3rd yr

Start figuring out your beds, how wide, how many you want? Add walkways, then figure whether you want the wider or narrower house.


 o
RE: NRCS high tunnel program continues for 3rd yr

I agree. Figure out the best combination of beds and paths for your intended crops and your personal comfort. Most growers use very narrow paths because it is valuable space, and should be maximized for productivity, but you will want some space allocated for comfort and storage. Think about how long it takes to walk to the end of the row if the beds are too wide to comfortably step over, or include a path to cross the width of the house if they are over 36". I'm 5'9", and I can't comfortably straddle a 36" bed, so I use 30" with 8" paths.

My inclination would be to go with the 30 foot wide house, because you can always add more frames to increase the length if things work out well for you. The longer sides are heavier, but they roll up fine for me.


 o
RE: NRCS high tunnel program continues for 3rd yr

Wow! I was thinking 24" paths....must work on mindset.
Thanks for the side roll-up input. The wider house seems to make sense.


 o
RE: NRCS high tunnel program continues for 3rd yr

I would put wider aisles, more like the 24". My feet would barely fit in 8" and then to stagger out the door, Not me, I'd fall on the perfect tomato.

Mine is 22' ft, with 2' aisle. I have 4' tables that I use, and 1 3' bed. I'm growing more plants than produce in mine.

Marla


 o
RE: NRCS high tunnel program continues for 3rd yr

Don't take the money!

Fund it yourself, It will be more practical and less expensive designing it your way. The way that will make sense for you and your operation.

A govt. program cannot design an apparatus that is going to work for every operation, in every state, in every environment and Market.

Designing it NRCS way, and trying to "Make it work" with what you do is frustrating to say the least. You'll loose more trying to than if you just did right to start with.

Besides, If no one took the money, the Department could close, and employees could join the private sector.


 o
RE: NRCS high tunnel program continues for 3rd yr

I contacted my local NRCS office 3/21/12 (very easy to work with). They emailed me this infor: Here in Michigan the practice standard for seasonal High Tunnels was REVISED for 2011 and 2012. Participants CAN install (out of your own pocket) electricity, heaters and ventilation systems to the NRCS HT. The 2010 participants are NOW allowed to add these features. They know we can grow all 4 seasons with just the HT, but they want to see how well thing will improve if a participant chooses to do it this revised way. I do plan on adding the electric (for ventilation and inflation blower), I'm now sure about movable yet because I'm still thinking about converting my 24'x48' GH for in ground planting.I know that some of you don't think of this as HT production, but we get pretty D#%* cold here -20/with wind chills -40 (this winter was an exception' pretty mild). It's nice NOT to have to worry about losing everything you work so hard to grow, freeze solid and die. Either way this HT will do what it is meant to do "FIRST & LONGER, WAY LONGER!!"
Deb


 o
RE: NRCS high tunnel program continues for 3rd yr

I believe that they need to take into consideration the different conditions that different areas have to deal with. I understand those D#%* cold situations.

Thanks for the clarification for Michigan at least.

Marla


 o
RE: NRCS high tunnel program continues for 3rd yr

Well, I appreciate the original post on this and the follow-up, but I have decided not to do it... as the contract was about to be issued. It really boils down to problems with inefficiencies and not liking being told what to do when it is impractical(or anytime really). I have learned a lot and think we can get a lot a better fit for our trouble and money, without the liabilities to third parties.


 o
RE: NRCS high tunnel program continues for 3rd yr

Rustico, I understand and agree, I'm not doing it this year either. I'm happy for those of you that could take advantage of it.

Marla


 o
RE: NRCS high tunnel program continues for 3rd yr

Great Decisions!

They can take a $4000 job and turn in into $12,000

Then they tell you they will pay 75% and you have to build it to the "standards"

You foot the whole bill, go through holy heck w/ inspections and blueprints and paperwork all while hoping and praying they are going to pay. The job takes 3 times as long w/ 1/2" rebar and 4500lb concrete etc.

After you listen to the BS and tell them everything about nutrient management and every cucumber you've picked since you were 12 years old, you get the payment.

Thanks...But no thanks!


 o
RE: NRCS high tunnel program continues for 3rd yr

Timmy, you sound like you're been bit by the government. If you don't want to take advantage of this offer, then DON'T. It's not for everyone, and nobody's forcing you.

Yes, you may need to pay more for this structure, but it will be designed for a higher wind/snow load than several that I've seen 'home-made'. Of course, not everyone's homemade is the same as others.


 o
RE: NRCS high tunnel program continues for 3rd yr

Timmy, sounds like that to me too. So far everything is going just fine for me with the NRCS. One of the guys even said he's glad I'm involved b/c they are learning quite a few things from me,one like how to put a HT up right. I've done it before-they haven't, there's alot more to it then they were thinking. Time will tell,I COULD buy my own HT, but I plan on having our local News Paper do a story about my up coming plans for this "NRCS" HT fall/earily spring(next spring) possiblities!! Heads up on my furture "WINTER'S MARKET"
Deb


 o
RE: NRCS high tunnel program continues for 3rd yr

I've been hit by the government, albeit local, too. Nothing wrong with taking that into consideration.

There are going to be some big losers with this program and I don't want to throw the dice on it being me. As it was there were clearly too many places for the "other shoe to drop". Of course, it will work out well for some.

I showed the planner how I could get the tunnel for nearly "free", with his plan and the amount I was offered. It seemed like he was determined to make it cost me more than that so our file matched what the government,or he, wanted the cost sharing balance to be. I got a lot of hedging on his part anyway, and that's why I laid my cost plan on the table.In any case I wanted a foolproof budget and they did not facilitate that meeting of the minds in a forthcoming manner.

On top of that, I would have to grade to place the tunnel. Any disturbed earth has to be "seeded and planted", he wanted gravel drainage sumps. I couldn't do plywood on the ends, had to be poly. I can get huge salvaged glass doors and lumber and do great ends for about $200 each.

In the end, they are in control not me, not a bullet proof contract that covers everything. If I had a nice flat grassy place to put the tunnel maybe.

I also lost interest in doing business with growers supply unless I absolutely have to. There NRCS page is a solicitation for credit but they make it look as if they carry the tunnel based on your contract until you are doing business with them. I call that a bait and switch(even if you have to be naive to think otherwise).


 o
RE: NRCS high tunnel program continues for 3rd yr

Any time you become involved with a government-sponsored program, you have the added cost of bureaucracy - be it dollars or senselessness. You will be dealing with people who have theoretical but not practical experience, questionable motivations on the part of suppliers and rules, and the usual jumping-through-of-hoops that seem inextricably linked to elected and appointed officials. If you can deal with the BS, there are some advantages, but as rustico notes, there may be better ways for some, and you can't put a price on independence.


 o
RE: NRCS high tunnel program continues for 3rd yr

bi11me,

Spot on!

Amen


 o
RE: NRCS high tunnel program continues for 3rd yr

So glad to read all the different opinions and ideas here on govt sponsored HTs. I have been looking into the govt programs with HTs and this gives me a clearer outlook into what is involved! Thanks for your comments.


 o
RE: NRCS high tunnel program continues for 3rd yr

Hello, We applied for a high tunnel through NRCS last year In March and Was Approved this year in March. It is 22x96. We didn't have any problems getting it, Our NRCS office is exceptional.We were the only ones in our county to apply for the cost share. They cost shared 5551.00 and we pruchased one set up for 3600.00 so we got to keep the rest. We are not allowed to supply heat or electricty to it. It must have greenhouse plastic 4 mill on it. It is strictly a season extender,Must have irrigation to it.The NRCS has cost share for that too. I wish we would have known that 5000 dollars ago last year. It is a great program, they don't care what you grow, how much you make, they just want you to use it for what you are supposed to, a season extender, They can come check to make sure. Beware once you have one high tunnel you will want another and another, they are addicting. So be prepared to start saving for some. LOl They will only cost share for one. I Only wish they would have gotten us approved in the winter and not the spring, we could have planted another month earlier which would have really extended our season this year. We live in Arkansas. Any Arkies out there interested, you should give it a try,it was very easy. I know it is a government funded program and most people are leary of that, but if your honest and have nothing to hide you have nothing to be afraid of.


 o
RE: NRCS high tunnel program continues for 3rd yr

Strings, GOOD to read your side/story of this program !! Where did you order yours from ? I'm still trying to decide where to order my 30'x72' HT from. I want to have one ordered/delivered by the first week in July.
Deb


 o
RE: NRCS high tunnel program continues for 3rd yr

Deb, we had a man from a few towns away build ours for us. He and his family have built them for years. He only charged us 3600.00 for the whole thing, that was with him building it. They buy all the pipe and bend it themselves, It wasn't a kit.Now I want more, we have had tomatoes planted in ours for the past 2 weeks and they are looking great, growing fast, I look forward to the growing season.Good Luck on Yours


 o
RE: NRCS high tunnel program continues for 3rd yr

This program is still out there. According to the person I am in contact with the pay rates are not out yet.

I am looking into it again, despite reservation about and eventually bailing out last year. Lots of things look better this year and last I had too much on my table already. I think I can play the game and even be pretty nice about it, if the plan and numbers work out.

2fennelshirts,
If you are still checking in, how was your experience?

Anyone else?


 o
RE: NRCS high tunnel program continues for 3rd yr

rustico, I,m still here. I'm behind my planned schedule bc of all the markets I was in this last season (4) all by myself bc my DH does his own thing all spring/summer/fall, like haul with his dump truck, jobs with backhoe, dozer,planting hunter's deer plots, and the hay, oats, straw, and deer/bear hunting. He has been squeezing in my HH, just a little more to finish on it, but should be having a building inspection soon. Everyone I,ve worked with has been GREAT. As I said earlier I'm the only one in my county that is in this program and so they are wonderful people, very easy going people. I'm glad I'm part of this program and I would take advandage of it since you are still interested. I'm learning a lot from Jay, he knows his stuff on this winter growing,I'm jealous of his knowledge. I hope to get a better start next late summer/fall. I'll be checking out your FB soon, but right now I have to go and silicone all the seems in the HH on the wooden end walls before the snow flies.

Deb


 o
RE: NRCS high tunnel program continues for 3rd yr

You and your husband sure are busy. I hope he enjoys doing all those things.... sounds like fun. It's good to hear that the process is working out on the high tunnel initiative.

My project will also go slowly, I'll do most of the building and then throw a party to do the plastic. We are working on a 96'x24" house. The sloping place where it goes has to be filled 3 feet for the entire length of one side, plus about 10 feet to make a level pad for the HH. Getting that done will be half the battle. I am thinking about a retaining wall, but there is room to just slope the dirt away from the hoop house too.

Good luck to you. Please let me know how the post build follow-up goes with the government.

Thanks,
Russell


 o
RE: NRCS high tunnel program continues for 3rd yr

Our 48X32 ft hoop house is up and the tomatoes are flowering amid cold weather. Our experience with the USDA people in North Little Rock, AR was great. They were helpful, knew what they were doing and were more like neighbors than bureaucrats. If they are going to help pay for it, they don't want to pay for trash that is going to blow away. We have been able to extend our tomato harvest and we will be able to plant lettuce for market all winter. They said this was a test to see if the value of an extended season would be worth the expense of the hoop house. In addition, they noticed that we were starting to build a sheep herd and told us about a pasture rotation program that would cut down parasite damage to our animals. They paid for the materials for building electric fenced paddocks that were secure and would enable us to move the animals every week, breaking the parasite cycle. We paid for or did the labor.I know all the arguments against letting the government help, but I see the government spending money on stuff I disapprove of and in this case, I appreciate the knowledge and financial help the guys at USDA provided locally.


 o
RE: NRCS high tunnel program continues for 3rd yr

Inspection DONE !! A-OK !! Two inspectors and less then 20 minutes. Way easier then I expected. They took a couple pic's, a few measurements, I signed a couple more papers and I'm in business. I'll get my full planned amount of $$ deposited to my bank plus $220 for pest management ($220 each year for three years) also $67 for nutrient management ($67 each year for three years). They will be back next fall for more pic's and some Fresh produce.
I'm glad I'm part of this program, my furture markets will be much more profitable, I'm sooooo excited !! :)
Deb


 o
RE: NRCS high tunnel program continues for 3rd yr

glad everything worked out.


 o
RE: NRCS high tunnel program continues for 3rd yr

Congratulations, Deb! Thanks for getting back to this thread to give us an update on how things went for you.


 o
RE: NRCS high tunnel program continues for 3rd yr

I cancelled again,
Some of the reasons are the same as last year some are different. Mostly I am going to get better with what I already have before jumping into this project of questionable value(in my climate) and certain somewhat large obligations/risks. I still may tinker with some of the other hoop house ideas we have talked about and that some of you use.


 o Post a Follow-Up

Please Note: Only registered members are able to post messages to this forum.

    If you are a member, please log in.

    If you aren't yet a member, join now!


Return to the Market Gardener Forum

Information about Posting

  • You must be logged in to post a message. Once you are logged in, a posting window will appear at the bottom of the messages. If you are not a member, please register for an account.
  • Posting is a two-step process. Once you have composed your message, you will be taken to the preview page. You will then have a chance to review your post, make changes and upload photos.
  • After posting your message, you may need to refresh the forum page in order to see it.
  • Before posting copyrighted material, please read about Copyright and Fair Use.
  • We have a strict no-advertising policy!
  • If you would like to practice posting or uploading photos, please visit our Test forum.
  • If you need assistance, please Contact Us and we will be happy to help.


Learn more about in-text links on this page here