The USDA is starting a pilot project to determine the effectiveness of high tunnels at “reducing pesticide use, keep vital nutrients in the soil, extending the growing season, increasing yields, and providing other benefits to growers.”
The project, through Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS), “will fund one high tunnel per farm.” USDA Deputy Secretary Kathleen Merrigan is quoted in the USDA press release, saying:
There is great potential for high tunnels to expand the availability of healthy, locally-grown crops – a win for producers and consumers,” said Merrigan. “This pilot project is going to give us real-world information that farmers all over the country can use to decide if they want to add high tunnels to their operations. We know that these fixtures can help producers extend their growing season and hopefully add to their bottom line.”
There is also a YouTube video announcing the program, introduced by Sam Kass, White House assistant chef and food initiative coordinator. It should be noted, however, that the structures being erected in the video are not high tunnels, but hoop houses or “low tunnels,” which are being covered with floating row cover (which is not “impervious”).
The video’s intended audience does not appear to be farmers themselves, but consumers. Kathleen Merrigan begins her part of the presentation by asking, “Do you know who your farmer is?”–which seems like a silly question to ask an actual farmer.
[Uh..uh..is it…me? Am I my farmer? Can I be my own farmer? Or do I have to ask someone else to be my farmer? Like, another farmer?]
Sorry. Couldn’t help that.
Anyhow, I did stop at my local NRCS office (it’s on Kidder Street) this morning to ask about the program. They didn’t have any more information than I have at present, but District Conservationist Deron Ruesch is the person to talk to in this area about the program, and he’ll be back in the office on Monday.
Once I have more information, I’ll disseminate it here.