Friday, June 24, 2011
High tunnel herald
Yesterday I got a call from the US. Dept of Agriculture Natural Resources Conservation Service saying that they had found some extra funding and my application for a high tunnel had been approved.
The NRCS has funded some $4.1 million in high tunnels for the Homer and Kodiak area in the past two years. It’s an amazing figure. 150 high tunnels, each allowed more than 2,000 square feet of growing space, are going in all over town. When I first heard about this program, I thought I had missed the window – that all the funding had been used up. Soon, however, I realized it was ongoing and the chance was still there to capitalize on the funding. High tunnels are the latest in the wild world of plasticulture, which I have already been immersed in since I put my first house up last year. But this is such a larger scale of what I have been doing, it doesn’t even compare. I can get a 30x72 foot steel structure with this funding.
Immediately jumping to mind is what the impacts of this will be on our community’s economy. If only half of these tunnels survive, they will be able to supply a huge amount of fresh produce to our community and beyond. In a state where fresh tomatoes that taste and look like a tomato are almost impossible to buy and peppers are $3-$5 a piece, one can see the repercussions, not to mention the impact on those trying to limit the amount of drive time our food requires and the larger implications for our environment.
For my farm, however, it is a massive undertaking. All of a sudden I am catapulted into a world of designs and shipping costs and interviewing people and and and… so much to learn. So many things to figure out, decisions to make – do I try to put it up this year and reap some benefits? Do I put it up this fall to be totally ready for next spring? Do I wait until next spring? Hard choices to make, but even harder is what do I do with this thing – how do I make the best use of it so as to maximize my growing potential and also make a little money for my family. Tomatoes? Peppers? Heirloom veggie starts? So many choices. Hard to decide which direction to go. Right now, however, I am focused on the simple matter of finding the right high tunnel, buying it and getting it up here. No small feat, but one that is going to change the next four or five years of my life dramatically. It’s a big day. I can feel things shifting. I don’t know where all the pieces will fall when it is all said and done, but I am up for this. Bring it on.