Farmers from around the state will converge in the small town March 31 to view and learn about a new structure that contains part of the garden.
Called a high tunnel, or hoop house, it’s used to extend the growing season at a low cost. The U.S. Department of Agriculture, in conjunction with the Coosa Valley Resource Conservation and Development Council, has invited about 40 small-farm owners to see the technology.
“We’ll be doing hands-on … teaching the ABCs of hoop house management and operations,” said Eddie May, executive director of the Coosa Valley Resource Conservation and Development Council.
May said his organization provided a $3,000 grant to build the hoop house, which is 28 feet wide, 80 feet long and six feet high. He said the USDA has been pushing the construction of hoop houses around the state in recent years through its Environmental Quality Incentive Program, which is aimed at assisting gardeners and farmers with limited resources.
“What we’re all trying to do is get more producers to produce more locally so we don’t have to ship in so much produce from other areas,” May said. “That’s especially important now, what with costs going up because of gas prices.”
Hobson City Mayor Alberta McCrory said she was proud her town was garnering such attention.
“To create something of this magnitude that draws interest from all over the state … and the people are coming to Hobson City, is just awesome,” McCrory said.
A hoop house or high tunnel is a wooden structure covered in plastic. Victor Khan, a researcher and instructor at Tuskegee University, said he was one of the first to research hoop houses in the state in 1992. He said they are very beneficial for small gardeners and farmers.
“The benefit of one is they extend the growing season,” Khan said.
Temperatures inside hoop houses are between 15 and 20 degrees warmer than those on the outside, allowing for certain crops to continue growing during the fall and winter months. Hoop houses are also relatively cheap compared to other structures like greenhouses.
“Green houses are artificially heated — they have fans and cooling system and heating system,” Khan said. “A hoop house has none of those.”
Also, greenhouses have plants in pots or benches, whereas in a hoop house the plants are in the ground, Khan said.
“It is a reduction in cost to farm,” he said.
The town’s community garden was created on a tenth of an acre last year through a $3,000 grant from the Coosa Valley Resource Conservation and Development Council. The W.A.S. Youth Community Garden Club was formed using area students to develop and manage the garden. The group grew 2,900 pounds of vegetables which were given away to senior citizens.
The group plans to soon plant onions, sweet peas, lettuce, cabbage and potatoes in the new hoop house, followed by squash, okra, tomatoes, peppers, green beans and other vegetables in the main garden during the summer. The group will also add 50 muscadine plants in two courtyards at Town Hall.
“This is much more than I expected,” McCrory said of the garden. “This project has really helped bring the community together.”
Staff writer Patrick McCreless: 256-235-3561. On Twitter @PMcCreless_Star