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Hoop house tour educates small farmers looking to extend the growing season

Published: 05/13/2016 10:22AM
By: booner


Alfred Greenlee, a farmer from Dougherty County, demonstrates how to properly check an irrigation system in a hoop house on his farm May 4.

More than 40 farmers, educators and Extension agents traveled through southwest Georgia visiting several farms during the High Tunnel Hoop House Farm Tour May 4.

Fort Valley State University’s Cooperative Extension Program, Southwest Georgia Project Inc. and the Southern Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education (SARE) Program sponsored the hoop house tour.  A hoop house is a structure designed to help farmers and gardeners extend growing seasons for crops, usually produce.

Charlie Grace, FVSU’s Dougherty County Extension agent, said the tour’s purpose is to provide educational information to tour participants relating to the use of hoop houses in farming. This includes construction, costs and materials needed to build a proper hoop house. Eugene Radford, a farmer from Houston County who specializes in building hoop houses, provided tour participants a personal perspective on hoop house construction.

In addition to learning how to use hoop houses, tour participants also listened to presentations from Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) representatives and Wealth Watchers, a non-profit organization funded by the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Topics covered in the presentations included building a hoop house, fruit and vegetable production, financial management, record keeping, marketing and how to qualify for the NRCS Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP).

During the tour, the traveling party visited the New Communities Farm in Dougherty County where Sedrick Rowe, a 2015 FVSU graduate (horticulture) serves as farm manager. The tour group also visited the farms of Alfred Greenlee (Dougherty County), Hezekiah Backey (Baker County) and John L. Green (Worth County). At each site, the farmers made presentations relating to their farms and crop producing methods.

“I learned a lot of information through some of the farmers here,” said Stanley Clarke, a farmer from Blakely. “I gained a lot of knowledge on how to put together my hoop house that I plan on putting up real soon,” Clarke said. Clarke also said he picked up tips about growing various plants using a hoop house.

Grace said there will be another small farmers tour in the near future, but he is presently focusing his efforts on conducting the annual Small Farmers Train-the-Trainer outreach program scheduled for November in Albany.

For more information about future tours and training events in southwest Georgia, contact Grace at (229) 436-7216, (478) 235-7091 or send an e-mail to gracec@fvsu.edu.