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NRCS has funds available to build high tunnel kits

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After several years of pilot tests in states surrounding Kentucky, the seasonal high-tunnel program through the NRCS EQIP program is available in Kentuc-ky. 

High tunnels are of continuing interest to small vegetable producers because they facilitate direct marketing programs, extend the season, allow farmers to increase income, and allow for popular early-tomato production, which is very popular.

Greens grown in high tunnels are also increasing in popularity, as farmers can produce them almost year-round. Few other year-round products exist, so there are viable outlets for greens in many parts of the state.

There is no rainfall in a high tunnel, so growers need to use more water.  However, the high tunnel reduces disease because no water splashes vegetables, providing a much cleaner end product.

High tunnels have high usage in the organic world. They are very effective for high intensity growing and provide high yields of high quality vegetables. By using high tunnels to produce for retail markets, you can capitalize on early season sales, as well as extend the season.

There are two deadlines left to apply, March 30 and June 1, and you must apply through your local NRCS office.

This program does pay for material costs. It offers matching funds that pay for the cost of assembling a high tunnel.  It does not matter if you choose to build it yourself or hire someone, as you will get reimbursed the same amount per square foot of tunnel.

You must use a tunnel kit to be eligible for this program. You cannot have someone locally bend bows and make a tunnel. It must be sold by a tunnel manufacturer.  

This program reimburses growers on a square foot basis with a maximum of 2,178 square feet covered. You may choose to buy a larger tunnel than this (essentially 30-foot by 72-foot); however, the program will only reimburse growers up to 2,178 square feet.

This program requires that you grow the plants in the native soil. Plants cannot be container grown or grown on benches in the tunnels. Raised beds are permitted. These must truly be high tunnels, so no supplemental heating can be used. 

If you are an organic farmer or in the process of transitioning to organic farming, you may also apply for the high tunnel program through the NRCS EQIP Organic Initiative, a funding source which has not been fully used in Kentucky in the past.

For more information, please contact the Carroll County NRCS at (502) 732-6098.

Dates of interest

March 6: BQA Certification, 6:30 p.m., Carroll County Extension Office.

March 7:Agricultural Development Meeting, 7 p.m., Carroll County Extension Office.

March 20: Carroll/Owen/Gallatin/Grant Tobacco Update, 6:30 p.m., Jonesville Firehouse in Jonesville.

March 30:Second Ranking Period Cut-Off Date for NRCS Sign Ups (EQIP, Hoop Houses, and On-Farm Energy Initiatives).

June 1: Deadline for FSA Sign Ups (DCP and ACRE Programs).

 

Christin Herbst is the Carroll County Extension agent for agriculture and natural resources. Call her at (502) 732-7030 or send e-mail to Christin.Herbst@uky.edu.