Keep the NRCS Program Fresh in Your Mind – It’s Always a Good Time to Buy a High Tunnel!
As the locally grown movement gains more and more momentum, high tunnels are becoming increasingly popular for season extension. The USDA is ready and willing to help farmers get their dream high tunnel for another year in a row! If you haven’t heard of the “Know your Farmer, Know your Food” initiative yet, here is a little description for you. Basically, if you grow $1,000 worth of produce a year and would like a high tunnel, the NRCS may be willing to fund it for you in exchange for three years of research on how it works. If you want a high tunnel for your operation, read on to find out how this program can benefit you.
First, ask yourself, are you eligible for this program?
Do you currently grow fruits and vegetables? Do you make at least $1,000 a year in revenue from these crops? Step one, complete! If not, you can still apply. Simply come up with a business plan for how and why you will start growing as part of your application.
Since you will be asked to monitor certain parameters for research, you must have control of the land you want to place the high tunnel on for at least three years. Also, some states don’t participate in the program. To be sure you state is involved, check with your local USDA extension office.
Okay, I’m eligible. Now, how does it work?
The reason the USDA wants to pay for your high tunnel is because of the push for information on how season extension can benefit our country. By having these structures all over the US, research can be done on plant quality, soil quality and more in various climates. This program is also meant to reduce energy use by providing people with local sources for fresh fruits and vegetables.
I think this will work for me. How can I apply?
The NRCS is constantly accepting new applications to take advantage of this program. Deadlines may differ from state to state, so discuss this with your local agent before filling out an application. Submit a completed form, as well as an additional documentation that proves your status as a farmer or your business plan through the NRCS EQIP program. More information on how to apply can be found here.
How can I get the most out of my NRCS funding?
The average amount paid out by the NRCS for a high tunnel is right around $5,000. Since there are national requirements for high tunnels used in this program, make sure to follow their guidelines. For example, the cover must material must be at least 6 mil thick and roof peaks must be at least 6’ high. We recommend a few different packages so that you can get the biggest and best structure with your funds. Our Premium Round Style High Tunnel is affordably priced per square foot, but still has a 4’ rafter spacing. You should be able to get a 30’ wide by 72’ long high tunnel with your funding, which offers plenty of space for growing multiple crops.
We hope this covered all the basics of the program for those of you interested in participating. As a high tunnel supplier, we have been working with grant applicants for over three years now and see a great benefit in participating in the program. If you have more specific questions or would like to look into your high tunnel options, talk with your National Account Manager by phone or Live Chat.