NDPGA Countering Mother Nature with Hoop Houses

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Nesbitt, MS–Despite the weeks of rain that have left many farmers in MS with very few days suitable for planting, North Delta Produce Growers Association (NDPGA) is helping its members take back their planting season.  

On May 11, 2013, members of NDPGA finished up the week long project of installing fellow NDPGA member Walter Worthy’s hoop house in Nesbitt, MS. This 70×30 foot structure is designed to help extend the growing season by giving Worthy and farmers like him the ability to control crop conditions—thus, helping small scale farmers gain an early start on crop production, helping them produce higher yields, and by reducing the number of pests  crops encounter.

Worthy’s hoop house was made possible by a grant from the National Resource Conservation Services Program called Environmental Quality Incentives Program (E.Q.I.P), which is designed to “equip” growers, small scale farmers, and beginning farmers with resources to help them become better producers.

According to Tony Mason, a fellow NDPGA member, the project is especially beneficial to rural North Delta growers.  Mason states, “This project is great because it helps the local farmer be competitive.  We’ve had a pretty tough farming season with all of the heavy rain, but these hoop houses will help farmers have fresh produce like tomatoes in the early months such as March and April and even in the later months like September, October, and November. Others won’t be able to have that.”

Worthy’s hoop house installation was under the direction of NPDGA board member and local hoop house vendor Dietrich Johnson. “We, at NDPGA, are committed to helping other small scale farmers build to capacity. A hoop house is one effective way of doing that.”  However, this is not the first hoop house Johnson has installed. “I built my own hoop tunnel at the beginning of last year, and I can honestly say, it has truly made a difference in my own farming practice.”

NDPGA was also proud to enlist the help of local volunteers who heard about the project and wanted to assist in the building of the structure.  Jerrod Avant, a doctoral student from New York University and a native of Panola County was on-sight to provide technical assistance.  John Caffey, a resident of Southaven, was also on hand to assist with the project. Last, summer intern Hope Crenshaw, a doctoral student at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and a native of Quitman County, was also on hand to provide assistance. Johnson explains, “We were happy to have the support of the local volunteers.  Although they were new to the idea of hoop houses, they were very instrumental in helping us get the project finished.”

Other NDPGA members, Kerrex Taylor, Tony Mason, and Charles Houston, were on hand to assist with the building of the hoop house.

Johnson describes the structure as being made from 4 to 6 mil plastic, the sides with woven plastic, and the pole and bows are made from 12 and 14  gauge galvanized steel. The hoop house includes roll up doors and roll up sides to allow for ventilation.  The hoop house also has 2×6 baseboards around the bottom interior to support the structure and to keep the soil from washing away.   When asked about the longevity of the structure, Johnson states, “Although it varies tremendously, the building could last for many years with good use. The plastic may last for four or five years before it needs to be replaced. However, the extension of the growing season is well worth the investment. ”

Although Mother Nature has been fierce this year, Worthy and other North Delta farmers are excited about being armed with a new type of farming structure that will help them weather the storm.

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