Hattie Thompson has a heart for growing healthy food for her community thanks to the help of her new seasonal high tunnel.
“My mission is to network throughout the local community with other growers who might be interested in doing the same thing, and to teach children and mothers about nutrition,” said Thompson, who farms in Leake County, Mississippi.
After 50 years of city life in Wisconsin, Thompson and her husband moved to the country near Carthage, Mississippi, when they inherited some land 10 years ago. The small six-acre farm is landscaped with fruit trees and an abundance of beautiful flowers. Chickens, guineas and turkeys also call the farm home.
It was Thompson’s neighbors who told her about USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS), who could help her with conservation practices on her farm. When she visited with Priscilla Williamson, NRCS supervisory district conservationist, she learned about the agency’s Seasonal High Tunnel Initiative available through the Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP).
Seasonal high tunnels are plastic-covered structures that enable farmers to have crops ready earlier or later in the season. Plants are grown directly in the ground, and the sun’s heat regulates the temperature inside. High tunnels are a cornerstone of USDA’s Know Your Farmer, Know Your Food Initiative, which coordinates USDA’s work on local and regional food systems.
Thompson immediately realized that a high tunnel was a perfect fit for her small acreage farm. It would also fulfill her desire to produce healthy food. Working with Williamson, Thompson was approved to receive financial assistance through EQIP on a high tunnel and construction soon began. It was a family project with one of her five sons, Kevin, helping construct the high tunnel, also helping Thompson save some money.
“She is a very energetic lady and one who gets things done quickly,” Williamson said.
An amazing variety of tomatoes, string beans, cucumbers, peppers, watermelons, squash and herbs are grown and ready for farmer’s markets, as well as the entire Thompson family. Pollinator-friendly plants, such as huge sunflowers, surround the tunnel helping to attract bees to aid in pollination.
“Using the high tunnel enables me to grow healthy food almost all year long,” Thompson said.
She does her own composting of chicken litter, wood chips and other organic material and uses it for fertilizing the naturally grown vegetables and fruits in the high tunnel. Through EQIP, a micro-irrigation system was also installed inside the high tunnel. This irrigation system allows water to be delivered near the roots of plants, ensuring water is used wisely.
“A lot of hard work goes into all this, but it’s worth it to give something to the community,” Thompson said.
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Thank you for all of your Hard Work.
It is People like you, that make a difference in people's lives. Keep up the good work.
Have you thought about honey bees. They are a wonderful hobby to have. I have 3 hives and enjoy them daily. Would like to have more But, I live in a subdivision 1/2 acre.
GOD BLESS !!!
I wish we in Pakistan could copy, learn and follow good practices.
Mrs. Thompson, I am so proud of you and your accomplishments! Thank you for your selfless service. May God continue to bless you and your family as you continue to service so many. I am hard at work, teaching my eleven-year-old son the importance of eating a healthy, well-balanced diet, and today, he learned about how you and your son invested time and energy in the amazing career of farming.
Oh how I wished I could visit your farm! I would love to do something like this for my community in the future.