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high tunnel initiative

Report: Cultivated Fruit, Nut and Flower Acres on the Rise

Known to her neighbors in Clarke County, Miss. as the blueberry lady, Barbara Robinson has a vibrant 20-acre farm packed with blueberries, muscadines and other produce. Robinson is one of the nation’s many fruit growers, and a recent USDA report shows the land dedicated to growing cultivated fruits, nuts and flowers is rapidly growing.

The National Resources Inventory released recently by USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service shows a boom in land dedicated to growing fruits, nuts and flowers, increasing from 124,800 acres in 2007 to 273,800 in 2010. Cultivated refers to farms that plant a second crop amid the fruit, nut and flower crop. This finding is one of many in the newest NRI report.

While the report only provides the numbers and doesn’t make inferences, experts at NRCS say one reason for the growth is more available assistance to fruit, nut and flower growers.

In Virginia, a Food Hub Helps Growers Scale Up

Mark Seale got out of agriculture early. A Virginia native raised on the family farm, he didn’t see a future in the business once he finished high school – and his family didn’t argue with him.

But over the years, Mark found himself drawn back to agriculture in Virginia. Working with produce was something he’d grown up around, and a desire to do something in the industry was tugging at him. He returned to Virginia and opened Simply Fresh Produce, a retail outlet in Charlottesville. That’s where he met Jim Epstein, a real estate developer concerned about the disappearance of Virginia farmland. Jim knew that economically viable farms were the best buffer against development pressure and that smart development could in turn strengthen the local food system. So in 2010, Jim and Mark joined forces to build Blue Ridge Produce, a food hub in the rural community of Elkwood.

Texas High Tunnels Boost Production Possibilities for Urban Farmers

‘Valley Girl’ and ‘Celebrity’ are just two of the sought-after tomato varieties sold at Elvis d’Agrella’s farmer’s market stand in the summer. And now his weekly customers can purchase those tomatoes well into the winter, because he and his wife, Pat, have constructed a seasonal high tunnel at their PEAS Farm outside Conroe, Tex.

“Our goal was to produce as much of the vegetables that you see here growing in the winter time that you would normally see growing in the summertime,” says Elvis.

Sustainability Is More Attainable with High Tunnel Initiative

High tunnels are hitting the mark for farmers who sell their produce at the Athens Farmers Market. In the past, the market operated once a week on Saturday mornings between April and October. But now, because some northeast Georgia growers are using the tunnels to extend their growing seasons, the market is open twice a week, from April until mid-December—a full eight months!