Assessing the Impact of the EQIP High Tunnel Initiative
Keywords:High Tunnels, Hoophouses, High Tunnel Initia-tive, Environmental Quality Incentives Program, Local Food Systems, Small Farms, Beginning Farmers, Diversified Farms, Specialty Crops, Know Your Farmer, Know Your Food Initiative
AbstractThis study evaluated the U.S. Department of Agriculture Natural Resources Conservation Service (USDA NRCS) Seasonal High Tunnel Initiative, or HTI, that the USDA expects to strengthen local and regional food production by increasing the availability of fresh, locally grown food. Goals of the HTI include improved plant and soil quality, reduced nutrient and pesticide runoff, and increased availability of fresh vegetables and fruits for local food markets. This study explored the farm-level impacts of production via high tunnels among Indiana farmers relying on the infrastructure. We identify characteristics of farmers who have obtained high tunnels through the cost-share program, to better understand the types of farm enterprises that are using the HTI to date and the effects that high tunnel implementation may have on their farms’ economic success and contributions to locally sourced food systems. Overall, results indicate that high tunnel users are able to extend the growing season, improve their farm’s economic stability, and increase the quality and yield of their crops. Our survey also finds that those farmers who have self-funded all or a portion of their high tunnels report greater increases in their farm’s economic stability from investing in high tunnels than farmers relying on the NRCS funds for their high tunnels.
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