We just completed the erection of all the frames for our new high tunnel. It's actually phase one of the project. I am photo documenting this process (I've only included three here) in case any others want to have that as information if they begin a similar project. Phase One was the erection of the frames and corresponding bracing. Phase Two will include installing the wood end- and side-wall framing as well as the two roll up side-wall systems. Phase Three will be the digging of a cistern and diversion swale for the drip irrigation system. Finally, we'll sheet mulch in the high tunnel and start growing late-season goodies later this year. If this interests any of you, I'll be sure to add later photos and description of the process.
FYI - this is a high tunnel that we ordered as a result of being awarded an EQIP grant from the Natural Resources Conservation Service. As soon as everything is installed, they will come out and inspect and then they can release the funding for reimbursement.
The application process for an EQIP grant is going to be highly dependent on the staff in each county NRCS office. First of all, you have to be careful about your terminology because many of them are not familiar with the terms we use but rather they are used to terms that the USDA uses. When we talk about energy flows in our designs, they will look at you funny. You have to put yourself in their shoes and translate our design terminology into their language for your farm plan.
Note, we were not approved for a grant on our first attempt. We applied and simply did our online documentation without my NRCS grant coordinator having a confident grasp of our approach to what we're doing on our farm. We were not accepted, but she said we should keep our application active and carry it over to the next year. In that year's time, we were able to help our NRCS person grow to better understand what we're doing. Another big plus for us was that we were technically first-time farmers and I am a veteran. Both of these enhanced the application because the USDA wants to see more grant dollars going to vets and first-time farmers. She also grew to represent us a bit better in the competitive process.
You have to have an overall farm plan that includes the high tunnel operations. This farm plan needs to be pretty detailed. I simply wrote mine out in narrative form and submitted it to my county NRCS grant coordinator and walked her through it. They then transfer that information into electronic forms for their purposes. It helped a lot to meet my NRCS grant coordinator at my farm and walk her through each phase of my farm plan using her language, not my permaculture design terminology. My farm plan became very tangible for her as I walked her through it.
The EQIP high tunnel grants are to help producers extend their growing seasons largely for commercial purposes. Yet, there are some boundaries you have to stay within when it comes to what you grow. So, you'd need to be clear on what those boundaries are. You'll also be subject to inspection by agents to come out and see how things are going for a few years. If one can't live with that, the program is probably not a good fit.
Bottom line, it's a detailed and drawn-out process, so you have to be patient. It's competitive and so your application is being judged against other applicants. Finally, you're at the mercy of your county NRCS coordinator to really understand what you're doing and become your advocate. So, one can't go into an NRCS office spouting anti agriculture or anti-USDA rhetoric. That'd be like punching your dad in the nose and than asking him for your allowance!
Was it worth it? I have to answer that with a qualified YES. Maybe I'll regret being subject to inspection a couple of years down the road, but right now I have an improvement to my operation that I couldn't have otherwise afforded without the grant. I felt it was a good trade off.
Let me know if you have any other specific questions. I'll try not to be so long winded.
I am looking at applying this year, not sure what they mean by farm plan? What is covered? Do they want itemized lists of crops, long term goals?
Love your long windedness. Lots of folks could use a high tunnel or two and not many know about this program.
Is is competitive on a national basis or are you competing against othe applicants in a regional area? Do they cover tiny fames, like 12 by 24? I was thinking larger but now am thinking maybe small. I already have a small lean to and I have a limited market.
Location: northwest Missouri, USA
posted 3 years ago
Hi J W
Yeah, sorry, I'm a bit verbose.
The best thing to do regarding your farm plan is to talk directly with your county NRCS staff. Make an appointment and sit down and talk about what you're wanting to do and find out just exactly how much info they want in your farm plan. The grants are competitive, so talk to your NRCS staff about how you can score higher. You'll be competing for funds in your region/county. I think there might be a minimum size, but I don't know what it is right now. Here is the webpage for the NRCS high tunnel program: http://www.nrcs.usda.gov/wps/portal/nrcs/detail/national/programs/financial/eqip/?cid=stelprdb1046250
I can personally vouch for my experience with Poly-Tex high tunnels.
Well, if you have any other specific questions, please let me know.