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Discussion forum for the various methods and structures used for getting an early start on your growing season, extending it for several weeks or even year 'round.

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Old September 22, 2016   #76
greenthumbomaha
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Did you folks score a high tunnel?

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Originally Posted by Cole_Robbie View Post
It took about eight months longer than the extension agent said it would. They thought they would have the money last calendar year.
I attended a seminar that discussed this. The limit in my state is $10000, and that means the property owner pays $2500 and the govt pays $7500. I didn't know there was a lag time of a full year between being granted an award and receiving it. The operations in my state that received a grant in the past were a few years along and reliably producing. Maybe they reserve a few for start ups.

- Lisa
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Old September 23, 2016   #77
Cole_Robbie
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My mom and stepdad did get a high tunnel grant. They are building a second high tunnel with the grant money.
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Old September 28, 2016   #78
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Quote:
Originally Posted by greenthumbomaha View Post
Did you folks score a high tunnel?



I attended a seminar that discussed this. The limit in my state is $10000, and that means the property owner pays $2500 and the govt pays $7500. I didn't know there was a lag time of a full year between being granted an award and receiving it. The operations in my state that received a grant in the past were a few years along and reliably producing. Maybe they reserve a few for start ups.

- Lisa
Lisa, it is a flat rate payment. This means that they will pay you a flat rate per square foot up to the 10k.
So, you don't have to necessarily pay anything depending on what your tunnel costs.
So as an example: 30x72 is 2,160 sqft x $2.90 (the rate for existing farmers here, beginning farmers is 3.50) = 6,264. That is what it pays. If your costs you less, you keep the difference and pay nothing.

As far as start-ups, there is no streamlined process to get the grant faster. There is just higher rates of payment. Beginning farmer is defined as anyone who has shown farm income for less than 10 years on a tax return.
For us, it is: apply by October 15th, get ranked amongst other high tunnel applicants by Decemberish (not all applicants will get funded, so we rank to see who gets he money). If you rank high enough, the contracting work can begin In January. There is all kinds of paper work and mapping and document prep that is done internally. Typically the contract is then ready to sign by May.
So, if you applied in my office today, you could potentially order your high tunnel by next May. So, not quite a year depending on when you apply and when your state's application deadline is for the upcoming program year.
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Old September 28, 2016   #79
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I will need to go and look up this grant. However I haven't made any farm income (but would like too!)

I'm really chasing the idea of lowering my hours at my "real" job and having a mad side hustle doing either a CSA or vegetable starts for sale. Both would be backed with a seed business in winter.
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Old September 28, 2016   #80
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Raiquee,
You don't have to have turned a farm income yet to apply.

You have to have records established with FSA (USDA Farm Service Agency) to apply for NRCS grants. What is your property/land situation?
If has never been farmed, you can get a Farm and Tract number assigned to your land, and it does not have to be zoned as Ag.

Then, you would apply with NRCS as a beginning farmer and apply for the High Tunnel program. While you do not have to have been in income producing crops yet, you do have to have what's called a resource concern.
The resource concern that the HT solves is "degraded plant condition". The HT would help solve that problem due to climate and moisture modification. So, you would at least need a current or previous crop on that site that you could show that could have benefited from the protection of a HT. A planner would come out and see your current garden, the residue of your last crop if it was fall or winter, or look at photos you would provide along with a site visit so they could show the need to assist you in protect your next crop.
That's at least how it would roll in my county. And I don't think this scenario has ever happened, but that is how we would handle it. All the new farmer's I've seen come in to apply are acquiring control or ownership of land that was already established as a Farm with FSA somewhere along the way. But that does not preclude someone with a 1 acre lot in a residential area (with no restrictions) from being assigned a farm number and applying for an NRCS program.

Last edited by PureHarvest; September 28, 2016 at 01:41 PM.
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Old September 28, 2016   #81
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Thanks Pure!!

I own 4.3 acres and it is zoned ag. I've been on the usda website all day looking up info on grants and help they have for small farmers starting out. A high tunnel would extend my summer crops a great deal I would think! Tomatoes being the big one. I have a 50x50 garden I do now, so I have crops to show for certain! I'm probably only thinking of the obvious one and there are probably many others I could do as well.
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Old September 28, 2016   #82
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So, get a farm a tract number from FSA if you don't already. This should only take them a day.
Then go to NRCS and fill out an application. It takes 5 minutes and you are not obligated to do anything at that point, nor does it mean you are granted anything. It just means you are the pool of people competing for approval on a grant.
Our deadline here is October 15th to be in the first batch of applicants for 2017 programs. If you are not in the first batch here, you will never make it through to getting a grant, as all the funds are used by people in the first batch that make it through the ranking process.
From there the planner that is assigned your application will walk you through the rest as the year goes on.
Depending on which of the NRCS programs your county offers, you can also apply for grants on cover crop, irrigation wells and pumps, the pipeline to get the water to your crops from the well, drip system for your tunnel, pollinator planting next to your tunnel, windbreak planting to protect an exposed side of your tunnel/snow drift blocking, and heavy use area protection (gravel road) to access your tunnel or field.
Consider adding one of these things to your tunnel, as it may give you more points in your ranking score.

Last edited by PureHarvest; September 28, 2016 at 04:43 PM.
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Old September 28, 2016   #83
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If you build your high tunnel yourself out of chain link top rail, it will cost $2-3,000, and you can pocket the difference from your $10,000 grant.
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Old September 28, 2016   #84
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PureHarvest that is great info. The USDA website takes you all over the place and in circles to boot. I also thought it needed to produce past income. My land has a gentle slope - I read this is a no-no, it needs to be flat. I don't know if there is a program in my state to fund the farm tap pipe from a residence but you need water. The slope is high on east to low on west. Does this slope disqualify or do you lose points?

- Lisa
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Old September 30, 2016   #85
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Cole, you can not get a grant for a home-made structure. You have to purchase a kit from a manufacturer:
"CRITERIA
The high tunnel structure shall be planned,
designed, and constructed from a manufactured
kit in accordance with the manufacturer’s
recommendations".
And for those following along, your grant payment is based on the size in sgft you propose to build. We cap ours at $7,500 and pay either 2.90 or 3.50 per sgft (existing farmer vs new farmer rate). 10k is a pretty big tunnel if you maxed out to the cap.
You can always go bigger than what your cap is, it just stops paying when it is met and you kick in the difference.

Lisa, you can get money for pipe to run from an existing well to your crops (if your county offers that practice).

Or you could get a grant to drill a new well for irrigation along with the pump and pipe. Every state/county is different, and do not have to offer all the programs from the national list.

As far as slope and ranking points, I don't see where that would affect it either way. Slope does not show up as a ranking question.
As far as for a high tunnel, as long as you have a relatively flat area to build on you should be fine:
"Construct the high tunnel on level ground or on a
naturally occurring slope not to exceed five
percent."

As far as ranking, you can apply for "critical area planting" to go along the perimeter of your tunnel to stabilize the soil that is disturbed during construction and deal with the water that could run towards or off the structure. When you apply for companion practices, your ranking will be higher.

Last edited by PureHarvest; September 30, 2016 at 08:06 AM.
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Old September 30, 2016   #86
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We're getting the grant for a home-made structure. I don't know if there are state-specific rules involved, or they changed the rules for 2017. But as of 2016, homemade structures qualify. They just told us it had to be steel and not plastic.
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Old September 30, 2016   #87
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It's a national standard. You are lucky they don't know the standard!
But my experience is that many agents don't know 1/2 of what they are supposed to. Like trying to tell people you can't have fans and heaters (you can) or no raised beds (you can).
In your case, that is a good thing.

Edit:
I pulled the standard for Illinois, and check this out:

"The high tunnel structure must be planned, designed, and constructed from a manufactured kit in
accordance with manufacturers’ recommendations. The high tunnel frame must be constructed of
metal, wood, or durable plastic; and be at least 6 feet in height at the peak of the structure. If required
for enclosure, end wall covering may be greenhouse-grade plastic, polycarbonate, wood, or other.
Use structures with the entry/exit point sized to facilitate movement of equipment and supplies needed
for the production of planned crops.
Significant modifications to the high tunnel structure design must be verified and approved by the
manufacturer prior to construction to ensure that any warranties remain in effect."

So not only did they violate the standard, they were wrong about the plastic frame lol.
You should press them on this if you wanted to go with the plastic frame. But then they might catch on to the manufactured kit detail.
The standards are public knowledge and anyone can see them, so you can ask questions without fear that they think you are spying or something.
Here is Illinois':
https://efotg.sc.egov.usda.gov/refer...25Sept2016.pdf

Last edited by PureHarvest; September 30, 2016 at 12:53 PM.
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Old September 30, 2016   #88
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Our local agent needs to be fired for incompetence, if that is the case. Maybe the agent knows non-kit structures are not allowed, but is lying on the paperwork they submit, so the money will come through anyway? The agent came out and personally inspected the one high tunnel we build, then said an identical one would be covered under the grant.

It would be pretty funny to get the check this fall, and then next year get a bill for the same amount from the Feds, saying "whoops, we messed up. Now you owe us $10,000 plus interest, payable immediately, or you will go to Federal prison for defrauding the government."


http://www.nrcs.usda.gov/wps/portal/...telprdb1046250

(from the adobe acrobat document linked to on that page)
Conservation practice standards are reviewed periodically and updated if
needed. To obtain the current version of this standard, contact your
Natural Resources Conservation Service State office or visit the Field
Office Technical Guide.

That document is dated March 2015.
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Old September 30, 2016   #89
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Cole) Maybe your HT looked soooooo good they just assumed it was from a kit and "built" meant putting it together? haha.
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Old September 30, 2016   #90
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Well, mom has a job, at least. She could come up with the money to pay them back if they demanded a refund at some point.

I knew a guy who had a business that was a ride service for nursing homes. The state offered him a contract that ended up being more generous payment than the Feds allowed for Medicare. Later, he went to Federal prison for defrauding the government. Apparently, a state-level official's approval is not enough to avoid liability when it comes to Federal funds. And good luck trying to sue the incompetent state official. That's never going to happen, because they are immune from suits for money as a member of the government.
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