They say the best way to eat local is to eat right from your backyard.
A hoop house structure was installed on the northeast corner of the Graceland University Lamoni campus (right by the community bike trail) in May 2013. Hoop houses, also commonly referred to as high tunnels, are covered, passive solar-heated structures, designed to extend the growing season and intensify production of crops. They provide a protected environment, which helps produce higher-quality produce at higher yields. Graceland’s own hoop house project was made possible by a donation from alumnus Steve Upson and the Noble Foundation, for which he works.
Where does the hoop house-grown produce go?
The primary outlets for the vegetables and herbs grown in the hoop house are the campus dining service, the Lamoni Farmer’s Market and the local Hy-Vee grocery store. This year’s harvest consisted mostly of heirloom tomatoes, bell peppers, cucumbers, rosemary, thyme, cilantro and basil. While the hoop house cannot rightfully offer organically certified produce, it is a chemical-free operation.
More about the hoop house:
The location of the 20' x 80' structure was carefully chosen to ensure that the vegetables in the hoop house garden will grow under ideal conditions by receiving optimum sun exposure and enough ventilation from the open-air flow.
To avoid gardening directly into dense clay soil, eight raised beds were built into the hoop house garden. They were filled with amended native soil and compost to provide the plants with oxygen, microbes and other nutrients for optimal growth. The hoop house will also have an integrated irrigation system, consisting of drip lines that will provide the necessary water. Vegetables like tomatoes, peppers, cucumbers and beans will be grown in the garden.
Hoop houses require close monitoring, especially for climate control. Extremely high temperature levels can be harmful to the crops, but this can be easily avoided by opening the sides of the hoop house throughout the day. Other required tasks to maintain a well-managed and thriving hoop house include pruning, trellising, pest control, etc. A properly managed hoop house operation will create a variety of hands-on work opportunities for Graceland students and any volunteers willing to help.