The other day I received notice from the staff at the the IFFS Tryon Road Teaching Farm that a work day was scheduled to complete the hoop house. It was energizing to see staff, incubator farmers and volunteers reply with eager excitement and show up ready to work. The talk of the town has been our first freeze. The crops planted by both the farm and the incubators needed protection. For those who don’t know, the hoop house is important because it allows farmers to grow vegetables beyond the traditional growing season. Heat is trapped inside and protects the crops from freezing. It works for extending summer crops, such as tomatoes, and for the early spring transplants in order to get a jump start on the season.
This hoop house build happened to be on a Friday and I was happy to see the ‘Friday Crew’ as I affectionately call them – a wonderful group of dedicated individuals from all sorts of backgrounds. There was everything from construction to weeding already in action when I arrived at the Teaching Farm that morning. We also had a group of high school students coming by, so I along with my fellow incubator farmer, Lynn Alker (Lot 7), and IFFS staff split up the group of students and we all got to work.
First, we prepared fields for tilling and then handled an assortment of activities, such as hilling dirt around asparagus, harvesting Stephanie Morrison’s (Simple Living Farm) sweet potatoes and carrots, and did some ever popular weeding. These high schoolers were hard working students who helped us get double the work we expected to get done that day.
Finally, it was lunch time and IFFS Farmer Beau Wagoner graciously bought pizza for the masses. However, even lunch time on the farm is productive as we worked on a master list of things we need by spring time. The food was quickly devoured and the hoop house crew got back to work.
At this point, all of the initial construction was completed and it was time to put on the heavy plastic. My main contribution was rolling out the plastic as the men on ladders hoisted it up, carefully moved it along the hoops, and pulled it around the sides. As someone with very little knowledge of construction, I’m very thankful to the folks that do: Sarig Agasi, Thomas Saile (Perpetual Growth), and Morgan Vickery (Rising Sun Farm) are some of my other fellow incubator farmers who brought their knowledge (and in some case their tools and hardware) to finish the job. This surely would not have gotten done without them.
I currently do not have crops in the hoop house right now, so I’ll rely on mulch and row covers to protect my plants. My biggest fear is that I will lose my winter butternut and spaghetti squash, but the other crops such as collards, onions, garlic, and rutabagas should be hardy enough to bear our North Carolina winters. There are currently some tasty radishes and arugula growing in the new hoop house right now with more crops to be planted soon.
What started out as a simple work day, like any other, turned out to be a massive achievement. The hoop house is now complete, the IFFS and incubator crops inside are safe, our current to-do list is a little shorter, our future to-do list is a little longer and hopefully we inspired some high school students about locally grown food. As a new farmer, I’ve learned a lot of lessons and today was a reminder that many hands can make quick work. A big thank you goes out to all the folks that help the teaching farm succeed.
Click here to learn more about Tryon Road Teaching Farm and the Incubator Farmer program.
If you are interested in writing a guest blog post for IFFS, contact Lindsay@FoodShuttle.org