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Metrofarming and Roof‐vented High Tunnels for Local Markets

From the Small Farm Training Institute

The Small Farm Training Institute at the University of Maryland Eastern Shore (UMES) has expanded their educational and training support to new and beginning farmers in the urban centers of Maryland and DC. Funded by the USDA Office of Advocacy and Outreach (Outreach and Assistance for Socially Disadvantaged Farmers and Ranchers Program) and the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service (Maryland State Office)‐ Berran Rogers and Thomas Handwerker from the 1890 Extension Program have designed and supervised construction of a new generation of high tunnels for seven non‐profit organizations and interested private companies. These high tunnels, designed to vent heat from the top roof, have demonstrated to support year‐round production of high quality produce from abandoned land, parking lots, and underutilized city properties. Utilizing youth‐at‐risk juvenile correction teams as the primary contractors, the Institute provides a trailer‐mounted construction platform to bend and erect the tunnels on sites all across Baltimore. With local technical support through the Baltimore City Extension Director (Manami Brown), these 7 non‐profit groups and Big City Farms, LLC have produced and marketed over 150,000 pounds of fresh local products through grocery stores, Whole Foods, restaurants, and farmers markets last year. More tunnels are currently under permit review and expansion plans are including DC this Spring.

The Small Farm Training Institute is also providing horticultural training and marketing of the products to these new farmers who have no or little agricultural experiences. It also serves as a facilitator for securing additional commercial capital to fund construction of these tunnels to meet local demand. The structures have survived hurricanes and even 24" of snow last year but can be taken down in one day.