Sustainable Community Development Initiative

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Hoophouse will Allow Extended Growing Season at Grand Valley

After a year and a half of research, fundraising, and numerous cross-discipline discussions, Grand Valley’s first hoophouse has finally become a reality. Beginning construction on August 12th, Levi Gardner, GVSU Sustainable Agriculture Project Manager and a group of volunteers finished construction in three days. A ribbon cutting ceremony was held on Friday, August 19th.


For those unfamiliar with the term “hoophouse,” it functions much like a greenhouse except its only source of energy is the sun. While greenhouses allow less transportation pollution and offer an opportunity for non-farmers to grow their own produce, many still require a good deal of energy to run. Overhead lamps and heaters—both which require an alternative energy source—are used to create an artificial growing season in the winter months. Hoophouses, in contrast, rely solely on the sun. A double layer outer wall allows more heat to be trapped and thus a warmer growing environment for the plants inside. Most significantly though, “Hoophouses are intended to extend the growing season, not avoid it,” emphasized Gardner.  With the newly constructed hoophouse, farming will be able to continue into December, and the new growing season will be able to begin as early as February.


This is exciting news for individuals like John DeRuiter, GVSU’s Farm Club President. When asked what inspired him to push for the hoophouse, he stated, “The hoophouse is the best way to farm on campus during the winter. I liked the idea of the hoophouse because it gave us a chance to extend Farm Club into the school year. There is quite a bit of interest among students to be involved with Farm Club, but so many of them leave GVSU for the summer, so this was the best way to get people involved year round.”


The process was a combined financial effort between the Student Senate on behalf of the Farm Club, Brooks College of Interdisciplinary Studies (BCOIS), and the College of Liberal Arts & Studies (CLAS), coordinated by Gardner. Each supported a portion of the total $16,000 bill, making the dream of a Grand Valley hoophouse a reality.


While the Farm Club will be able to take advantage of the new facility, Gardner hopes it will also be a place for educating students on sustainable farming practices. In addition to class visits, the hoop house will be a place for student interns to gain hands-on knowledge of agriculture techniques. “Eventually, I would love to see more research come from the hoop house,” Gardner stated.


For now, though, the focus is on getting the first planting season under way. The hoophouse is located at the GVSU Sustainable Agriculture Project on Luce St. For more information on sustainable agriculture practices and volunteering opportunities, check out the Sustainable Agriculture Project and Farm Club web sites.


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