Farmers Use Solar Energy in Hoop Houses for Winter Crops

By: Denise Bradberry Email
By: Denise Bradberry Email

A new farming practice is cropping up across the Wiregrass.

Farmers are getting a premium price for the fruits and vegetables they're growing during the winter.

“I have never seen nothing in agriculture like this before, ever," says Skipperville farmer Earl Snell.

He’s talking about hoop houses.

The new concept by the Natural Resources Conservation Services uses solar energy to grow organic plants in the winter, a big jump from the traditional greenhouse.

“A hoop house is basically heated solar and a green house is heated with heaters and there's no electricity in here, no gas heat,” says Snell.

“Outside it can be a chilling 37 degrees, but once you walk into the hoop houses you can definitely tell a difference. It's a much warmer 70 degrees.

“It's burning up hot in here and freezing cold outside,” says Sherry Simmons as she plans a broccoli plant.

That heat is putting a premium price on these plants.

“Over the next five years that these local farmers are going to transition more into this as this is primarily a peanut and cotton area, so if you do the math, we can do, make that kind of money in 2,300 square feet much more than they're making in an acre, per acre on peanuts,” says Snell.

The environment is benefiting as well.
“You're saving by growing fruits and vegetables in a controlled environment and you're saving on water quality, run off, and even chemicals,” says Snell.

Snell had his hoop house put in last February and plans to add three more when it gets warmer.

It’s one of more than a hundred that have gone up in the state of Alabama.

The Natural Resources Conservation Services are giving cost-share incentives to farmers who want to build these hoop houses.

You can find out more at your local NRCS office.


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