Samia Savell to host meeting Aug. 9 in Sitka to discuss soil quality, high tunnels, and other USDA NRCS programs

Are you interested in learning how soil quality impacts your home garden? Do you want to learn how to get funding for a high tunnel to extend your growing season? Join Samia Savell of the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Natural Resources Conservation Service office in Juneau for an informal discussion about those topics and others at noon to 1 p.m. on Thursday, Aug. 9, in the Gus Adams Meeting Room at the Sitka Public Library. Note, Samia has reserved the meeting room until 2 p.m. in case people want to stay after and ask her questions.

The USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) assists agricultural producers with conservation efforts on their cultivated land. Technical assistance is available upon request, and is tailored to each landowner’s unique situation. Working with NRCS staff, landowners identify resource concerns such as poor soil quality or plant health, inefficient water use, or even energy conservation, and develop a plan to address those concerns while supporting their production goals.

Program funding through the Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) can help defray costs of implementing conservation practices outlined in the plan. Applications are currently being accepted for fiscal year 2019 EQIP funding. Interested producers must first establish farm records with the Farm Services Agency, and verify that they and their land are eligible for funding.

Typical practices supported through EQIP funding in Southeast Alaska include nutrient management, crop rotation, cover crops, and high tunnels. High tunnels, also known as hoop houses or temporary greenhouses, extend the growing season so more food is produced before and after the traditional weather dates for growing stuff outdoors. They also can help with irrigation and drainage, and with pest control.

High tunnels differ from greenhouses in that crops are grown in the ground or in raised beds rather than in containers. Geodomes are also eligible for funding. Funding through EQIP requires the landowner to purchase a structure and install it according to the manufacturer’s instructions. Additional information can be found in the NRCS high tunnel fact sheet (attached), or by contacting the Juneau Field Office. Low tunnels, which usually involve some PVC pipe bent over a garden bed and covered with row cover, and homemade structures are not eligible in this program.

More information about NRCS programs can be found at https://www.nrcs.usda.gov/Internet/FSE_DOCUMENTS/nrcseprd1338028.pdf or by contacting the Juneau Field Office at 907-586-7220.

• Information about the USDA NRCS high tunnel program in Alaska

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