On May 10, the Appalachian Studies Center opened the Hometown Harvest Hoop House. Also called a seasonal extension high tunnel, the 20-by-32 foot structure located just behind the University of North Georgia’s Vickery House, headquarters of the Appalachian Studies Center, was installed to help combat food insecurity in Lumpkin County.
Dr. Rosann Kent, director of Appalachian Studies and Manager of the UNG Food Pantry, fully endorses the project’s potential. The intent of the project is to get young people eating more produce, with children from the local 4-H program coming every other Tuesday to grow food for other, underprivileged children. These 4-H members are responsible for choosing and growing the produce that the Hoop House provides, along with help from select university students assigned to the project. The 4-H members have already planted mint and chives using a technique that utilizes herb boxes and salad tables, respectively. The produce is grown in raised bed and elevated raised tables, so that even those with disabilities that require them to use wheelchairs or walkers have access.
The Hoop House was funded by the Leadership Lumpkin Class of 2017, a year-long class devoted to developing leaders within Lumpkin County, using proceeds from the concert produced by the civic group on Nov. 19 of last year, featuring Amy Ray of Indigo Girls, along with other local singers and songwriters. The actual physical structure was donated by the Chestatee Chattahoochee Resource Conservation and Development Council.
Unfortunately, due to the summer weather and heat, any planting was postponed for the fall growing season in September. The Hoop House is an unheated greenhouse that utilizes passive solar energy and ventilation for heat. The tunnel’s sides must be raised everyday and, when the temperature begins dropping, lowered to keep the warm air in. As such, the interior environment shifts two planting zones to the south.
Additionally, the Appalachian Studies Center is looking into hydroponics, or the practice of growing plants and produce in mineral-rich water with ultraviolet lights.
Kent has extended an open invitation for anyone interested in learning about the project, or simply how to garden, to come by both the Vickery House and Hoop House on Fridays from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m.