Cleveland Seasonal High Tunnel Project’s First Training Build

May 1, 2013

High Tunnel Project Overview

Fair Food Network (FFN) staff  just returned from Cleveland’s Salaam Community Garden 131, where staff and high tunnel specialist Adam Montri co-hosted a high tunnel training build for Cuyahoga County’s Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) participants/The Cleveland Seasonal High Tunnel Project and their energetic communities!

High tunnels, or hoop houses, are unheated structures covering the ground to protect produce from weather and extend growing seasons. The Cleveland Seasonal High Tunnel Project is building on existing momentum for better community food security to broaden access to healthy, fresh, locally grown produce in a conservation-friendly manner while stimulating the local economy, and on April 13 and 14, despite the cold and rain, the project team held the season’s first high tunnel training build.

Before the build
Parts of the high tunnel prepared for the build

EQIP is a voluntary conservation program of the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS). Cleveland’s program participants and over 50 volunteers gained hands-on experience building a high tunnel from start to finish with the chance to ask questions throughout the two-day build. Volunteers and staff from Ohio State University Extension, Federation of Southern Cooperatives, First Cleveland Mosque, NRCS, Farm Credit Services of Mid-America, Coit Road Farmers Market, Cleveland Public Library, Cudell Improvement, Mo' Bites Food, Cafe Bon Appetit, Kai's Kultured Mushrooms, LB Construction LLC, Oliver Harrington, and Your Construction Co. all lent a hand. Rep. Marcia Fudge's (D-OH-11) office worked with USDA and Ohio State University to bring information about the EQIP program to Cleveland urban farmers.

During the build
Making progress

Salaam Community Garden 131 was an inspiring place to host the build and kick off a series of high tunnel builds. Established in 2009, Salaam is in Cleveland’s Mt. Pleasant neighborhood, directly across the street from The First Cleveland Mosque, and was built on re-purposed vacant land. The gardening project engages individuals across generations, promoting youth leadership and entrepreneurial skill development. Over 15 gardeners work to provide fresh, local produce for the mosque’s Maida Project, which served over 1,500 meals last year. Last year project organizers also reconfigured their site to expand production and make way for their new high tunnel, pictured below. Kim Scott, a lead gardener, community organizer, and EQIP participant, is thrilled with the addition of the tunnel to her garden and looks forward to a vibrant 2013 growing season and staying connected with her EQIP colleagues and friends!

Tim Diamond, Chief Knowledge Officer at the Cleveland Public Library, pitches in

Next Steps
On June 15th, July 27th, and August 10th, from 12-6PM, FFN will co-host High Tunnel Production Workshops. These classroom-based workshops will cover all topics related to year-round high tunnel production and marketing. Workshop topics will include:

  • crop selection and planting dates
  • projected yields
  • fertility and soil health/maintenance
  • irrigation options and water application rates
  • pest and disease management
  • pricing, marketing, and farm economics

Attendees are encouraged to come with questions and leave ready to jump into high tunnel farming! For more information and to RSVP, please email Liz Kohn at

Project Background

FFN, the NRCS, Ohio State University Extension, The Federation of Southern Cooperatives and many others are working together to train urban farmers in Cleveland’s EQIP program. FFN, Adam Montri, and local coordinators are offering technical, production, and marketing assistance, while the Federation works to identify and resolve eligibility issues, foster leadership development, and lead the community organizing around the project, especially as it pertains to local schools. We thank all our project partners for making our first training build such a success!