In 2012 the Wild Rice Soil Conservation District noticed a need to expand our outreach efforts to Urban Conservation as a few individuals in the county received cost-share from the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) for high tunnels. High tunnels are rigid, enclosed structures designed to maximize and extend production of fruits and vegetables. High tunnels are like greenhouses except they are not heated to provide year-round production. They do however allow you to plant a week or two earlier and harvest a week or two later in the average year allowing people to steal a month of sunshine from Mother Nature. In northern growing areas like ours it also allows producers to utilize crops recommended for southern growing zones as well.
The District successfully applied for a grant with NRCS in the latter part of 2012 to put up a high tunnel adjacent to the USDA Service Center in Forman. By spring of 2013 the high tunnel was up and running. Since 2013 multiple high tunnel contracts have been funded around the area through NRCS’s EQIP program. The high tunnel is open to the public and used to show area residents what high tunnels are and how they work. We like to believe that having one for demonstration purposes in the area has helped garner interest.
With our high tunnel becoming operational, we knew we needed somebody with one heck of a green thumb to help with operations. Local gardener; Al Colemer, was the man for the job. Al became a Master Gardener through NDSU Extension’s program in 2016 and has pushed to try new things both inside and outside the high tunnel. Whether it be planting unique crops like Brussel sprouts, okra, peanuts or a peach tree in the high tunnel or working with the SCD and NDSU Extension on creating a Pollinator Garden outside the high tunnel; Al has helped the SCD show the people of Sargent County what Urban Conservation is all about.
In 2018 Dakota College at Bottineau reached out to us and asked if we would be willing to host an “Advanced High Tunnel Tour” at our office to educate local producers and the general public on high tunnel techniques as well as showcase them in real life at our high tunnel. The meeting was a success, but it did highlight the need for more technical assistance, demonstration, and education available to small/specialty crop producers. As a result, Dakota College at Bottineau applied for a grant with NRCS to do just that in 2019 and was funded. In 2020 the high tunnel in Forman serves as one of three sites across North Dakota to highlight various high tunnel practices like cover crops, pest management, micro-irrigation, and trellising. The other two sites are in Bottineau at the Dakota College campus and at the Menoken Farm east of Bismarck. We are excited to be a part of this project and excited to see what the future holds.
If you have any questions about high tunnels, cost share, or would like a tour of the high tunnel please contact our office at (701) 724-6226 ext. 3.
It is the goal of the Wild Rice Soil Conservation District to educate and help the local land users (for conservation of soil) right here in Sargent County. We do this by offering a variety of services and making available various technical, financial, and educational resources.
8991 Hwy 32 Suite 2
Forman, ND 58032
Phone: 701-724-6226 Ext 3
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