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Friday, March 15, 2013

Hoop House Raising in Northern New Mexico

Yesterday was a brilliant, warm 70 degree day and the wind wasn't blowing: a perfect day for a hoop house raising. We convened at Veronica's house where she had coffee and snacks ready to fuel the crew of about 20 volunteers who came to help. Just like in many Northern New Mexico homes, Veronica has both a wood cook stove and a conventional one. The wood stove keeps the house toasty warm and and it makes sense with wood free and plentiful around here.

Hoop houses will be springing up like wild flowers in the next few months around here because our livestock and growers' group has learned that growing veggies in Northern New Mexico can be a very sustainable way to make a living.

Last year Del Jimenez, Agriculture Specialist, Rural Agricultural Improvement and Public Affairs Project (RAIPAP) at New Mexico State University gave a lecture to the group and offered his services as a consultant for this project. Because our group was started with a grant from Heifer International, recipients must follow the Heifer guidelines, including 40 hours of training before they can receive a gift. Veronica has received some bred heifers and is in the process of repaying the group with 5 bred heifers from what has been born so far. Her repayment for the hoop house is its cost, repaid within 5 years. If all goes well, she should be able to make her repayment in a year or so, no problem.

Her dad constructed the frame using PVC pipe, rebar and locally milled lumber. By using lumber from someone nearby who harvests their trees to make boards, it keeps the costs down. In the background are Veronica's chickens. She sells their eggs to family, friends, and the local natural foods grocery store. The whole ranch is in the process of becoming organically certified.

The group's job was to get the large sheet of heavy plastic over the frame and to stretch it tight. Others armed with staple guns tacked the plastic to the wood while we supplied the hands necessary to get it nicely stretched with no wrinkles.

 Here is the plastic being draped over the hoop house "bones."

Veronica's dad tacks the plastic to one side of the frame before we stretch it. I don't know how old her dad is, but he was everywhere at once and you can tell he loves every minute of this project. It made me miss my dad.

Once this side was tacked down, it was time to stretch. We had a line of people on one long side, pulling hard to ensure the plastic was stretched taut as a drum. If the plastic isn't stretched tightly, the crazy Northern New Mexico wind would cause it to flap about and start ripping. There is Veronica, with the sunglasses and gorgeous gray hair.

The group did a quality job and a hoop house is born!

Inside, the hoop house is big! I think the dimensions are 36 long by 20 wide. Someone correct me if I am wrong in the comments, okay?

There is still a lot of work for Veronica to do. Building raised beds, assembling the irrigation and misting systems, and planting the first seeds for her mixed baby lettuce are just some of the tasks still ahead.

But there is a big market for locally grown produce, and Los de Mora Local Growers' Cooperative is on its way to becoming a market force in Northern New Mexico.

As a thank you, we feasted on pizza with green chile garnish, chicken wings, salad, and wine after our labors, and had fun meeting new friends and chatting with our neighbors.


  1. All in all a very worth while use of your time! Looks like it was lovely weather, and a good excuse to be out in it.

  2. good Dad would have been right in there too(:

  3. I love that wood stove! My maternal grandmother had an old black cast iron stove in her home in Pennsylvania when i was growing up, and I've always wished a family member saved it when she passed away and her home was sold.

    The hoop house looks very functional as a greenhouse. Local and fresh vegetables are thankfully in such demand!


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