Urban High Tunnel Initiative Announced in Alabama

Dan Alabama, USDA-NRCS

urban high tunnelA new initiative focused on addressing urban conservation in Alabama’s urban areas has been announced. It’s called the Urban High Tunnel Initiative, a collaborative effort between USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) in Alabama and the Federation of Southern Cooperatives.

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USDA-Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) State Conservationist for Alabama Ben Malone announced a new initiative focused on addressing urban conservation in Alabama’s urban areas. The Urban High Tunnel Initiative is a collaborative effort between NRCS Alabama and the Federation of Southern Cooperatives. Eligible individuals in the metropolitan Birmingham and Bessemer area are encouraged to apply for funding by April 17, 2017.

This initiative will be modeled after a successful pilot project that the Federation of Southern Cooperatives coordinated in Cleveland, Ohio. As part of the USDA’s national Know Your Farmer, Know Your Food initiative, The Cleveland Seasonal High Tunnel Project has successfully strengthened local food systems, promoted locally grown foods and expanded access to affordable, fresh foods.

Cornelius Blanding, Executive Director of the Federation of Southern Cooperatives, said “This partnership will allow us to expand what the Federation has successfully done in rural communities to an urban landscape. We want to continue building sustainable communities around agriculture and now is the perfect time for us to make that happen in Birmingham and Bessemer.”

NRCS Alabama will provide financial assistance to urban farmers to install high tunnel systems through its Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP). NRCS staff will provide on-site technical assistance and implement conservation practices that protect natural resources on their land.

“Working alongside landowners and partners like the Federation, NRCS Alabama will have the opportunity to do our part in supporting sustainability and conservation in an urban setting,” said State Conservationist Ben Malone.

Urban conservation is already making gains in the greater Jefferson County area. The National Association of Conservation Districts (NACD) recently awarded one of NRCS’ partners, the Jefferson County Conservation District, a grant for a revitalization project that built a community garden in the Hillman neighborhood. The grant will also fund a full-time project coordinator to manage the hoop house, conduct educational workshops and ensure the community will benefit from the project.

Eligible producers are encouraged to visit their local USDA Service Center to sign up by April 17, 2017.