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Hoop house harvesting

Hoop house

A year-round growing season may sound like a dream to farmers in cold climates, but at the Student Organic Farm at Michigan State University it’s a reality—thanks to a little innovation and a lot of green thumbs.

Students and others working at the farm are busy year-round harvesting produce—everything from potatoes to kale—much of which is used to feed hungry MSU students.

The 10-acre farm just south of campus is home to several hoop houses, a type of passive solar greenhouse that allows for nonstop planting and harvesting. Each is a long, dome-shaped building covered by a double-thick sheet of polycarbonate plastic. Solar energy actually heats the ground, allowing crops to be planted right in the ground.

“We grow about 80 different crops,” says Laurie Thorp, director of MSU's Residential Initiative on the Study of the Environment and a member of the farm advisory team. “You name it, we grow it.”

In addition to growing crops, those who work at the farm also are teaching farmers how to use the technology.

“We do this through multiple venues—presenting at national conferences or offering workshops either on campus or around the state,” says Thorp.

For more on MSU’s Student Organic Farm, visit msuorganicfarm.com.

Watch a video about MSU’s hoop houses.

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