SAP builds second hoop house
Grand Valley State University’s Sustainable Agriculture Project has built a second “hoop house” to allow the growing season to extend into the academic year as far as December and begin again as early as February. Without the hoop houses, the growing season would be forced to end in the winter months due to the cold weather and snow.
John DeRuiter, president of GVSU’s Farm Club, said the hoop houses are convenient for students looking to grow all year.
“The hoop house is the best way to farm on campus during the winter,” DeRuiter said. “I liked the idea of the hoop house because it gave us a chance to extend Farm Club into the school year. There is quite a bit of interest among students to be involved with Farm Club, but so many of them leave GVSU for the summer, so this was the best way to get people involved year-round.”
Located on Luce Street between 42nd and 48th streets, the new hoop house is an “unheated passive solar greenhouse,” said Bart Bartels, the Sustainability Manager for GVSU. Hoop houses, unlike normal greenhouses, use neither overhead lamps nor heaters and rely entirely on the sun for energy. An outer wall with two layers enables more heat to be trapped inside, creating a warmer growing environment for the plants.
Levi Gardner, manager of the SAP, said the first hoop house was a huge success and that he has high hopes for the second.
“More and more students are visiting the SAP to learn and work,” Gardner said. “The new house will more than double our capacity and will provide room for more classes to come and visit.”
The new hoop house is a joint project involving the student-organized Farm Club, Brooks College of Interdisciplinary Studies and the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences. Students, faculty and staff all donated more than 300 combined hours of their personal time to build the solar greenhouse.
Funds for the second hoop house came from several sources, including Brooks College, CLAS and the Sustainable Community Development Initiative.
Wendy Wenner, former dean of the Brooks College, also donated money to build the structure. The first hoop house built in the summer of 2011 was erected in only three days, and its success provided the catalyst for the construction of the second hoop house.
About 24 feet longer than the first house, the new hoop house also has 40 percent more growing space and 22 beds.
Beginning in October, volunteers from the involved groups will operate stands every Wednesday under the Transformational Link on the Allendale Campus, where they will sell produce grown in the hoop houses and on the SAP farm space. These stands will move to inside the Kirkhof Center in the winter.
For more information about the Sustainable Agriculture Project, visit www.gvsu.edu/sustainableagproject or contact the Sustainable Community Development Initiative at 616-331-7366.
For more information about the Farm Club, visit their Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/gvsufarmclub.