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Ripley Farm awarded cost-share for high tunnel

Dover Foxcroft -

DOVER-FOXCROFT, Maine –Ripley Farm’s organic tomatoes and peppers will have a new home next growing season thanks to a United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) contract helping to fund the construction of a large high tunnel for in-ground growing. “We’re looking forward to increased yield and better quality fruits from our summer crops and to extending our availability of hardy greens into the fall for our local customers,” says Gene Ripley, owner and operator of Ripley Farm in Dover-Foxcroft.

Ripley used this year’s snowless December days to his advantage, setting the ground posts and assembling the high tunnel’s metal frame. The plastic covering was recently secured down, completing the construction of his 30 foot by 96 foot high tunnel in time for the winter.

Piscataquis County’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) administers the nationwide program for the local area. According to the NRCS, the purposes of the high tunnel cost-share program are to improve plant, soil, and air quality while reducing inputs and energy use by encouraging local consumption. Participating farmers will document their inputs, production, and farming practices after erecting their greenhouses. Then, University of Maine personnel will evaluate the data for trends in reduced pesticide use, reduced nutrient losses, and increased crop production in these structures.

Ripley Farm, a MOFGA Certified Organic vegetable farm, was one of many farms in Maine under contract with the USDA for high tunnel construction in 2011. The USDA’s nationwide high tunnel cost-share program began partnering with farmers in 2010 and is expected to continue into at least 2012.

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