Selma Cafe's Farmers Fund builds hoop houses

Ever since Jeff McCabe and Lisa Gottlieb started FridayMorning@Selmas as a breakfast fundraiser in their home 1/3 of the money has been spent, “on the food and the rest of the money goes towards the funds for hoop builds,” according to McCabe. At the Capella Farm in late August, I volunteered to help with Selma's 7th hoop build.

A hoop house is a plastic structure used to extend the growing season for vegetables into all four seasons of the year - a grand thing for our Michigan winters. Shannon Brines, of Brines Farm, has been overwhelmed with demand for his fresh winter greens since he began four season farming in 2004. Selma's Farmers Fund will allow more farmers to augment our winter supply.

Tomm Becker, of Sunseed Farm, received his two hoop houses from Selma’s funds in August 2009 and May 2010. Becker extols the benefits of four season growing. “If we didn’t have those [hoop houses] our CSA season would be 20 weeks, from June until October. With the hoop houses we are able to continue that all through the winter, so we do 48 weeks of distribution. We take 4 weeks off because we need to, for ourselves, not because we need to for the crops. With that protected space, we increase our income by increasing our harvest, all through the winter."

Borden - hoop house build

Jennifer and Dave Kangas started a CSA last year at Capella Farm and have had an eye on expansion. Jennifer applied for a USDA grant for a hoop house, which is administered through the Natural Resources Conservation Service, and augmented those funds with a loan from Selma’s Farmers Fund.

All 75 volunteers were overseen by McCabe and Gottlieb, fed by the Kangas family, and fueled by McCabe's van full of tools. People worked Friday night and all day Saturday, August 28th, to build Capella Farm's 30 foot by 96 foot hoop house. I have never before been involved with such a large group of volunteers working together with enthusiasm and cheer to improve the sustainability of our local food. I loved every minute of it.

As the moon rose over the new building silhouetted in the field, Jennifer Kangas shared her thoughts on the day. “Dave and I were so energized by all of the volunteers and support that we received to help build the hoop. Farming can be challenging because it really is hard work and you can't control the weather or the number of mosquitoes, etc. It was very affirming to feel support from the community. This day will help keep us going for a long time.” Capella Farm is planning on offering a winter CSA with the produce grown in the hoop.

McCabe’s vision in 2011 is to raise, “20 hoops in 20 consecutive days.” This dream relies on increased revenue for the Farmers Fund beyond that which can be raised on Friday mornings. As such, Chef Brandon Johns, of the Grange Kitchen and Bar, is kicking off the fundraising launch of the community-supported micro loan program (aka Farmers Fund) on September 26.

If you cannot make the fundraiser, volunteers with shovels, hammers, and portable drills will be building the 8th hoop house at Brines Farm on September 25th. One weekend, two very different opportunities to support local food.

The Farmer Fund kick-off event will be held Sunday, September 26, 5-8 pm, at Grange Kitchen and Bar. The cost is $50/person, with a tax deduction of half the ticket price. RSVP to info@selmacafe.org or sign up online.

Here is the article on annarbor.com