Stories indexed with the term ‘hoop house’

Time to Expand Greenbelt Boundary?

Ann Arbor greenbelt advisory commission meeting (Nov. 10, 2010): At this month’s meeting, commissioners unanimously approved forming a subcommittee to explore possible changes to the existing boundary of the greenbelt district. Led by GAC vice chair Dan Ezekiel, the group will look for ways to protect properties that might be appropriate for the greenbelt, but that lie just outside of the current district. A similar effort in 2007 resulted in bumping out the boundary by a mile.

Lisa Gottlieb

Lisa Gottlieb, organizer of the Selma Cafe, made a presentation with her husband, Jeff McCabe, at the Nov. 10 meeting of the Ann Arbor greenbelt advisory commission. (Photos by the writer.)

Noting that this was the second time they’d looked at the issue, GAC chair Jennifer S. Hall suggested exploring other ways that the greenbelt program might achieve the same result, but that wouldn’t involve regularly moving the program’s fixed boundary.

Another theme of the meeting was local food. Two local food advocates – Lisa Gottlieb and Jeff McCabe – gave a presentation about their work raising money to fund construction of hoop houses at local farms. Gottlieb and McCabe host the weekly Selma Cafe, a breakfast gathering every Friday morning at their home that regularly draws more than 120 people. Commissioner Dan Ezekiel praised their work, and GAC chair Jennifer S. Hall expressed the hope that they could find ways to work together in the future.

Also during Wednesday’s meeting, commissioners voted to recommend an agreement with Webster Township, which is offering to contribute $50,000 to the purchase of development rights for the 146-acre Whitney farm. The city council has already agreed to pay $707,122 toward that purchase.

Greenbelt program manager Ginny Trocchio reported that the city has closed on the 51-acre Gould property, adjacent to the recently protected 286-acre Braun farm – both farms are located in Ann Arbor Township. The Braun acquisition bumped the greenbelt program over the 2,000-acre mark, she said – about 2,200 acres are now part of the greenbelt. The Brauns have agreed to open their property for a celebration in the coming months.

In other action, GAC voted unanimously to set public commentary rules in alignment with other city boards and commissions. And Hall noted that two vacancies will be opening up next year on GAC – she encouraged local residents who might be interested in serving on the commission to attend some of their meetings, or talk to their city councilmember about their interest.

The commission also got an update from city treasurer Matt Horning, who was responding to questions that commissioners had raised regarding a drop in investment income on the latest year-end financial statement. [Full Story]

Column: Seeds & Stems

Marianne Rzepka

Marianne Rzepka

Tomm Becker hasn’t been afraid of a spring frost killing the lettuce, tomatoes, cilantro, kale and chard he’s growing at Sunseed Farm.

That’s because he’s growing them under the plastic cover of a 30-by-96-foot hoop house, which since last fall has been a source of vegetables through most of the winter.

Hoop houses let the sun in, and the solar-powered heat warms up the soil and keeps tender plants from freezing in early and late frosts. When a strong wind flapped the hoop house cover at Sunseed Farm last week, it blew through the openings where the plastic had been hoisted to provide ventilation. The day before had brought cold temperatures and heavy rains that flooded the nearby rye field, so the side flaps had been down to keep the heat in.

“The great thing (about hoop houses) is you can control everything,” Becker says.

Hoop houses aren’t just for farms – a backyard hoop house can give anyone a head start on the season. Then even into the winter, you can grow some cold weather crops – like lettuce – or store root crops, like carrots.

But like anything else in your garden – ponds, chickens, a compost pile – a hoop house is a project that never stops. [Full Story]

St. Joe’s Plows Ahead with Local Food

Head north on Hewitt Road from Washtenaw Avenue, past Eastern Michigan’s Rynearson Stadium to the edge of the St. Joseph Mercy Hospital campus. Off to the right is a plot of land that the health provider is now returning to a previous use – farming.

Hank Beakly with horses

Hank Beekley with his team of draft horses – a Belgian and a Shire – disks the field. The hospital building is visible in the background. The view is roughly to the northwest. (Photos by the writer.)

The centerpiece of the current effort is a 30 x 96-foot hoop house, which began construction on Monday. It will be joined by a second hoop house later in the summer, and plans call for a dozen of the structures to be built in the coming years.

The vegetables grown on the plot will be used in the hospital cafeteria and patient meals, and sold at a farmers market, with excess donated to Food Gatherers.

On Monday and again on Wednesday this week, Hank Beekley and his team of draft horses helped with the effort to transform about an acre of St. Joseph’s 356-acre campus in Superior Township to productive farming.

Tuesday was an off day for the horses – wet conditions were the key factor. But Beekley himself was there on Tuesday, along with other volunteers and St. Joseph’s staff to help build the first hoop house, which was already off to a good start based on Monday’s work. [Full Story]