Lowndes County Master Gardeners volunteers, National Resources Conservation Service and Extension Service personnel construct a high tunnel at the Lowndes County Extension Service facility near the junction of Highway 82 and Highway 45 South. The structure is funded in part by a Grow Communities grant secured by Caledonia farmer Douglas Holliman. Photo by: Courtesy photo
December 15, 2018 10:01:03 PM
Activity is bustling at the Lowndes County Extension Service facility on Tom Rose Road. Not only is a new multi-purpose arena going up, but for a second time, Caledonia farmer Douglas Holliman has directed a $2,500 grant to Lowndes County 4-H as part of the America's Farmers Grow Communities program sponsored by the Monsanto Fund, a philanthropic arm of Bayer. The funds are being used to erect a high tunnel and build a greenhouse that will help youngsters and adults learn more about horticulture and agricultural practices.
"This donation helps in our mission of educating local residents and youth about horticultural activities and gives us an opportunity to provide hands-on teaching for relating to agriculture here in the Golden Triangle," said Reid Nevins, Lowndes County Extension Service Ag/4-H agent.
Since the Grow Communities program began in 2010, it has partnered with farmers to support nonprofit organizations important to them locally. Each year, farmers enter for a chance to direct a $2,500 donation to a nonprofit they care about. The organizations reflect the makeup and character of rural America, including emergency response organizations, schools, youth agriculture programs, food banks and many others.
As the grandfather of seven grandchildren who attend Caledonia schools, Holliman feels it's important for young people to have an awareness of where America's food comes from.
"My grandkids see my farm and garden here, but there are so many kids that don't have anything like that," he said.
High tunnels -- or hoop houses -- are unheated greenhouses that can help extend the growing season.
"Basically it's a greenhouse that is not heated or cooled, no fans. The big thing is you can start a crop earlier and go later in the season," Nevins explained. The structure will have drip irrigation. Its sides can be rolled up during intense summer heat.
Even as the high tunnel is nearing completion, work is set to begin Monday on a heated and cooled greenhouse nearby.
"When we get it all in place, it's going to be a great benefit to the county," the Extension agent said. School classes, 4-H youth and Master Gardeners are among those expected to benefit.
"Farmers play a pivotal role in rural communities and through their commitment to the Grow Communities program, we are able to provide the monetary support these nonprofit organizations need to make an impact," said Al Mitchell, Monsanto Fund president. Since 2010, Grow Communities has given more than $29 million to nonprofits across rural America.
In addition to the Grow Communities grant, the high tunnel and greenhouse projects are also supported by the Mississippi Soil and Water Conservation Commission and a Mississippi University for Women Passport to Wellness program grant.
"We couldn't do it without them all," Nevins said.
Jan Swoope is the Lifestyles Editor for The Commercial Dispatch.