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Report from the Hoophouse - Paradise Farms

Report from the hoophouse

An interview with a local hoophouse farmer


Written by Laura Haselhuhn, Photos by Lisa Brown

One local Michigan farmer is focusing her efforts on season extension. Lisa Brown, is the owner of Paradise farms, located in Jackson, MI.  On her farm she grows produce in two 30’ x 96’ hoophouses.  These hoophouses have given her the opportunity to market high quality produce year round.  The crops from the hoophouses at Paradise Farms are mainly sold to local hospitals.  As her business is growing Lisa finds herself looking for to hire some additional help.  Please read on for our very first "Report from the Hoophouse" themed blog post

 

Can you tell me more about Paradise Farms and how it began?

I started Paradise Farms when I lived in Brooklyn, was growing vegetables for my family. Helped start the Marshall Farmers market, I used to own a silk/dried floral shop there. With the farmers market I needed to grow more. We had chickens and sold eggs from the house. I decided to start a CSA with veggies and eggs. This really was not my thing so that only lasted a year. Got a small hoop (14'x32') to start transplants, I experimented with season extension a little with it. A few years I moved to Summit twp. I talked to Jane Bush about how to make a living farming. She said I needed a hoop, a big one, asked her if she was paying for it. She gave me info about the NRCS cost share grants. And the rest is history so to speak!

Access to land is often a hurdle for beginning farmers, how did you overcome that hurdle?

I rent the land from the Dahlem Ecology Farm which is part of the Dahlem Conservancy. I am there because I don't have enough land with enough sun to grow at my home.  

What made you decide to begin using hoophouses?

Growing in a hoop was a way to exclude the deer from eating all my veggies-which they did at the summit twp. house.

 

What has been your biggest challenge with your hoophouse project so far?

Biggest challenge...hmm....I guess lots of little ones all combined, can't think of any one big one. Learning to grow in a hoop, the bugs/diseases, lack of employees, and the list goes on.

 

Who do you primarily market your produce to, and has your customer base changed over time?

Currently I sell most of my produce thru 4Seasons Produce Co-op which sells to local institutions. My customer base has changed several times-when I had the CSA, when I did the Marshall, Brooklyn and Green Market of Jackson.

 

Spinach growing one of the hoophouses at Paradise Farms

 

Can you describe more about what kind of opportunity your farm offers to employees and what kind of help you are looking for?

I am looking for someone who is interested in growing, not just for the paycheck. Hopefully they will learn by doing and from my mistakes-someone who is willing to work hard and take some direction. I am flexible as far as hours and there is variety in the work-everything from weeding, harvesting, rototilling, to working on the hoop houses.  Pay is $8/hr., approx. 10-15 hrs a week.

 

What tips can you provide a beginning farmer who may be thinking about getting started with farming and/or growing in a hoophouse?

Go slowly and ask lots of questions, get all the help you can. Research, start with MSU.  I would say you and Adam are great resources as well as others at MSU.

 

One of the 30' x 96' hoophouses ready for harvest.

 

You are a part of Four Seasons Produce Cooperative, can you tell me more about what that is and what the cooperative does to help farmers here in Michigan?

 Four Seasons helps farmers diversify their operations and sell large quantities of some crops. They let the farmer concentrate on growing while they do the paperwork.

 

What are your main hoophouse crops? Has what you've decided to grow change over time and if so what has made you change your crop choices?

I started out growing spinach and tomatoes. Things are changing over time, although I will probably always grow some spinach and tomatoes. They are popular and command a premium price.

I have also grown peppers which were hard to sell that year and took a long time to produce. I grew radishes this year which also were a hard sell. This year I am planning to diversify my crops. I plan to grow tomatoes, herbs, possibly some sweet potatoes.

 

We’re looking to highlight more great farmers who are doing great things with hoophouses, if you’d like an interview, please let me know.  Also if you’d like more information about working at Paradise Farms please send me an email:  haselhu2@msu.edu.  

Thanks and Happy Hoophouse Farming!

-Laura

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