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A Low Cost Season Extension Option

A Low Cost Season Extension Option:

Written By: Laura Haselhuhn

Here is one option that cost about $100 to build:

 

Low cost season extension options are great to consider for expanding current hoophouse production space as well as for those just starting out with year round growing. 

 

Although it is small, just 5’ x 20’ (about the same square footage as one bed in a large hoophouse), this type of structure could be a great starting point.

Supply list:

Item                                  Quantity      Unit Price        Total Price

EMT 3/4" conduit                   10                3.95                 $39.50

EMT connector couplings          7                0.696               $4.87

Treated 2 x 4 x 12s                 4                4.57                 $18.28

EMT pipe straps                    17                0.348               $5.92

Plastic 12 x 30 6 mil 4 yr

(price includes shipping)          1                 31.26               $31.26

Baler twine                       100'                on hand          

Bungee cords                       2                 on hand          

Screws                              34                 on hand          

High Tensile Wire                 12'                on hand          

T-Posts                              2                  on hand          

 

Total expenses for setting up one hoophouse for production               $99.83

 

Depreciation cost of a small structure:

Please read the blog post on depreciation if you want more background on where the formulas came from.   This hoophouse is 100 sq ft of growing space.  For simplicity’s sake we’ll assume that this house might last 4 years (same amount of time as the poly).  This means that it costs $100/100 sq ft/4 years = $0.25 per square foot to use each year.

If you decide to do multiple plantings of crops in the hoophouse, you would assign the costs in this manner: $100/100 sq ft/ 4 years / 300 days = $.00083 per square foot per day in the hoophouse.  I used 300 days because in the June-August window you might not have the cover on the structure or even be using it, since it is shorter and some summer crops grow taller than this.  Choose the number of days in use per year that is applicable to your farm.

Then charge each crop "rent" for the time and space it takes in the house.  This way you can assign appropriate costs to each crop and learn which crops make a profit, and which ones should be dropped from the product mix for next year.  

 

Benefits:

1)      Gives you time to learn to grow year round and attend workshops to learn more as many farmers experience a learning curve with hoophouses.

2)      Less financial risk is involved.  This structure pictured cost $100 to build.

3)      Allows for time to develop markets.  Sometimes developing selling outlets during the “off season” can take time. 

4)       The pressure might be as high to immediately start making money (this could be a good thing or a bad thing).

5)      Produce/flowers from this structure could be a great addition to your market offerings at a time when you wouldn’t normally have produce.

Drawbacks:

1)      Not as much growing space to work with, meaning less produce to take to market and less potential income.

2)      Additional scale will be needed to cover marketing/selling costs.  There are marketing/selling costs associated with selling produce such as: driving to a market or dropping it off at a growers co-op to sell, time spent at market or doing drop-offs, vendor fees, etc.  You will need to have enough products to sell to make it worth your time and to cover your marketing/selling costs.  Three tips to make sure you are covering your costs are:

a)      Know what your marketing/selling costs are by pushing the pencil and adding the costs to attend a market up.  Don’t forget to account for your time.

b)      Covering your selling costs could easily be achieved by selling other items from the farm at the same market such as: eggs, bread, dairy products, craft, baked goods, honey, jams, etc.

c)      Minimize costs by doing on farm roadside stand or on-farm pickups if possible

Small hoophouses can have a place on a large farm too:

Many farmers who use large hoophouses also have smaller quick hoops, or mid-sized tunnels on their farm.  In smaller low-cost structures, you can grow some of the “lower value” crops, and save space in the larger more expensive hoophouses for the “high value” crops.  This will give customers a greater variety of options to choose from at market, and could increase your average sales revenue per customer.  All while making sure each crop is profitable and is contributing to your farm’s economic viability.

Thanks and Happy Hoophouse Farming!

 

-Laura Haselhuhn

Hoophouse Outreach Assistant

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