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Report from the Hoophouse: Rainbows End Farm

 

An interview with a local hoophouse farmer

Written by Laura Haselhuhn, Photos by Gwen Kato

One local Michigan farmer is focusing her efforts on season extension. Gwen Kato, is the owner of Rainbows End Farm, in Fowlerville, MI.  On her farm she grows produce in one 30’x72’ hoophouse.  This season she is also looking for some additional help.  


Can you tell me more about Rainbow’s end Farm and how it began?

I returned my family to the family farm that I grew up on in 1999. I began to formulate my own farm, picked organic practices for me, although I am still non-certified. In 2004 decided to plant one acre of fall u-pick raspberries. We added a hoophouse in 2010 to increase farming production in the down months. I also pasture chickens and lambs.

 

Can you describe the season extension at your farm?

I have one hoophouse, 30’ x 72’. Solely used so far for greens, the dark ones, spinach, kale, collards and lettuces. Focus on fall and spring, no summer growth.

What made you decide to add a hoophouse to your farm?

I’m a ‘health nut’, obsessed with good food. I thought it a great addition to provide local, quality, healthy greens in the down sides of the fresh season.

 

What is going on right now in the hoophouse?

Just hoping the longer days in February bring forth food – quickly. I can tell, it is not as quick as last year, but that was the uncommon winter year. It is planted with the spinach from fall and chards, spinach, kales this spring.

 

What are your main hoophouse crops?

I want to stay with the dark greens, but am contemplating tomatoes to service my local people's wishes and it’s a sure sell.

What types of marketing outlets do you use for selling your produce? Have those outlets changed over time? Do you have any marketing tips for farmers?

I do 2-3 farm markets, some roadside, U-pick with raspberries and farm stand during u-pick season. Local delivery route to coolers on porches.

 

Sometimes farmers struggle with pricing or recordkeeping, do you have any tips or record-keeping strategies that you use?

I don’t think I will ever NOT struggle with pricing. Record-keeping is up and down. I have found my iphone very helpful for keeping notes handy and not getting all wet in the hoop!

 

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

Learn all you can first. Read, attend seminars, look at costs beyond hoop, marketing. Test the markets in other areas, with regular veggies to determine if you will enjoy marketing what you grow. Think through csa’s, farmers markets, roadstands, u-pick situations.

 

You mentioned previously that your farm is looking for interns?  Can you describe more about what kind of opportunity your farm offers to interns, and what kind of help you are looking for?

I would like someone with experience growing a season or so in a hoophouse. Yes, with the intention of teaching me, specifically greens and tomatoes. I can offer someone who wants to farm, the tools, space, support they may need. I have existing customer base, existing markets a solid reputation in the community. Specifics would require a meet-up! I don’t plan on ‘paying’ because as a farmer I have never gotten ‘paid’ other than thru the product I produce, that is part of the learning process, probably the toughest part! Looking for someone as soon as possible this spring, even into November. The farm email is rainbowsendfarm2004@gmail.com.  The website is TheRainbowsEndFarm.com.

 

Thank you Gwen for sharing information about your farm and hoophouse.  We’re looking to highlight more hoophouse farmers this year, if you’d like an interview or would like to suggest someone for an interview, please let me know: haselhu2@msu.edu.  

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