High Tunnels: A Sustainable Solution for Local Urban Agriculture

Julie Slavet
Feb 22, 2012

“How many of you eat every day?”

This is how Dr. William Lamont started off his talk at the Academy of Natural Sciences about building your own high tunnel in Philadelphia. With Philadelphia’s first congressional district ranking second highest in the nation for food hardship, many Philadelphia families can’t afford to buy enough food to feed themselves. Urban gardening is a great way to supplement our diets with cheap, nutritious, local produce.

So, what exactly is a high tunnel? Similar to hoop houses and greenhouses, these structures extend the growing season, allowing a variety of plants to be grown in the winter. Specific crops include strawberries, cabbage, lettuce, tomatillos, and herbs. Growing fruits and vegetables year-round not only provides fresh produce to neighbors, it also allows teachers to involve school students and teach them hands-on about science and nutrition.

Urban agriculture isn’t new. In the past, most people grew their own food, but this changed after the industrial revolution. Now, many city dwellers are returning to this way of life in order to protect the environment and reuse vacant land. The updated Philadelphia Zoning Code now welcomes urban agriculture and community gardens.

Community gardens are sprouting up all over the city and suburbs, so be sure to look for one near you this spring!

The Urban Sustainability Forum recently hosted this program about high tunnels. Keep an eye out for similar environmental programs at the Academy of Natural Sciences!

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