Hoop house tour gives inside look into extending the U.P.’s growing season

MARQUETTE — Seasoned gardeners had the opportunity to learn how to lengthen the growing season here in the Upper Peninsula Tuesday afternoon.

The Marquette Food Co-op held a tour of its hoop house on the Jacobetti Complex at Northern Michigan University for members of the Northern Center for Lifelong Learning.  The purpose of the tour was to show how hoop houses or window boxes can extend the growing season until November.

“I can grow, for instance, spinach or kale to its maturity in November, and then the leaves are tough enough that they will over winter I can harvest throughout the winter, but things really do slow down in here in a lot of ways (after November),” Marquette Food Co-op special projects coordinator Abbey Palmer said. “Another thing we do is we start seeding things that are going to pop up right away in March, like onions and carrots.”

An important reason to extend the growing season in the U.P. is for food security.

“We only have a two day supply of food in the Upper Peninsula,” Palmer said. “In Marquette County for instance, if trucks were to quit running food from downstate and from Wisconsin.”

“If people are growing more of their own food for more of the season, we sort of have a more robust local food system. We’re able to take care of our own needs more.”

The hoop house at the Jacobetti Complex began in 2009.  All food from the house is donated to food pantries or used by NMU culinary students.