Hoop house (n.) A less permanent, more sustainable version of a greenhouse made solely out of PVC pipes, plastic, and wood. Also known as a polytunnel, its purpose is to extend the growing season for produce. Plastic covering the entire frame allows solar radiation to make its way in, trap its heat, and create a relatively warm environment for plants during colder seasons.
Back in 2012, ECO, Kenyon’s student environmental organization, received a sustainability grant to build a hoop house. Located on N Acland St. behind the North Campus Apartments, the hoop house will take the place of the student-run garden that was previously there. In recent years, the garden has not seen much use because much of the growing season is during summer break. ECO thought a hoop house would not only be a great solution to this problem, but also help increase sustainable practices and awareness around campus. They believe that the hoop house will help to continue to reach out to the community, diversify membership, and present a broader look at environmentalism.
“You can make as many or as few mistakes as you need, and it’s a stress-free environment because there is no stake in what happens as far as there being no set amount of produce that needs to be made, and no one is checking anyone else for perfection,” said Tim Jurney ’15, who headed up this project. A great alternative to living on the Kenyon Farm, having a farm internship, or taking the sustainable agriculture class, the hoop house allows students to take part in a student-run activity where they can learn more about sustainability and farming practices in a stress-free and small commitment setting.
Experiential learning in student organizations presents different challenges than a traditional classroom experience can, such as managing budgets, organizing peers, or planning group meetings. On behalf of ECO, Jurney applied for the grant, researched necessary materials, drew up a blueprint, and organized building times. “It was definitely a learning process because I had no idea what I was doing, but the hardest parts were also the most rewarding, valuable, interesting, and fun because it meant that the hoop house was, and still is, a real learning experience rather than a step-by-step following instructions experience—when students are actually building and designing every part of something from scratch, they’re getting a much better understanding of what it means to build a hoop house.”
Due to several complications, the hoop house is not completely finished; the plastic still needs to be put up over the entire frame. Despite this, the hope is to start officially growing this upcoming fall semester. Because you can grow anything in a hoop house that you can grow outside, ECO plans to plant dark leafy greens and root vegetables this fall, as these crops are hearty enough for the winter growing season. “Although we were presented with a myriad of obstacles from having ordered parts which turned out to be different than we originally thought to having trouble finding the time and the tools to build, this was absolutely a great learning experience. I hope that the hoop house can be a place where students get outside, relieve stress, and learn more about where their food comes from.”