On Thursday of last week, I went with Chris Hillier, our commercial sales rep for Maine, to visit one of her customers, Mark Allen at Living Land Farm in Winterport, Maine. Mark runs a commercial operation and CSA on just 1.75 acres with 3/4 of an acre in production.
I had spoken with Mark at the MOFGA Spring Growth Conference last Saturday and he told me that he had structural failure in his Quick Hoops™. This was the first actual failure I had heard of, so I wanted to investigate what went wrong. Eliot Coleman's concept for the Quick Hoops™ Bender a few years ago was born out of the need for hoops that wouldn't bend under snow load like PVC hoops do. In our trials at the farm last winter, the 1/2" EMT hoops held up extremely well, but when the soil moistened up in spring, the hoops tended to lean and cut through the soil without bending.
This was the case at Mark Allen's farm, only worse. Due to the very wet conditions caused by drainage challenges at his farm, the hoops under snow load leaned over, then started to widen out as the bottoms of the hoops poked through the soil. Now much wider and with greatly reduced strength, the hoops then caved in. Also, once one hoop moved, the entire length of plastic was now loose and able to catch much more snow. The result was a domino effect. Mark had tied off some of his end wall hoops to the end stake, but since the hoop ends cut through soil, they were of little help.
Mark stated that he intends to do some work to aid in soil drainage. My recommendation for him for next season is to run a rope purlin the entire length of his tunnels, tying off to each hoop individually and to stakes on either end. I also suggested he use beefier stakes like T-posts driven deeply, as they will need to bear the weight of the entire tunnel's snow load. Hopefully, this will work for him.
After analyzing his low tunnels, he gave us a tour. Eliot Coleman's influence can be seen in many of the methods employed on his farm, including soil blocking, wire wickets, and the use of Quick Hoops™.
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Tools & Supplies Manager