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Organic Conservation Activity Plan Brings Life to Organic Idea in Morgan County

By Travis Badger, Soil Conservation Aid, Morgan County Soil and Water Conservation District, Hartselle, AL


Gary Slaten builds a high tunnel house
Gary Slaten builds a Seasonal High Tunnel funded in part by an NRCS EQIP Organic Conservation Activity.

Gary Slaten of Hartselle, Alabama, took a great idea, allowed NRCS to assist him in his efforts, and brought to life his “organic idea.” 

Slaten decided to expand his farm to growing organic vegetables.  He did some research and discovered how to build a hoop house for organic production of vegetables.  He bought the materials and did the work to build his hoop house. 

With additional research, he realized there were NRCS incentive programs that could help him pay for a hoop house.  He also found ways to build an even larger and more advanced house, thus leading to better production of organic vegetables.

“My friends discouraged me.” stated Slaten.  “They said there would be too much paper work if I went through NRCS.”  But Slaten did not let simple paperwork stand in the way of his vision. 

After talking to staff in the Hartselle Field Office about newly advanced farming techniques, Slaten realized this was a great opportunity.  

With the encouragement of NRCS staff, Slaten attended the production and marketing training of organic vegetables in Clanton, Alabama, presented by Weidiger of Au Natural Farm in Kentucky.  He learned, among other things, that the prices of different vegetables varied in different locations due to the supply and demand.  Slaten realized that his production of organic vegetables would not only be a benefit to him financially, but help the community with an economical choice for organic vegetables. 

Among information on organic vegetable production, Slaten discovered high tunnel houses and their advantages due to better control of interior environment.  He also found he would be able to grow plants 52 weeks of the year using the sun's warmth in winter. 

With the assistance of NRCS and the Morgan Soil and Water Conservation District, Slaten built a high tunnel house for his organic vegetables.  “Buying the plants was the next step,” states Slaten.  Prices of organic plants are considerably more expensive than non-organic.  Slaten commented that one organic tomato plant can run around $2.99 whereas non-organic plants could be 6 for $2.99. 

Slaten plans to grow his plants from seeds which are comparable in price to non-organic seeds, but will bring about more challenges due to the no chemical application regulation that gives organic vegetables their unique quality. 

Slaten is prepared for this organic farming venture and is looking forward to the benefits it will bring to his family and the community.  “I could not have had this large of an operation without the assistance and advice from NRCS and the Morgan County Soil and Water Conservation Service," stated Slaten. 

Morgan County NRCS is proud to have Gary Slaten as one of their first farmers to sign up with an Organic Conservation Activity Plan through the EQIP program.  Plans are made to document the progress of his new venture that will benefit his family as well as the environment and community in which he lives. 

Organic Hoop House

The first hoop house Slaten built before seeking financial assistance for another one through the NRCS EQIP program. 

March 2011