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Workshop offers hands-on training to build hoop houses

Learn to build affordable, weather-resistant hoop houses - unheated greenhouse-like structures - at free workshops to be held at New Mexico State University's Leyendecker Plant Science Center in Las Cruces Sept. 22, 23 and 25.

Workshop volunteers install the cover on a hoop house similar to the ones participants will construct in free workshops Sept. 22, 23, and 25 at NMSU's Leyendecker Plant Science Center on Highway 28, south of Las Cruces. (NMSU photo by Connie Falk)

In each of the all-day workshops, participants will actually help build a hoop house, also called "high tunnels," which are designed to retain heat and create conditions suitable for growing plants through the fall and winter months.

The workshops will be directed by Del Jimenez, NMSU Cooperative Extension Service agricultural specialist, who has directed construction of about 400 hoop houses in similar workshops around New Mexico and in neighboring states.

"The hoop houses we will build in these workshops are souped-up models using special woven plastic with UV protection, which means they will last six to 10 years, instead of the three to four years that is common with normal non-woven UV-protective plastics," Jimenez explained. "And, they are probably the least expensive hoop houses being built, at about $1 per square foot, instead of the $4 to $5 per square foot for a hoop house made from a commercially manufactured kit."

In addition, all of the materials, except for the special UV-resistant plastic, can be purchased at most hardware stores.

"The hoop houses constructed during the workshops will be used by NMSU researchers to examine the best design for small farms in various regions of New Mexico," said Mark Uchanski, NMSU assistant professor, Plant and Environmental Sciences Department, who is one of the investigators working on the research project being sponsored by the Western Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education Program (WSARE).

The workshops will be helpful for master gardeners, small-to-medium farm producers or anyone interested in getting hands-on experience and instruction from hoop-house design and construction experts.

Workshop participants should come prepared to spend the day - from 9 a.m. to about 4 p.m. - helping build a hoop house. In exchange for their volunteered labor, participants will get expert, hands-on instruction from Jimenez and a list of materials needed to construct a hoop house on their own farm or other property.

Participants can bring their own power drills or other tools and work gloves. They should wear appropriate work clothes, including closed-toe boots or shoes.

Snacks and drinks will be provided, but participants should also bring a lunch.

The workshops are sponsored by NMSU's Cooperative Extension Service, NMSU's Agricultural Experiment Station, and the Western Sustainable Agricultural Research and Education Program.

The workshops will be at the Leyendecker Plant Science Center farm on Highway 28, south of Las Cruces.

To sign up for one or more of the free workshops and get further information or directions to the workshop site, call Mark Uchanski at (575) 646-1914 or (575) 646-3405 within 24 hours of the workshop you wish to attend. You can also sign up by sending e-mail to uchanski@nmsu.edu or cfalk@nmsu.edu.

Directions and a workshop flyer are also available online at