Tribal food sovereignty

The Duck Valley Hoop House Project

The Duck Valley Shoshone-Paiute Indian Reservation is located in a rural and isolated area in Northeastern Nevada and Southern Idaho where economic survival has historically been based on agriculture. Despite Duck Valley’s status as the largest agricultural producing reservation in Nevada, access to fresh food has been a significant challenge in recent times. That is gradually changing as access to fresh produce is encouraging tribal communities to revert back to traditional practices and foods. The Duck Valley Hoop House and Garden Project is part of that transition.

The hoop house project is being led by the University of Nevada Cooperative Extension Program thanks to funding from the Federally Recognized Tribal Extension Program (FRTEP), the Indian Land Tenure Foundation (ILTF), the Duck Valley Shoshone-Paiute Tribes, and the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act. The project is an expansion of an existing program conducted in cooperation with the Nevada Gold Summer Youth Internship program. The goal is to promote food sovereignty on the Duck Valley reservation.

The project includes the construction of some 50 hoop houses at or near the home sites of individual Indian landowners. Hoop houses are a less expensive alternative to greenhouses that are constructed by covering a PVC or metal hoop structure with one or two layers of clear plastic. This low-tech, low-cost solution traps heat inside the structure which keeps the soil warmer. This extends the growing season by providing protection from wind, frost, snow and ice. On the reservation it is a practical way for tribal members to grow their own vegetables without the cost and complexity of constructing greenhouses.

Metal or PVC frames have been fabricated on site along with doors and vents. In addition, 200 raised grow boxes are being built on site. Vegetables have been transplanted from greenhouses elsewhere into these 4-foot x 4-foot x 8-foot boxes. Top soil has been trucked to the site using local haulers. In addition to the new construction, a number of hoop houses have received fresh plastic covering to replace old materials that had been damaged by wind and extreme weather that is not uncommon on land located more than 5,000 feet above sea level.

The hoop house project offers educational opportunities for children and adults while providing farm-fresh vegetables for elders and families in need, as well as supplying other tribal and community members and the local farmer’s market. Even before the COVID-19 pandemic struck, grocery stores on the reservation had difficulty providing fresh produce to the extent that the hoop houses have, and the requests for hoop houses and community gardens continues to grow.