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Middle Ridge students ready to get hands dirty in new hoop house

From left to right; Middle Ridge Elementary Principal Michael Forehand, Middle Ridge special education teacher Shana Powell, Newton County Farm Bureau office manager Crystal Hyatt, Young Farmers employee Earnest Nichols and Middle Ridge second-grade teacher Angela Page commence the opening of the school’s hoop house. Middle Ridge will use the hoop house to have students learn about agriculture and grow their own crops. (Staff photo: Ryan McKenzie)

From left to right; Middle Ridge Elementary Principal Michael Forehand, Middle Ridge special education teacher Shana Powell, Newton County Farm Bureau office manager Crystal Hyatt, Young Farmers employee Earnest Nichols and Middle Ridge second-grade teacher Angela Page commence the opening of the school’s hoop house. Middle Ridge will use the hoop house to have students learn about agriculture and grow their own crops. (Staff photo: Ryan McKenzie)

COVINGTON – Middle Ridge Elementary students are ready to play in the dirt with the addition of a new hoop house on the school’s campus.

The hoop house, which is very similar to a greenhouse, is a semi-circular tunnel structure supported by metal poles with a polyethylene tarp enclosing the plants inside. This polyethylene tarp allows for plants and soil to gather heat from solar radiation faster than it can escape the structure, giving the plants inside an ideal environment in which to thrive.

“The sides on the hoop house can come up, so when it gets really warm, which it obviously gets warm in there when they’re all down, you can pull them up,” said Newton County Farm Bureau office manager Crystal Hyatt. “And then in the winter, you can let them all down and have an extended growing season.”

Sponsored by the Newton County Farm Bureau, Tractor Supply Company, AgSouth Farm Credit and Young Farmers, the hoop house will allow students to learn the basics of agriculture by growing their own crops.

“We just started a STEAM program with agriculture,” said Middle Ridge Principal Michael Forehand. “We know that a lot of females and African Americans are not in the field of science and math and agriculture, so we’re trying to promote that for college and career readiness… in the elementary years.”

The school plans to utilize the hoop house for growing vegetables throughout the year and have them harvested in the spring, with students tending to the crops. According to Forehand, the school has a grant for a fresh fruit and vegetable snack program, and the school will be supplementing that by serving the food grown right on their own campus in the hoop house.