Hoophouses for Health is a program designed to introduce vulnerable families to local farmers markets and to provide these families with the resources they need to become loyal, repeat customers. A goal of the program is to build the capacity of low-income families to access and utilize more fruits and vegetables in their diet to improve the health of their families while building the capacity of the agricultural community to meet the demand for fresh produce all year long. Hoophouses extend the growing season and allow Michigan farmers to grow cold-tolerant vegetables through the winter months.
The program allows low-income families to assist farmers in paying back loans they have secured to build hoophouses on their farms. Vouchers are distributed through local Head Start agencies. Individuals then present their vouchers to participating farmers at participating farmers markets. Farmers can exchange vouchers for any food product or food producing plant produced on their farm and presented for sale at the farmers market. Products do not have to come from the hoophouse purchased with the loan. The farmer then submits the vouchers to Michigan Farmers Market Association and the value of the vouchers is deducted from their loan amount as “repayment.” Farmers have 5 years to pay back the loan. The loan is a zero interest loan.