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Tunnel Vision Hoops: Combining Sustainable Innovation & Economic Opportunity

Jenita  |  05/12/11 @ 10:47am

Tunnel Vision Hoops is a business that combines innovation and economic opportunity to create a sustainable solution to a real problem for farmers and urban growers. Tunnel Vision Hoops provides full-service design, fabrication and installation of high tunnel hoop houses in Northeast Ohio. The idea for the business emerged when SC2019 Summit 2009 participants Mike Walton, Carlton Jackson and Todd Alexander were discussing year-round agriculture in Northeast Ohio and decided to help Walton erect a hoop house on his Cleveland farm.  Hoop houses help to extend the growing season in colder climates like Northeast Ohio by protecting crops from cold temperatures, frost and wind.

"We had 30 volunteers and 4 hours later it still wasn't up." Todd Alexander, Tunnel Vision Hoops co-founder said. "We didn't start Tunnel Vision Hoops just to make money. It was started out of necessity. We had the idea that there had to be a better way and that we could prevent people from going through that bad experience again.

TVH designed a "better hoop house" and provides full service hoop house installations. Since they launched in 2010, there has been high consumer demand for what TVH developed and clients include Case Western Reserve University, Cleveland Botanical Gardens and The Cuyahoga County Board of Developmental Disabilities.

Further innovations include rain water harvesting, mobile-ready base frame, retractable domes, DIY customer kits and smaller width hoop houses of variable lengths which have appeal to urban farmers and backyard growers. They have also branched out into other products such as DIY hoop house kits, raised beds, benches and greenhouses to provide a steadier year-round revenue stream for the business.

While Walton, Jackson and Alexander are focused on building and improving their business, they have not lost sight of the larger vision of year-round local food in the region.Year-round food production is a vital economic development opportunity that is proven to make farming more economically feasible. Extended season crops and winter crops can create economic opportunity for farmers to move from earning supplemental income to being fully employed on their farm. TVH is not only interested in local food, but the local economy in general and purchases much of their building supplies from local sources including pipe, tubing and fittings.

2012 is the Year of Local Foods in the Cleveland region and Tunnel Vision Hoops plans to celebrate an increase of regional producers in Ohio. They envision that Tunnel Vision Hoops is thought of when anyone in Northeast Ohio considers a high tunnel hoop house purchase.  By the year 2019, if TVH's vision for year-round food production is achieved, growers in Northeast Ohio will grow food year round and everyone will buy food from local growers and local producers-not just from CSAs and farmers' markets but from typical retail outlets too.

"I'd like local food to move from being a foodie thing or a hippie thing into an everyday consumer product," Alexander said.

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