Conservation Innovation Grant Program for the Beaver Lake Watershed - High Tunnels for Native Plants
Inside Greenhouse with Owner

Pilot Program

The goal of this pilot program, in partnership with the Natural Resources Conservation Service Conservation Innovation Grant program, will increase the supply of native plant materials in the Beaver Lake Watershed and surrounding area by assisting twenty landowners in the Beaver Lake Watershed with the installation of a high tunnel to produce native plants. This pilot program will encourage the introduction of a scenario within the NRCS' immensely popular High Tunnel program to produce native plants.

Native plants are foundational to many conservation efforts and critical for sourcewater protection, but often their availability is limited. Demand for native plant materials is high as these materials support regional ecological restoration projects, home gardens, low-impact development projects, indigenous agriculture, and roadside wildlife plantings, all of which promote our region's exceptional biological diversity and help improve water quality. Regional production of local-genotype plant species is especially needed to help meet the ever-growing demands for conservation and restoration projects within the Ozark Highlands and Boston Mountain ecoregions of Northwest Arkansas.

About Native Plants

Native plant species are foundational to ecosystem and watershed vitality, providing ecosystem services such as food and shelter for wildlife and pollinator species, reducing the erosion of bare soils, and protecting local waterways from nonpoint source runoff. Native plants also help mitigate disturbances associated with land-use change, such as conversion from natural vegetation to hard surfaces and land clearing, which decrease a watershed's natural function.

The demand for native plant materials (NPMs) is growing rapidly for various projects in Northwest Arkansas. Streambank restorations, riparian enhancements, low-impact developments, wildscaping, pollinator gardening and other ecological restorations all require a consistent, reliable supply of NPMs to ensure their projects' success. Planners and practitioners designing and installing these projects prioritize local-genotype NPMs for their superior survivability and genetic compatibility with other communities in the local ecosystem. Local genotype refers to plant communities which have coevolved with the local climate, soil, and other ecological factors, making these genetic populations ideally suited to their indigenous landscape. For example, while the species little bluestem may occur throughout much of North America, populations from the Ozark Highlands possess genetic traits uniquely suited to that ecoregion, whereas populations from Maine, Florida, or Arizona would be suited to their respective ecoregion and would be less successful in the Ozark Highlands.

Regional production of local-genotype NPMs is needed to help meet the ever-growing demands for conservation and restoration projects within the Ozark Highlands and Boston Mountain ecoregions of Northwest Arkansas.

About High Tunnels

A High Tunnel System, commonly called a "hoop house," is an increasingly popular conservation practice for farmers, and is available with financial assistance through the Beaver Watershed Alliance High Tunnel grant program. With high tunnel systems, no summer is too short or winter too cold because high tunnels:

  • Extend the growing season
  • Improve plant quality and soil quality
  • Reduce nutrient and pesticide transportation
  • Improve air quality through reduced transportation inputs
  • Reduce energy use by providing consumers with a local source of native plant materials

High tunnels protect plants from severe weather and allow farmers to extend their growing seasons - growing earlier in the spring, later into the fall, and sometimes, year-round. Because high tunnels prevent direct rainfall from reaching plants, farmers can also use precise tools like drip irrigation to efficiently deliver water and nutrients to their plants. High tunnels also offer protection against external threats, such as pests and/or pesticide drift and increasing the effectiveness of biological control, such as ladybug releases.

By using high tunnels, landowners can produce a large quantity of high-quality NPMs for wholesale, retail, or direct use in a multitude of projects in the Beaver Lake watershed area and Northwest Arkansas.

About High Tunnel Grant

The Beaver Watershed Alliance will assist landowners with the purchase and installation of a high tunnel system and "starting kit" of native plant materials. Through this pilot program, participants receive a reimbursement on the cost of high tunnel system installation and native plant starter kit up to a $4,000 maximum reimbursement. To apply, please fill out and return the application form below.

This program is carried out by the Beaver Watershed Alliance with funding from the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) Conservation Innovation Grant (CIG) to increase voluntary best management practices by individuals, communities, and conservation entities and increase the capacity of NPMs in Northwest Arkansas. Establishment of these high tunnels are expected to protect and improve soils, water, and air quality as well as improve energy conservation in the Beaver Lake Watershed and throughout Northwest Arkansas.

Download High Tunnel Pilot Program Fact Sheet Download High Tunnel Grant Application

High Tunnels for Native Plants - Virtual Training Series

The Alliance is hosting four virtual trainings about propagating native plants in high tunnels, all free and open to the public. These trainings, taught by regional experts in native plant propagation and greenhouse operations, will introduce participants to the basics of horticulture, native plants, and high tunnel operations.


Native Plants for Builders and Landscapers

Thursday, October 8, 2:00 - 4:00pm

Eric Fuselier, Crafton Tull
Lissa Morrison, Ozark Chapter Wild Ones

This first episode of four will feature expertise on using native plants in both "soft" engineering or low-impact development as well as home landscaping.Demand for native plant materials exists in numerous markets, with these two being just a few.Eric Fuselier will be presenting on selecting native plants for engineering and construction, followed by Lissa Morrison presenting on selecting native plants for landscaping.

Register Here     Small Greenhouse

Native Plant Propagation & Licensing

Wednesday, October 14, 1:00 - 2:30 pm

Rose Gergerich, NWA Master Naturalists
Paul Shell, Arkansas Plant Board

This second training will feature the various propagation techniques of native plants as well as the process of becoming a licensed nurseryman. Propagation topics will include stratification, soil, germination, sterilization, and others. Rose Gergerich, retired plant pathologist and head of the Northwest Arkansas Master Naturalists' Native Plant group will present on propagating native grasses, shrubs, and forbs and combating common pathogens in a greenhouse setting. Paul Shell with the Arkansas Plant Board will present on the various options for obtaining a nurseryman’s license, which is required by the State of Arkansas before selling any materials produced through this program.

Register Here     Two greenhouses from a distance

Economics of Native Plant Nurseries

Thursday, October 22, 1:00 - 2:00 pm

Mervin Wallace, Missouri Wildflowers Farm

The third event in this series will feature information on recommendations on how to cultivate local demand for native plant materials, such as identifying markets and potential buyers, and the economics of running a native plant nursery. Mervin Wallace, owner of Missouri Wildflowers Farm, has over 35 years of experience collecting, propagating, and selling native plants for landscaping, conservation, and restoration projects. Mervin has dedicated Missouri Wildflowers Farm to providing the Missouri region local genotype seed, collected from local sources, and has developed a successful business model built from the ground up.

Register Here     Man pointing to greenhouse

High Tunnel System Operations

Wednesday, October 28, 1:00 - 2:30 pm

Mark Cain, Dripping Springs Garden

The fourth and final training will be a recorded walkthrough of a high tunnel system as interested producers ask experienced vegetable and flower producers what to expect with an application to the NRCS high tunnel program. The Alliance High Tunnel Program is a pilot program through the NRCS and seeks to introduce a scenario whereby native plants can be produced through this highly popular and successful program. Mark Cain with Dripping Springs Garden will walk us through as he shares his expertise on constructing, maintaining, and operating their high tunnels for their successful market garden.

Register Here    

Thanks to the following partners and sponsors:

USDA Natural Resources Conservation Services

Alliance Board of Directors

Beaver Water District