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      Ag Dept. hopes "Plasticulture" promotes new crop of farmers

      Farming is evolving in the Sooner State.

      With the average farmer age in Oklahoma 58, one type of farming offers a promising future to help encourage a new farming generation: Plasticulture.

      "It's just a better environment to grow in," says farmer Steve Hill.

      Hill began growing four years ago.

      "If it wasn't for plasticulture I probably would've never started farming," he said. He turned his old horse pasture into a produce-filled field.

      He used a strategy that uses plastic to prolong growing conditions.

      Micah Anderson with the Oklahoma Dept. of Agriculture uses it to help grow new generations of local farmers.

      Black plastic is overlayed over the top of the plant beds, which make the soil easier on the roots.

      View a Plasticulture slide show

      "It keeps the dirt lose underneath like this when it rain," Anderson said.

      It also keeps weeds out. And drip irrigation cuts water use in half.

      After a three-year program farmers like Steve can move on to "hoop houses."

      At $6,500 they're an investment. But they warm the soil, keep out the elements and extend the growing season year-round.

      "You could probably pay for a house in one season with the added produce," Hill said.

      The tomatoes inside his hoop house were able to be planted a month earlier than their outside counterparts.

      "In the dead of winter when its 20 degrees well be out here picking carrots," Hill said.

      That way local growers get an edge and fill up local farmer's markets.

      "We're promoting 'know your farmer, know your food,'" said Anderson.

      "I'm having to make it on my own, my wife won't give me any more money," laughs Hill, "so the farm has to make it."

      And Oklahomans will get more access to fresh, organic produce, right from their neighbor's backyard.

      The Ag department is taking applications for next year's crop of participants.

      To apply, click here.

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