Mountain Man John Hass

Homemade hoop houses and intensive gardening techniques allow John Hass to grow his own food year-round.

| Summer 2016

The gardening movement is an ever-increasing endeavor for people to have control over their own food supply as much as possible. More and more people are following what is happening with the industrialization of food: the chemicals, the genetic engineering, and the contamination that happens before it reaches our tables. The past two decades have seen a return to gardening by experienced gardeners and an introduction to gardening by newcomers of all ages. The one thing that keeps many more from joining the movement is the misconception that growing food for personal consumption has to be expensive. While food production can be an expensive undertaking, it does not necessarily have to be so.

Meet John Hass of Hartville, Missouri, a tiny little town tucked into the rolling hills of the Missouri Ozarks. John and his wife Beverly moved to the the Ozarks from northern Idaho in 1995 seeking a milder climate where they could grow more of their own food. They started with a little stucco 900 square foot house and gradually added five additions onto it, resulting in the spaciousness they now enjoy.

The Hasses have taken the science of “growing food” and turned it into the art of “growing food on a slim budget” and they are setting a good example for others to follow. They grow food year round, even though the local temperatures often drop below freezing for days at a time and occasionally even reach sub-zero Farenheit. John has devised and created simple and inexpensive hoop houses out of recycled and reclaimed materials readily availble for little or no cash outlay.

Before even entering the greenhouse, one notices the construction of the structure and sees reclaimed barn lumber used for the frame, reclaimed door hinges, and a door made of recycled materials; a recycled candle holder even serves as the “doorknob.” The “roof” structure is formed by wire cattle panels curved to form a dome which is covered with clear plastic to allow sunlight penetration. Opening the door, one sees that the greenhouse contains 2 rows of raised growing beds with an aisle down the center. The structures usually end up being 20 feet long, 7 feet wide, and 6 feet tall. Walking into one of the growing houses in January, typically the coldest month in this geographic area, one immediately feels the warm humidity and sees all of the luscious plants growing.

Looking around, there is no artificial heat source to be found. All of the heat has come from the sun’s energy—warming the growing area and being held there by covers of plastic. What one does see is bed after bed of greens — in fact, 10 varieties of mustards, kales, and more. John is also growing carrots, onions, garlic, radishes, and beets. He points out that the onions have been growing for two years since he first planted them from seed.

A close look at his raised beds shows just how frugal one can be if the desire to grow food is there. John gives a careful explanation of his growing beds made of reclaimed materials. He starts with old truck tires that are no longer suitable for their original intended purpose. He stacks the tires three high, and as long as he wants his beds to be — usually eight tires long. Knowing that tire rubber chemicals can leach into the roots of growing plants and have possible adverse affects on both the plants and the people consuming them, he prevents his plant roots from ever having contact with the rubber. After creating his tire stacks to the proportions that he desires, he then lays recycled barn tin over them to create a flat growing surface. Next, he covers the tin with two layers of plastic that will not allow the plant roots to reach down and come in contact with the rubber tires. He uses more reclaimed barn tin to form the outsides of the bed. Starting at the ground, he places one layer of tin turned horizontally but placed on edge vertically to form sides for his beds. He goes around the entire bed, bending the tin to make the corners.

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