I’ve been asked on more than one occasion if we grow hydroponically, and I think it’s a question worth addressing with all of you. From a scientific methodology, there’s no doubt that hydroponics can produce higher yields and more tons per acre. That’s all well and good if that’s your goal. But here on the farm, we’ve seen the benefits of our sustainable practices and growing in soil, the most natural way possible. We simply think soil grown and sustainably grown is the right thing to do.
In many ways, all we’re trying to do is be as good as growers were a hundred years ago, pre-chemical and pre-synthetic fertilizers. It’s about working in harmony with nature rather than trying to outsmart it. Yes, you can grow hydroponically. Yes, you can increase yield and tons per acre. And yes, it can be a cheaper product to produce. Yet, it’s not what we’re about. We’re about preserving the integrity of the product.
We grow in good old lake bottom soil. Our tomatoes, which we grow in greenhouse structures , capture natural light and heat from the sun and are grown in the soil. This allows them to absorb all the natural goodness that the rich, sandy loam has to offer. This is a hybrid system of sorts, but it’s a natural process versus a scientifically grown, hydroponic process.
If you’ve ever grown tomatoes in your home garden, and they’ve been looking really good, you go out each day to inspect them, right? You watch and wait to harvest them. Then wham! That very night before you finally get to harvest that big, juicy vine-ripened tomato, a heavy rain comes! Low and behold that perfect looking tomato is split open because it absorbed too much moisture. Now it’s virtually inedible or for sure its no longer marketable. This is one of the reasons we grow in a greenhouse structure. It provides a somewhat controlled natural environment.
The plants are still soil grown, but protected from variables in our elements. It’s about growing the most natural way we can while continuing to protect the plants. Plus, in our opinion, you truly get better flavor from tomatoes grown in soil versus hydroponically. Soil-grown heirloom varieties are the most flavorful, delicious, best-eating tomatoes that exist. And you reduce the splitting on ours, because they’re protected.
Another reason we grow with a greenhouse structure is that we want to protect the plant leaves from cool, damp nights. Too much moisture can lead to blight, which devastated the east coast crop if you remember a couple years back. By keeping the leaves dry and only adding water at the roots, the foliage stays disease free.
We are very concerned with food safety. We think the most important benefit we provide our customers is a food safe product, followed closely, of course, by flavor and quality. If you think about water, it is one of the absolute best carriers of E. coli that exists, so when you’re farming hydroponically an E. coli situation can move very quickly. Hydroponics versus soil? It’s a no brainer to us.
Here’s hoping you have an amazing heirloom tomato season. Don’t forget to keep your hankie handy, because its wonderful, summery juices will be running down your chin.