Growing vegetables hydroponically leads to a more expensive, but tastier veggie, cumberlink.com reports.
Tomatoes are the king crop in hydroponics because of the demand for them in early spring and late fall when field tomatoes aren’t available. The challenge is to sell them at $2.99 per pound when field tomatoes are going for 99 cents, says Mark Toigo, 42, who has run hydroponic greenhouses for the last 15 years, among other duties, at the family-owned Toigo Orchards in Southampton Township, Cumberland County. Hydroponic grower Barb Rose, 52, co-owner of Beck-n-Rose of North Middleton Township, agrees with Toigo. She also developed a niche market in the last three years — a few chefs at “better restaurants who care what tomatoes look and taste like,” Rose says. She counts among her customers Fetter Brookside Market south of Carlisle, Mountain Lakes west of Carlisle, Oak Grove Farms of Mechanicsburg and the Butcher Shop in Chambersburg. For next season, all Beck-n-Rose produce is committed to current customers, says Rose, a former marketing manager for a start-up software company that sold last year for $40 million. “You do need to be a manager and a marketer” to be profitable, Toigo says, raising his voice above the half-dozen four-foot-wide fans that ventilate his 90- by 130-foot greenhouse off South Mountain Estates Road. He steps over piles of vines on the concrete greenhouse floor, the result of cropping the tops off tomato plants that have the last of the crop ripening on the vines. He will plant new tomato vines again in January for harvest beginning in April. Although growers would like to produce tomatoes through the winter, year-round tomato production isn’t feasible this far north. They say it doesn’t have the flavor of food grown in soil,” says Brubeck, who sells mostly to restaurants and to some grocery stores in Cumberland, Dauphin and Lebanon counties.