Grower Spotlight: Heermance Farm
Promises Kept, Year-Round: How CropKing Helps Heermance Farm Reliably Grow ‘Kick-Ass Vegetables’ for New York’s Finest Restaurants
A nearly 300-year-old farm is embracing the newest controlled environment agriculture technologies to grow fresh produce for the Hudson Valley and New York City Communities.
Heermance Farm, situated on a three-farm campus in Tivoli, New York, has long focused on producing what they call “kick-ass” vegetables, greens, as well as “chef-praised” eggs for high-end restaurants in NYC and farmers markets in the surrounding areas.
Reliability and high-quality service put Heermance Farm’s produce in high demand for top chefs such as Daniel Boulud and Jean-Georges Vongerichten, who operate Michelin-starred restaurants in Manhattan. Therefore, the farm’s ownership has always looked at new ways to increase their supply.
Five years ago, General Manager Kevin Ferry approached the current owners about how to improve their growing practices to offer winter tomatoes. The company had previously been growing season-extending tomatoes in soil-grown greenhouses.
CropKing’s hydroponics systems were top of mind because Ferry had worked with the company in different agricultural ventures in the past, and was impressed with not only the quality of their products but also the ongoing support provided to farmers.
Ferry says he had the confidence to stick his neck out on this project with Heermance Farm’s owners and make the leap into hydroponics because working with CropKing is like having “a family and friend that gives you the courage to feel like you can do it.”
“My dialogue with CropKing is one of my favorite things. They’re really just always there. They really are a family, they really are pioneering, and they are available, and they really do care about your results,” Ferry says.
New Varieties Leads to Excited Customers
Heermance Farm purchased two freestanding 30’ by 128’ standard feature greenhouses–which they use to grow tomatoes in the chillier months, as well as a host of other crops from turmeric to edible flowers, Thai ginger, lemongrass, passionfruit, brassicas, and more.
Ferry says CropKing’s solutions have helped Heermance Farm expand their offerings to try new crops and varietals–which keeps experimental chefs and farmers market customers intrigued throughout the year. But just as importantly, growing in a controlled environment gives farmers the peace of mind from crop damage caused by unpredictable weather patterns–whether that’s drought, flooding, temperature swings, tornadoes, or other devastating natural disasters that could lead to lost crops.
Growing with CropKing “backs up the promises we make,” Ferry says, because it helps Heermance Farm serve as a reliable supplier for its partners, leading to stronger and longer-lasting relationships–even in the wintertime when most farmers are not operating.
“Farmers don’t want to disappoint,” Ferry says. “The last thing in the world we want to say, and we have to say frequently enough as it is … is, ‘Sorry for the inconvenience.’ I’m apologizing for the people that quit on me, the weather that went weird on me, the weeds that overwhelmed me, the irrigation system. Hydroponics gives you that backup.”
Not only that, but Ferry says this has allowed them to be more cautious and thoughtful about what they do decide to grow outdoors.
Hydroponics Offers Easier Growing and Cost Savings
Fewer crop losses, as well as streamlined operations, also means major costs saved.
Another added benefit of growing within CropKing’s greenhouses is minimal labor. Just one employee regularly manages the greenhouse-grown crops–spending about half of her time doing so–and only calls for back-up during times she may have more pruning or harvesting to do. Ferry estimates that less than 40 total labor hours per week are spent tending to greenhouse crops.
“The picking is everyday, and she’s doing that, or the harvest crew is doing that,” he says.
Ferry is particularly impressed by the simplicity of the Dutch buckets and emitters, as well the durability of the greenhouse’s plastic coverings, which are now four years old. The way the coverings help balance UV light also make the greenhouse a more pleasurable working environment for his team because in the wintertime, it appears brighter, and in the summertime it acts as a sunscreen, he says.
CropKing’s Ongoing 1:1 Support
Because Heermance Farm is experimenting with so many varieties, sometimes they need help with a nutrient recipe, how to establish crop rotations, or how to deal with a new pest or disease issue. Ferry says that’s where the technical support from CropKing really shines.
The CropKing support team will share nutrient recipes for certain types of herbs Heermance Farm grows, as well as offer suggestions for what can or cannot be grown in the greenhouse at the same time.
Ferry says it’s “nice to have a human being, not a YouTube page or other system of information,” to bounce ideas off of so the team can have an “actual conversation about what you’re trying to do.”
To date, the Heermance Farms team has not yet encountered a crop that they have not been able to grow.
Heermance Farm’s sales growth since building its CropKing greenhouse, as well as the support the team has received from its CropKing partners along the way, has encouraged them to further expand their greenhouse operations.
“We’re going to go into NFT now–so we’re building a double-bay greenhouse that will be freestanding on its own,” Ferry says. “We’re going to keep pushing and exploring what CropKing offers and what hydroponics offers.”