On the Road: Harvest Valley Farms

We recently spent an afternoon with Larry King of Harvest Valley Farms in Valencia, Pennsylvania. Larry grows vegetables on 160 acres with his brother Art and nephew Dave.
On the Road: Harvest Valley Farms - Articles

Updated: September 29, 2015

On the Road: Harvest Valley Farms

Various vegetables are grown in nine high tunnels. We saw golden beets, carrots, Swiss chard, curly, dinosaur and red Russian kale, cucumbers, Pennsylvania Simply Sweet onions, spinach and leaf, romaine and butterhead lettuces. One crop you won't see grown in the high tunnels is tomatoes. The Kings have developed a system for growing early tomatoes in the field.

Carrots and golden beets growing in one of the high tunnels on the farm.

For early tomatoes, 5-week-old transplants are set in the field in mid-April. Wire hoops are placed in the field to support heavy weight row cover. Once plants push up against the row cover, it is removed. Unless the deer damage the row cover, it can be reused for several years. Plants are then staked and tied using the Florida weave system. This year they are using brand new stakes to help avoid diseases, like early blight. Larry says that they get a 2 week jump on the season using this system. They could get tomatoes another 2 weeks early growing in high tunnels, but the tunnels are better used for more profitable crops.

A lot of lettuce is grown on the farm. Larry says it is a crop that people never tire of. Transplants are grown in Ellepots. These small degradable paper inserts are placed in each cell of a plastic tray.

Ellepots are placed in each cell of this flat of lettuce.

Dave says that their investment in this system has really paid off because the transplants are much easier to remove from the tray. The Ellepots also don't wick water away from the transplants. Transplants are planted in raised beds in a double row with 12 inch in-row spacing. They use a variety of cultivars including Rutgers Scarlet Red, a deep red lettuce high in antioxidants.

Rutgers Scarlet Red growing in a plasticulture system with white-on-black plastic mulch.

Garlic had recently been harvested and we saw it drying from the ceiling of a red barn. They hold 30 pounds to plant the next crop. The rest goes into their various retail markets: a 460 member CSA, 3 farmers markets and their 2 specialty shops.

Larry King standing below garlic drying from the ceiling.

Dave King preparing for pick-up of CSA subscriptions.

Vegetables are cleaned, sorted and then stored in one of several coolers. Coolers are kept at 40°F using standard window air conditioners. They key to their cooling system is CoolBot micro-controllers that can be bought on-line. The cost for this system is low and it maintains temperature.

CoolBot micro-controller connected to a window air conditioner.

Controlling both large and small wildlife, such as deer, raccoons, possums and ground hogs, is a continuous effort on the farm. One approach they've used is to recently fence in 26 acres, in a more remote location on the farm, with an 8 foot tall deer fence. They use an electric fence around sweet corn, melons and strawberries to deter raccoons. They also hire a professional trapper who had at the time we visited had caught 140 raccoons.

Racoon damage to watermelon. Note the paw prints on the plastic mulch.

We got to visit their newly built specialty shop. They offer a wide variety of items in the store, including their vegetables, value-added products, including their Harvest Valley Farms Salsa and a host of other food products made by local venders. The shop also has a bakery where various types of breads and pastries are made.

Harvest Valley Farms specialty store in Valencia, Pennsylvania.

Harvest Valley Farms combines high quality produce with excellent marketing skills resulting in a very successful enterprise that supports 3 families.

Thank you to Larry, Art and Dave for allowing us to visit their farm.

Harvest Valley Farms
6003 Cunningham Road
Gibsonia, PA 15055
724-898-3276

Authors

Sustainable vegetable systems Organic vegetable systems Field vegetable production systems High tunnel vegetable production systems

More by Elsa Sanchez, Ph.D. 

William Lamont, Jr., Ph.D.