Ephraim by his tomatoes in his storage facility.
He focuses on growing sweet corn, tomatoes and fall broccoli which are wholesaled to 4 Seasons and Whole Foods grocery stores.
Our tour started in his packing and storage facility. Ephraim pointed out his hydrocooler that is used to remove field heat from sweet corn and broccoli. Ears or heads are placed in 2-walled wax bins. Which are placed in the hydrocooler with a water temperature of 32°F. From there bins are stored in a cooler until they are sold.
While we were there the last planting of broccoli was being set. This completes 32 acres of fall broccoli. For 6 weeks, broccoli is planted weekly to extend the harvest season. 'Imperial' Transplants in 288-celled foam trays are grown on-farm for the first plantings and purchased for later ones. His broccoli transplants were planted using a 2-row carousel planter. Plants are planted in bare-ground double rows 20 inches apart with plants spaced 18 inches apart in the row. The center of the double rows are 44 inches apart. This spacing was chosen to produce 7-inch diameter heads.
A single row of 8-mil-thick drip tape with a 0.45 gpm flow rate per 100 feet and 12 inches emitter spacing between openings. The tape is moved from side-to-side to help establish the transplants. Fertilizer is broadcast preplant and also fertigated. To maintain soil health and minimize diseases and insect pests, Ephraim extensively uses cover crop and rotation. The field that we saw planted into broccoli had previously been planted to oats and peas. Once the broccoli is harvested winter rye or another cover crop is sown.
'Imperial' transplants ready for planting.
Just set broccoli transplants.
Drip tape between double rows of broccoli.
An earlier planting of broccoli.
From the broccoli field we could see 5 different Haygrove high tunnels on neighboring farms. We then drove to the 18 connected 18 ft x 206 ft Haygrove high tunnels covering 2 acres of tomatoes on Ephraim's farm. Ephraim stated that he like the higher quality and productivity from the tunnels compared to the field. His marketable yield is over 90 %. Four rows of 'Red Duce' and 'Red Morning' determinate tomatoes were planted in each tunnel and trained using a Florida stake and weave system.
One of 18 Haygrove high tunnels.
He originally used black plastic over raised rows with drip irrigation. Straw mulch was placed in between rows. However, he is transitioning to using black landscape fabric over raised beds with drip irrigation underneath to cover the entire ground within the tunnels for better weed control. Nutrients are managed using fertigation and a crop scout monitors nutrients as well as pests. Pest this year have primarily been thrips and spider mites. Ephraim uses biocontrols for their management and was pleased with his control. In order to extend the growing season until November, row covers are placed over the crop.
Ephraim near a nice cluster of tomatoes.
We asked Ephraim what he saw as his biggest issue in farming. He said keeping up with food safety regulations. Currently the farm undergoes Global GAP certification for his retail markets.
We want to thank Ephraim for taking time out of his busy schedule and visiting with us and answering all our questions.
Sunrise Acres Farm--Ephraim Zook