The Yoder family has been farming in Campbell County, VA, since the 1950s. Traditionally managing a combination of a large dairy herd and diversified vegetables, Delvin and Barbara Yoder sold their herd in the 1990s to focus on greenhouse growing with a select few produce items. Working alongside their sons, they now specialize in hydroponic tomatoes, strawberries, and pumpkins (including you-pick strawberries and pumpkins), and are well known for having some of the best tomatoes, even in November and lasting through February.
Hydroponics is method of growing produce in a water-based system, with specialized growing media. It is typically done in a heat-controlled environment, or greenhouse, thereby enabling products to be grown without much dependence on the weather or land conditions. Here at Local Food Hub, we rely on growers like the Yoders who are willing to take on season extension practices to ensure we have enough fresh produce to offer to our customers, even when the air is bitter and the ground is frozen.
In 2014, the Yoders were recognized at our Community Food Awards with an Innovation in Agriculture Award, sponsored by Bundoran Farm by Natural Retreats. This competitive cash award recognizes a small-scale farmer who has demonstrated creativity and innovation in order to expand or grow their farm business. Growing in greenhouses can be resource intensive and pest populations can build up quickly. The Yoders were chosen as award recipients for their use of a re-purposed steel water tank, along with new hosing and electrical fittings to effectively heat sterilize the coconut coir growing media they use in their hydroponic system. Not only does this save on needing to purchase new coir each year, it cuts down on soil-born disease pathogens, which in turn minimizes the use of pesticides in their operation.
Be sure to mark your calendar for the Yoders’ Family Farm Days on their farm, held twice yearly in the spring and fall, with an epic corn maze in the fall. You can learn more and join their mailing list here on their website.