Four Food Crops Peace Tree Farm Will Grow, And Three It Won’t

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In keeping with a strategy that’s been successful on the ornamentals side, Peace Tree Farm will look for opportunities to be different as it moves into growing greenhouse produce. Co-owner Lloyd Traven will place a premium on crops and varieties he can grow efficiently and profitably.
We asked Traven for a preview of where he sees Peace Tree Farm going in the category. Here are four crops the operation will likely pursue — and three it will not:

Yes: Strawberries
“We have some opportunities that are probably unique to us. We have a fantastic artisanal ice cream company just down the street. He uses seasonal stuff — fresh local fruits, vegetables and herbs. His strawberry rhubarb ice cream in the spring is just exceptional. He told us he will buy every organic strawberry I can grow for him. So we’re looking at doing that.”

No: Tomatoes and Peppers
“What can we grow in a produce crop in enough numbers to make it efficient? I’m totally convinced that tomatoes and peppers are not it for us. Unless you can be totally dedicated to that crop and have the retail outlet for it, i.e. a farmers’ market, there’s no room for a small grower in this area. I don’t see how we would make any money. There are huge volumes out there and somebody can buy it a ton cheaper from one of the monster growers, and they’re just as organic as we are.”

Yes: Lettuce
“I think we will be able to do lettuce very well. I can grow it hydroponically and do it effectively and efficiently in cold weather in moderately low-light conditions without a huge investment. Some of the greenhouse lettuce we have seen is gorgeous and desirable, and I have an outlet for it.

“I have some very specific cultivars and varieties in mind. We just came across a beautiful series that grows in a head like Buttercrunch, but you cut it with a special tool and it falls apart into loose greens. We think they’re really cool.

No: Microgreens
“We already grow greens, but to be honest, I’m not convinced on microgreens. From the systems I have seen, I think it’s an unsustainable and wasteful production method. It wastes so much soil. I think we can produce pretty good quantities in the head type of lettuce very effectively and efficiently instead.”

Yes: Ginger
“My son, Alex, is very excited about growing ginger, so I think we will do some of that. He thinks you need to do it in a greenhouse or in a tunnel. He has a professor at Cornell who is doing it, and he thinks there is potential there.”

Yes: Edible Ornamentals
“This is a little bit different than the produce, but one of our big things at Peace Tree is edible landscaping and edible ornamentals. We’re always looking at that aspect of it. For the holidays, for example, we do ‘edible ornaments,’ which is a particular tomato variety that we manage to fruit at Christmas and it looks like little Christmas balls.”

Richard Jones is the group editor for Greenhouse Grower and Today's Garden Center magazines.

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