I drove through the adorable little town of Berkeley Springs, WV to get to Mock’s Greenhouse and Farm. After maneuvering myself through the twisty-turney roads, I finally found the aptly named Tanglewood Road. Then it was up a steep hill that my car almost didn’t manage, and Paul Mock’s farm came into view. Well, not farm in the traditional sense- rows of greenhouses with a gorgeous family home in the forefront. Paul’s wife bought the house in 1998 “for the view”- and a phenomenal view it is. So many beautiful mountains surround the 80 acres, it’s no wonder he moved here!
Having lived on a 16 acre farm in Pennsylvania, Paul grew up in a town where farm markets weren’t too popular. They harvested soil-grown vegetables, but the majority of their business came from farm entertainment – pumpkin patches, Haunted Houses, hay rides, etc. When Paul moved to this farm, he attended a number of workshops at universities to learn about new farming techniques, harvest trends and produce development. That was when he decided to take his farm to the next level and build greenhouses for hydroponic produce.
The majority of Paul’s plants are grown hydroponically. One of his main goals for my visit was to make sure I left with an accurate understanding of what it means to grow hydroponic produce. And I was happy to learn. I will try to give you a better understanding without going into all of the tiny little details:
Hydroponic plants are given the same minerals and nutrients found in soil, through water. Using water gives Paul the ability to regulate his plant growth and provide optimum plant health and taste. He boasts that 97% of his plants are top quality at every harvest.
Though he starts with organic seeds and uses no sprays on the surface of the plants, he does use small amounts of regular, commercial fertilizer in the water – so he cannot call himself organic. This doesn’t seem to hurt business though; 80% of his produce goes to wholesale vendors and ends up in places like Whole Foods and Wegmans. The large array of beautiful tomatoes, cucumbers, basil and ginger you see at his market stand accounts for merely 20% of his total harvest. Paul’s market produce goes to 7 different markets. You can imagine what harvest day looks like on Paul’s farm- busy, busy, busy!
Paul wants his customers to be aware of the benefits of hydroponic produce, and understand that the freshness makes a difference in flavor and taste. The produce is still close to nature- tomatoes are allowed to ripen on the vine to a certain point, permitting the enzymes to give them proper flavor. Lettuce holds up longer because it was only picked a day or two before market. Produce grown hydroponically is very well taken care of, and not subject to the trials of outdoors- and you can tell from it’s appearance!
Paul is the only vendor at Central Farm Markets that sells ginger. About two weeks ago, he brought the first crop of baby ginger to the Pike and Bethesda Central Farm Markets. Baby ginger is more tender than it’s mature counterpart, and not as stringy. It has a slightly milder taste and doesn’t need to be shaved before use. Stop by his stand and pick some up! If you find Chef Lynn at any of the markets, she can give you some great ideas for using your ginger. Come see the other amazing things Paul’s farm has to offer, too! He’d love to answer your questions and tell you more about hydroponically grown produce.