St. Petersburg, Florida – Tucked away in a St. Petersburg industrial park, you’ll find a little bit of country and a new breed of farmer.
Armed with a scissors, Jeff Kellogg tends to his jillions of strawberries. “Just trimming the leaves off,” he says clipping away.
Kellogg’s First Fruits farm is a hydroponic operation. The crops are grown in vertical baskets and fed by a nutrient solution. This dirtless farming saves a lot of space. On only 1/3 acre, he has some 17,000 plants.
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For Kellogg, this growing experience has been a learning one too. “Tremendous. This is our first year of farming; never farmed before in our lives. A lot of experimenting, but also taking a lot of advice.”
First Fruits is also a “you pick it” farm, with a variety of fruits and veggies available throughout the year for harvest.
On this day, Bernie Johnson roams the rows of strawberries. “Just picking the nice, ripe red ones… we’re going to make some strawberry shortcake tonight.”
Picking your own won’t always save you money. For example, in recent weeks, strawberries at Publix have been less expensive. But customers say there’s also a freshness factor at the farm that you can’t put a value on.
“The broccoli is beautiful,” comments repeat picker Sally Bowers. “It’s so nice to be able to have fresh vegetables and to be able to pick it and take it right home and cook it. Really prime produce.”
It was a rough winter for Kellogg, but his business continues to grow and he’s trying not to eat all his profits. “I do, I eat a lot out here,” he says, while crunching on a snow pea.
First Fruits Hydroponics is open to the public for picking Wednesdays, Saturdays, and Sundays from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. It’s located at 3215 46th Avenue North in St. Petersburg.