Family grows organic produce, flowers

Published 10:50 am Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Wildflowers grown on the Hardy farm in Ivor.

By Merle Monahan/contributing writer

IVOR—Every Friday during the summer, Leroy Hardy and his family harvest their organic produce and flowers on their 60-acre farm and take them to the downtown Suffolk farmer’s market for Saturday’s sale.

In operation for five years, Hardy said the vegetable and flower gardens have increased so much in size that the family plans to expand its operation into Franklin. The venture that started as a hobby and turned into a part-time business may become a full-time operation.

The Hardys recently hosted a meeting for those interested in learning how to get started in commercial production of crops.

Clif Slade of the Small Farm Outreach and Technical Assistance Program at Virginia State University and Andy Hawkins of the Virginia State Cooperative Extension Service spoke to about 35 people about the use of trickle irrigation, soil and crop management, and harvest and post-harvest handling.

They also gave information about pricing and local markets for gardeners.

Leroy and Nancy Hardy and their seven children started their operation with help from the Small Farm Outreach Program. The program assists limited-resource producers and ranchers in owning and operating their farms and ranches independently.

The Hardy family started with mushrooms and gradually started adding to this. Last May, the began by establishing several long rows of plastic mulch, with trickle irrigation, for vegetable production. On this mulch, the family planted melons, okra, tomatoes, peppers, basil, eggplant, cucumbers, pumpkins, shallots, Swiss chard, and summer, butternut and spaghetti squash.

The same month, Nancy Hardy established rows of annual and perennial flowers above a woven plastic weed barrier with trickle irrigation. In this plot, she and the children planted gladiolus, zinnias, yarrow, peonies, sunflowers, German statice, celosia, ageratum and rudbeckia.

A month earlier, personnel from the National Resource Conservation Service helped the Hardys with creating a one-acre plot of wildflowers, a conservation cover that is designed to provide a habitat for pollinators.

The family also has planted a deciduous holly orchard from which they will sell berried stems of cut holly to florists for Christmas decorations.

Leroy Hardy says there are many benefits to this operation. It provides income, of course, but it also brings the family together.

For more information, call him at 653-4442 or Slade at 804-524-5960.