From Westchase District it’s not a quick trip to visit Elvis d’Agrella’s Peas Farm in Conroe. It’s a 100-mile round trip and ten dollars in tolls to go to the “country” to see where they grow the produce they bring to the market each week. Farmers Market Manager John Carey visited Peas Farm recently to learn more about their growing operation.
“We’re not certified organic, but we use organic growing methods,” says d’Agrella. They use organic chicken litter as their growing medium and nothing is added to the crops except irrigation when Mother Nature does not provide enough rain.
The Conroe farm, where daughter Ashley and her family live, is one of three farms owned by the d’Agrella family. They own a second farm about five miles away and another at Hunstville. “We do succession planting here,” says d’Agrella. That means instead of planting thousands of bell peppers plants, for example, they’ll plant some bell peppers now and more later. That will give them crops that mature at different times, thereby extending the growing season.
The d’Agrellas also use what’s called a “high tunnel” for growing. It looks like a greenhouse, but they can raise or lower the canvas walls of the tunnel to accommodate the weather. All the plants in the high tunnel are planted directly into the ground. Small tomato plants today will be ground-to-ceiling high by winter when they lower the walls of the tunnel to protect the plants from freezing temperatures. “That allows us to bring produce to the market even though other growers would consider them out of season,” says d’Argrella.
The presence of bee hives and a flock of chickens at the Conroe farm means market consumers can enjoy honey and fresh eggs each week. The d’Agrellas bring about 40 dozen eggs to the market every Thursday. Produce is harvested on Wednesdays and chilled overnight in a large walk-in cooler so it remains fresh for the Thursday market. Look for green and purple bell peppers, banana peppers, jalapenos, Anaheim peppers, eggplant, tomatoes and cherry tomatoes to be coming to the market this summer.
Meanwhile, Elvis d’Agrella is already thinking about what he’ll plant for fall and winter crops. He uses an online program to help him map his crops and get maximum efficiency from his acreage.