The Parsons family grows grapes and tomatoes in Fulton, Calif., a farm they established in 1994. Today, Kelley and Tom Parsons at Parsons Homegrown grow some of the finest tomatoes in California, by using a greenhouse the couple purchased from Agra Tech, one of the world’s leading manufacturers of greenhouses designed for vegetable growing and all other types of greenhouse farming. Currently Parsons Homegrown grows three varieties of tomatoes–Favorita, a cherry tomato; Geronimo, a red beefsteak, and Yellow Boy, a yellow beefsteak.
The genesis of this thriving farm started randomly and unexpectedly in the early 1990s. Kelley was selling insurance and looking for a way to make a profit from the land they currently owned in Fulton. While working on insurance for a hydroponic greenhouse operation Kelly recognized that it might be a viable business for her and her family. The Parsons also starting growing grapes in 2001, when they replanted on old vineyard and now they sell 8.5 acres of pinot noir to Siduri Wines each year.
During that first year, Parsons Homegrown sold their tomatoes to Oliver’s Market in Cotati. By 1997, she became a vendor at the Santa Rosa Original Certified Farmers Market and at the Healdsburg Farmers Market. Today, she also attends the Windsor Farmers Market and sells to several other markets and restaurants.
“At the beginning, we were using a greenhouse provided by another company,” Parsons explained. “But we discovered that their greenhouse was not designed specifically for our part of California. It was designed more for a colder climate. So, I contacted Agra Tech and we knew right away that they were going to be a local supporter of our business. I like the fact that Agra Tech is nearby, so if we want to go there and meet with them, we have that option.”
The switch to an Agra Tech greenhouse has helped Parsons to produce amazing tomatoes time after time, she said. “We plant our tomato seeds in our 5,800-square foot Agra Tech greenhouse every September and in a typical season, the harvest begins in January. The greenhouse holds exactly 1,512 plants, yielding roughly 1,200 pounds of tomatoes weekly. Solar panels deliver power for our fans, lights and irrigation and natural gas generates the heat the plants will need.” When there is a surplus of tomatoes, Parsons calls in some volunteers to help harvest the tomatoes, which she then donates to local organizations such as The Living Room and the Redwood Empire Food Bank.
The tomato plants grow in purlite, a volcanic sand that is extremely light and airy. As a hydroponic greenhouse operation, water does all the work by delivering nutrients to the plants and carrying away waste.
To do her due diligence and conduct research about the right way to use her Agra Tech greenhouse, Parsons visited Emerisa Gardens in Santa Rosa, CA, another Agra Tech customer. Emerisa Gardens is a wholesale nursery that specializes in four-inch plants emphasizing hardy and unusual perennials, herbs, and ornamental grasses, and also carries a selection of perennials and shrubs in one-gallons, unusual and classic roses in both the one-gallon and five-gallon size and a selection of Phormiums primarily in one-gallons. It was an eye opener for Parsons and she was instantly sold on the Agra Tech greenhouses.
“I liked how the Agra Tech greenhouse looked and what a great job it was doing for the people at Emerisa Gardens,” Parsons said. “Ray Pound, owner of Ag Con Construction and part of the Agra Tech family, actually came here and laid it out for us. He set the posts and delivered the parts and we really liked working with him. Everyone at Agra Tech is passionate about what they do and you can see it quickly that they’re dedicated to customer service.”
By using an Agra Tech commercial greenhouse, Parsons Homegrown is now a greener company, Parsons said. “We’re more sustainable now and I don’t have to take a lot of plastic to the dump anymore. We used to have to replace our roof on our former greenhouse all the time, but with our ATI greenhouse, we don’t need to replace anything. Now our fans aren’t on all the time, which saves us on energy, which is essential. If we want natural air, we simply open up the side vents, so it’s a much better setup overall.”
If you live in the Northern California’s North Bay, you can find them at Shelton’s Market and Big John’s Market in Healdsburg, Molsberry’s Market in Santa Rosa, Speers Market in Forestville and to all three Oliver’s Markets. John Ash & Co. and Rosso Pizzeria and the Duck Club in Bodega Bay also buy Parsons tomatoes. If you want to meet this passionate farmer, you can always find Kelley Parsons at her stall at the Santa Rosa Original Certified Farmers Market.
By Ed Attanasio