Tomatoes, Cucumbers Growing ‘Up’ With Grow Ohio Valley
WHEELING — Tomatoes and cucumbers are growing tall inside structures built high atop a hillside overlooking the heart of downtown Wheeling.
Grow Ohio Valley has constructed two 30-by-100-foot high-tunnel greenhouses at its Lincoln Meadows Farm at Vineyard Hills — located on the site of the former Lincoln Homes Housing Project. The structures give them control over the moisture and environmental factors that often affect growth of the vegetables.
The greenhouses have a permanent overhead structure from which the urban farmers can hang 12-foot ropes that stretch to the ground. The tomato and cucumber vines grow up these ropes, keeping them off the ground. Because they are indoors they are not over-saturate, or subject to the pests and fungi that affect vegetables grown in the field.
But they still get sun high atop the hill, according to Danny Swan, co-founder of Grow Ohio Valley.
The operation began in 2016, and has resulted in five times the production of vegetables than those from farm fields, he said.
“But we’re not doing this for the tomatoes,” Swan said. “We’re trying to impact the public health and economic vitality of the Ohio Valley.”
Sarah Stec, manager of the Lincoln Meadow Farm, reports 10 boxes of cucumbers typically are harvested at one time from the greenhouse, and the harvests occur three times a week. The parthenocarpic cucumber plants thrive inside the greenhouse as they do not require pollination.
Tomatoes also are harvested three times a week, and each harvest produces about 160 pounds of the vegetable, she said.
Most of Grow Ohio Valley’s product goes on to be sold at the Public Market in downtown Wheeling some is donated to the Soup Kitchen of Greater Wheeling and Catholic Charities to help in providing meals.
The group also contributes vegetables to Wheeling Health Right and its Farmacy program.
The farm’s location provides it one the best overlooks from which to view downtown Wheeling, and another amenity there are the natural springs that flow from the nearby hillside.
Grow Ohio Valley has constructed a pond to capture this water, and the water is pumped to the greenhouses to provide soil irrigation. The plants themselves are never wet, and this keeps them from attracting a variety of diseases to which vegetables are prone.
“It is all pretty technical work, but anyone can learn,” Swan said. “If you are a first-timer, you need to learn from somebody who knows how.”