A few years ago, large tobacco leaves filled greenhouses at Hobbs Farm. Today, the crop is no longer there. The farm stopped growing the crop because of the challenges with the market.
But Kevin Hobbs is not letting the space go to waste. In 2017, he made a decision to start growing something new — tomatoes.
“We switched over to greenhouse tomatoes and we’re going to give this a try,” he said during a recent interview. “There’s a challenge in everything you do.”
Hobbs Farm is located in Sampson County, close to the Duplin County border on Calvin Hobbs Road. The lifelong farmer began with father, Delmas, many years ago. Before tomatoes, the North Duplin High School graduate learned about farm life by growing corn, wheat, soybeans, squash and zucchini. The farm, with more than 400 acres, also raises hogs organically.
“When you’re a farmer, you’re gambling all the time,” Hobbs pointed out. “The farmers are the backbone of this country. People have to eat three meals. It’s got to come from somewhere.”
Tomatoes is a new venture for the farm. He currently operates one 30 x 150 foot greenhouse, which produces about 2,500 pounds of tomatoes. It takes good conditions to grow tomatoes. The average temperature for a greenhouse during the daytime is around 85 degrees. At night it ranges from 65 to 70 degrees.
“The cold weather we have like this puts something on that gas bill,” he said about the frigid temperatures that have marked the beginning of January. “You got to heat it up to keep that temperature close to where it needs to be. They’ve done pretty well for the temperatures we’ve had so far.”
Last year, the process was successful. The farm grows trust tomatoes, a type good for slicing. The sizes vary and include small, medium, and large. Hobbs expressed how the smaller tomatoes are good for canning.
“We’ve had canned quite a bit last year and they turned out really well,” he said about personal use of the crop.
The growing process begins by putting seeds in trays and then having just the right temperature before they’re transferred to growing bags, which are watered during the week. The transplanting process for the greenhouse takes about four weeks.
“If you got the temperature right for them, you’ll see the seeds start to come up,” Hobbs said.
The farm is now halfway through the harvesting process, which began in December. Tomatoes are being sold for $1 per pound and are available at the Piggly Wiggly in Mount Olive.
The foundation for two more greenhouses are already up if Hobbs wants to grow more tomatoes in the future. Before he made a decision to start, the Sampson farmer visited several tomatoes greenhouses in the area.
“Basically that’s where I got the idea from,” he said about receiving advice. “There’s always going to be challenges when you grow anything. The market is your main thing when you’re growing tomatoes. You have to get the right market.”
Hobbs received assistance from the Sampson County Center for North Carolina Cooperative Extension and Extension Agent Della King. He was grateful, he said, for the guidance.
While looking ahead, Hobbs expressed how he’s always going to put his best foot forward with the farm, including the new crop of tomatoes.
“If you try to grow food, you’re not going to have the perfect crop all the time,” he said. “But if you do your best, hopefully it’ll turn out good for you in the end.
“I try to do my best at everything I do. That’s what I do.”
Reach Chase Jordan at 910-249-4617. Follow the paper on Twitter @SampsonInd. Like us on Facebook.