on sunday, the brazos locavores visited tanya miller and steve king of millican farms, formerly known as millican produce. they supply greenhouse-grown tomatoes to the brazos valley farmers’ market, several local grocery stores and many of the finer restaurants in town.
farming is in steve and tanya’s blood; both grew up in families that farmed, which naturally encouraged them to seek plant-oriented careers. about six years ago they decided to construct their own greenhouses for off-season tomato production, a niche market that until then did not exist in the brazos valley.
1000 indeterminate (vine type) tomato plants greeted us as we walked into the 6000 square foot greenhouse for a tour. each is planted in a five gallon coconut coir filled polypropylene bag that is connected to the watering and fertilization system. the trellising is particularly interesting as each plant is wound around a polypropylene spool that hangs from the greenhouse “rafters.” as the plants grow up, the strings and attached tomato plants are lowered for ease of harvest. simultaneously, the plant suckers are pruned and flower clusters pollinated by hand. using this method, they can harvest an average yield of 22-25 pounds of fruit per plant. that’s a lot of tomatoes!
millican farms produces beefsteak or dutch type tomatoes, and now by popular demand are growing grape, cherry and roma type tomatoes. you can’t find prettier tomatoes than these:
steve and tanya discussed their methods of heating the greenhouse (propane and wood), watering (reverse-osmosis to filter out salts), fertilizing and pest management. while they aren’t certified organic, they try to utilize as many organic techniques as they can.
millican farms also produces lettuce, cabbage, cucumbers, bell peppers, melons, herbs and eggs. at the end of the tour, steve and tanya had an exciting announcement: in april, they are launching their inaugural csa (community supported agriculture), in which 25 members will pay for and receive 12 weeks of produce from the farm. see their website for more information. but don’t worry, they’ll still be selling their beautiful produce at the weekly farmers’ markets and local grocery stores.
a big thanks to tanya and steve for hosting a record turnout of 50 locavores on a beautiful january day!