Feb 13, 2023Bonds recognized as Pennsylvania Young Growers
The Pennsylvania Vegetable Growers Association (PVGA) has named Kevin and Morgan Bond as recipients of the 2023 Young Grower Award.
The Bonds help operate and manage B&R Farms in Ringtown, Pennsylvania, which is owned and operated by Morgan Bond’s parents, Boots and Robin Hetherington. The farm supports a variety of commodities, including asparagus, a spring greenhouse operation, u-pick strawberries, corn/soybean rotational acreage and hay crops.
The Bonds work full-time off-the-farm: Kevin teaches technology education at Lehighton Area High School, and Morgan is a research and development technologist at Mrs. T’s Pierogies. They support the farm operation on nights, weekends and when school is not in session.
The Young Grower Award recognizes PVGA members who are 35 years old or younger, who have been successfully growing vegetables, potatoes or small fruit and who have contributed to advancing or promoting the Pennsylvania vegetable, potato or berry industries. The prize is registration for the Mid-Atlantic Fruit and Vegetable Convention plus lodging at the Hershey Lodge, according to a news release.
The Bonds have invested in equipment for the retail strawberry business and seek out methods and techniques from other berry operations to help improve the family business. They participate in the PVGA Berry Growers Exchange meetings to gain insight from other growers around the state and have been active volunteers at the PVGA Food Booth at Farm Show. Morgan started volunteering with her family as a teenager, and Kevin joined in after they began dating in high school. They hope to return to volunteering in the coming years as the pandemic resolves for the sake of their toddler, Evelyn.
Kevin Bond upgraded the picking crew’s wooden and wire racks to composite carriers that wash easier and keep the quarts and BerryMasters cleaner for retail sale. Kevin also modified bakery racks to use in cold storage to prolong quality of picked quarts for retail and wholesale. He continues to research different methods of weed control, irrigation styles, cultivation methods, pest management and customer traffic control to make the strawberry crop a more efficient and less labor-intensive process where possible. His new techniques have shown significant improvement in crop health and customer satisfaction, according to the release.
Morgan Bond is a critical part of the operation with customer service, product marketing and crew management. She largely manages the farm’s Facebook page, creating daily posts for customer engagement throughout the picking season, and includes periodic farm updates throughout the year as additional berry crop maintenance is performed.
She helps with wholesale quart sales and deliveries, and started to incorporate a digital point-of-sale system for strawberries to accommodate credit cards. Morgan Bond organizes the picking crew schedules for the summer harvest, and leads the pickers on weekend shifts.
In their spare time, the Bonds repurposed a high tunnel on the family farm to grow red and black raspberries, rhubarb and blueberries under bird netting. They’re working to better understand commodity management, yield expectations and disease/pest potentials to one day add those commodities to the farm’s u-pick operation.
While they are not owners in the farm, the Bonds are heavily invested in the production and promotion of their family’s farm, and plan to transition into ownership of the business in the coming years.