Bear Creek Farms; Pampa’s hydroponic source for organic veggies


Bear Creek Farms, owned by the Frogge family in Pampa, has flourished in their last five years of business and have been a continous success as vendors at the Pampa Farmer’s Market.

The secret? Their wind and storm-resistant greenhouses – and clever ingenuity on behalf of the family tending the garden within.

Tony and Cindy Frogge, along with their son Ryan, built an indoor hydroponic gardening system that allows their gardens to grow and produce tomatoes, cucumbers and lettuce abundantly.

“The longest (tomato) vine I’ve ever grown was 28 feet long,” Ryan said. “Last year we produced over 6,000 pounds (of tomatoes) between 500 plants. Each plant is producing 160-180 pounds over the season.”

The Frogge family uses perlite as a substrate in their tomato greenhouse. Next door in their second greenhouse, they use expanded clay pebbles which are “little spheres of clay that have been cooked in a kiln that are kind-of porous like the perlite,” Ryan explained. The second greenhouse houses cherry tomatoes, cucumbers, lettuce and green beans.

The family has spent alot of time in the last five years experimenting with many plant varieties in order to narrow it down to the best of the best. Ryan spoke about his journey to the ‘perfect slicer tomato’;

“We probably went through 50-60 varieties of slicer tomatoes (before landing on the stevia variety.) A lot of the beefsteak genetics were giving us a bigger root and a very limited number of them (fruits.)”

After spending the last five years experimenting with different varieties, the Frogge family landed on stevia sliver tomatoes, super sweet cherry tomatoes, sakura cherry tomatoes, a single variety of cucumber and two varietes of lettuce including both and romaine.

Slicer tomatoes sell for $4 per pound, cherry tomatoes sell for $5 per pound, cucumbers are $1 each and lettuce sells for $4 per head. Green beans are not for sale yet as they are new to the greenhouse and are still in an experimental stage. Lettuce is sold on-site only and is not available at the farmer’s market as it spoils quickly in the heat.

Narrowing down plant varieties aren’t the only changes the Frogges have made in the last five years.

“We’ve been ironing out wrinkles. I started feeding all of our tomato plants a little heavier on the phosphorous and the potassium, and now I have less leaf growth and more fruit production. That (ratio of plant food and fertilizer) has taken me about 5 years to get figured out and perfected,” Ryan said.

Their hydroponic set-up isn’t the only benefit of operating within their greenhouses. While the hailstorms earlier this spring and summer have affected the gardens of many of the local farmers who vend at the Pampa Farmer’s Market, Bear Creek Farm’s gardens stood unaffected against the Texas Panhandle’s winds and violent spring storms.

“We had a few holes over here on this end (of the greenhouse), but other than that, the plants didn’t have any damage done to them,” Tony said.

Having greenhouses also prevents the Frogges from having to use pesticides, herbicides, or fungicides– making it possible to sell completely chemical-free, organic produce to the public.

To purchase some fresh veggies from Bear Creek Farms, head to their location at 600 S. Ballard in Pampa on Saturdays from 8-11 am or find them at the Pampa Famrer’s Market at Tractory Supply on the weekends.