Morgan and Kevin Bond with their daughter Evelyn

The Pennsylvania Vegetable Growers Association is pleased to award its 2023 Young Grower Award to Kevin and Morgan Bond.  The Young Grower Award is given to recognize 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 free registration for the Mid-Atlantic Fruit and Vegetable Convention plus lodging at the Hershey Lodge.

Kevin and Morgan Bond help to operate and manage B&R Farms in Ringtown – owned and operated by Morgan’s parents, Boots and Robin Hetherington. The farm supports a variety of commodities, including corn/soybean rotational acreage, hay crops, a spring greenhouse operation, asparagus, and a pick-your-own strawberry business. Kevin and Morgan both work full-time off-the-farm. Kevin teaches Technology Education at Lehighton Area High School. Morgan works as a Research & Development Technologist at Mrs. T’s Pierogies. They support the farm operation on nights, weekends, and all summer in Kevin’s case.

Kevin and Morgan have invested in equipment for the retail strawberry business (ex. CropCare Picking Assistant), and seek out methods and techniques from other berry operations that could help improve their family business. They participate in the PVGA Berry Growers Exchange meetings to gain insight from other growers around the state. Pre-Covid, they were 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 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 utilize in cold storage to prolong quality of picked quarts for retail and wholesale. Kevin 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.

Morgan is a critical part of the operation with customer service, product marketing, and crew management. She largely manages the farm’s Facebook platform to create daily posts for customer engagement throughout the picking season, and includes periodic farm updates throughout the year as additional berry crop maintenance is performed. Morgan helps with wholesale quart sales and deliveries. She has also started to incorporate a digital Point of Sale system for the strawberry operation as newer customers are seeking credit card options more frequently. Morgan organizes the picking crew schedules for the summer harvest, and leads the pickers on weekend shifts. She also helps to staff the retail cart and manage pick-your-own customers during the hustle and bustle of Saturday and Sunday pickings.

In their spare time, Kevin and Morgan have 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 pick-your-own operation. While not owners in the operation, Kevin and Morgan are heavily invested in the production and promotion of their family’s farm. They plan to transition into ownership of the business in the coming years to continue the tradition of pick-your-own berries through their generation and hopefully through their children’s generation as well.  PVGA is pleased to able to honor the Bonds with its 2023 Young Grower Award.