A few days ago I got an email from Pendleton's farm announcing that for just one day this year--that would be today--they were opening their hydroponic tomato greenhouse for tours. After all the fun we had picking asparagus, of course, I had to go.
Mr. Pendleton himself gave the tour. I always think it's fun to let a gardener tell you about what he or she is growing, but--given that I'd never seen anything really like his tomatoes before--this was even more so. He told me that he starts the tomatoes just after Thanksgiving. Because of the shorter winter days they grow more slowly. He said it isn't cost effective to use grow lights, but he does use a parasitic wasp to keep white flies and similar pests under control. Once the plants get big enough, they get transplanted into the plastic pots shown, which are filled with a soil-less mix (e.g. peat moss, etc.). The tomatoes get all their nutrients from a special mix included in their water, which--as Mr. Pendleton demonstrated--is turned on with the flick of a switch.
After I was done with the tour (and after I picked 4 or 5 gorgeous tomatoes) I went out into the field and picked some snow peas. They were so sweet and tender--I munched on them raw all the way home.