When Ben Von Kennel and his wife, Amelia, decided to quit their jobs in advertising, sell their house and move to Bells, Texas, to grow tomatoes, they didn’t know how to begin, or where to start.
Starting out, Von Kennel relied heavily on CropKing hydroponics expertise to build his business, Amelia's Farm. He was first introduced to CropKing in 2010 when he helped a friend build a commercial lettuce house.
“I tried to help sell lettuce to a Dallas Staple Steakhouse called Al Biernat’s, but he said they needed tomatoes,” he says. “I asked Al to give me one year or less [to grow tomatoes].”
Shortly after, he quit his job at the ad agency to become a hydroponic tomato grower, and enlisted the support of CropKing to achieve his goals.
“[CropKing is] always happy to work with you to make you better,” he says. “Since they are always willing to make us better, we will always be profitable.”
Since 2011, every item Von Kennel has needed has been ordered from CropKing. He says there are plenty of options out there when it comes to hydroponics, but CropKing always has exactly what he would need.
“I don’t like it, I love it,” he says. “I feel that hydroponic growing is the future, and CropKing is the only option, no matter what your experience is.”
He says the ease of use of the products is what keeps him hooked on CropKing hydroponics.
“My wife and I had never grown any plants in our lives, especially hydroponically,” Von Kennel says. “So, [I like] the ease of use, the guidance, whether it be the manual and or access to CropKing for their customer service.”
After visiting other companies in the industry, Von Kennel says it was clear to him CropKing had the most experience and know-how. Even better than the products, he says, is the people, which is what makes CropKing unique.
With CropKing’s help, Von Kennel developed a ready-to-grow, hydroponic greenhouse named Hydroshed, featuring professional-grade components in a backyard-sized footprint for small growers. It’s sold through the sister company Von Kennel created, Amelia’s Backyard Farm Company.
“We like working with CropKing and their customer service so much that we started [Amelia’s Backyard Farm Company], and CropKing is our manufacturer,” Von Kennel says. “Not only are they helping us with our newly designed greenhouse structure, [Hydroshed], but we are using their grow systems as well.”
“We know that having CropKing help us with the Hydroshed was the only decision that would help us become successful,” he says. “The quality of people [and] the quality of products is the best any grower could ask for.”
Whether it be learning to grow a new variety of tomatoes, testing different growing recipes or changing up components within the greenhouse, Von Kennel says CropKing is always willing to make the effort.
“Knowing absolutely nothing about anything, CropKing was essential in our success,” Von Kennel says. “We are [now] one of the largest tomato growers in Texas and plan to expand more in 2018.”