RICHMOND, Va. — Governor Ralph Northam announced July 2 that Shore Breeze Farms will expand operations at its hydroponic greenhouse facility in Northampton County, increasing its production of Virginia-grown leafy greens by thirty percent. The company provides Virginia-grown lettuces to Virginia public schools, local restaurants, and farm stands on the Eastern Shore and in Virginia Beach. This is the first Governor’s Agriculture and Forestry Industries Development (AFID) Fund grant awarded to Northampton County.
“It is exciting to see homegrown companies like Shore Breeze Farms harnessing new agriculture technologies to bring fresh, local vegetables to their communities,” said Governor Northam. “Shore Breeze Farms has long been known for innovative product offerings, and I am especially proud to see how they are branching into new markets during the ongoing COVID-19 crisis to offer pre-packaged salad kits to Virginians on the Eastern Shore.”
“Virginia agribusinesses like Shore Breeze Farms are finding new ways to improve their operations to extend the growing season and meet customer-demand for local, Virginia-grown products,” said Secretary of Agriculture and Forestry Bettina Ring. “It is this commitment to continuous improvement that has helped make agriculture the Commonwealth’s largest private industry.”
The Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services worked with Northampton County to secure the project for the Commonwealth. Governor Northam approved a $15,000 grant from the AFID fund to assist Northampton County with the project.
A fourth-generation farmer on Virginia’s Eastern Shore, Steve Sturgis started his eight-acre farm in 1979, took over his family’s farming operation in 2002, and has since doubled its size to 900 acres. In 2019, Sturgis opened Shore Breeze Farms, a new produce market and hydroponic greenhouse facility. Hydroponics is a method of growing plants that uses a solution of water and nutrients instead of soil. This system typically yields more, requires less space, and allows for year-round growing.
“I’m pleased that Virginia has addressed the need for assistance to agricultural businesses through the AFID program,” said Steve Sturgis, owner of Shore Breeze Farms. “Agriculture is the Commonwealth’s largest private industry, and I’m proud to be a part of it.”
“Agriculture is the largest and one of the most important industries in Northampton County,” said Northampton County Board of Supervisors Chairman Oliver Bennett. “We appreciate the Commonwealth’s assistance in bringing this dynamic project to fruition. We applaud Shore Breeze Farms and the Sturgis family’s commitment to agriculture on the Eastern Shore and their innovative approach to providing local produce to our students, our residents and our visitors year-round.”
“Farmers, growers and watermen on the Eastern Shore have been feeding the Commonwealth and the country for generations,” said Senator Lynwood Lewis. “For decades, the Sturgis family has been a leader in good stewardship, providing a great example of the proud tradition of agriculture that plays in our Shore economy and our way of life. It’s critical that the Commonwealth recognizes the importance of supporting our farmers during this unprecedented time of both public health and economic uncertainty.”
“It is great to see a local family with deep Eastern Shore roots continue to make their living on this peninsula through cutting edge approaches to our oldest industry,” said Delegate Robert Bloxom.
–Michael Wallace, VDACS