Tomatoes are #1

As you are well aware, we grow dozens of different crops here at Terra Firma.  But the reality is, we are really tomato growers.  Tomatoes are the hub crop, the sun around which our farm spins.  If we have a good tomato crop, we have a good year.  Bad tomato crop, bad year.Tomatoes have been the number one farm commodity in Yolo County for over twenty years, and Yolo County is the second largest producer in the state next to Fresno County (which is a much larger county).  The vast majority of the tomatoes grown here are for canning, not for fresh market.  But it doesn’t change the fact that the soil and climate here are as close to perfect for growing tomatoes as it gets.Here on our farm in Winters, it is even a little more perfect.  Our location is warmer in the spring than other parts of the Sacramento Valley, especially at night.  This allows us to plant our tomatoes sooner without too much risk of frost, and causes them to grow faster and ripen more quickly.  We speed the process even more by warming the soil with plastic mulch and using sprinklers to repel frost at night when it does occur.

We grow our tomatoes in extremely fertile soils that capture and release water efficiently — silty clay loams.  This means we don’t have to irrigate the tomatoes very much, especially once harvest begins.  Less water means more concentrated flavor.

Our tomato plants grow to over 6 feet tall, trellised with metal stakes and baling twine, requiring lots of fertility.   To make sure they get it, in the fall or winter prior to planting, we grow a lush cover crop of legumes that provide the majority of the tomatoes’ nutritional needs.

We grow about 15 acres of tomatoes each year, in 4 different plantings each with at least 10 varieties.  That’s less than one tenth of the acreage we farm.  But we dedicate more time and energy to those 15 acres than we do to any other crop.  And the tomatoes — usually — provide for us in an equally disproportionate fashion.

This year, our early planting is absolutely loaded with fruit (later plantings have yet to start making tomatoes).  And despite the hot weather the last few days, they mostly still have not begun to ripen yet.  We’re a little scared about being able to get them all harvested.

Enjoy the tomatoes in your box today.  They are the first of many — our tomato season lasts at least until the end of August and possibly through September.

Thanks,

Pablito

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