Success! All the tomatoes are in the ground and only a day later than last year. Thursday the guys got the last of the trellises built, most of the tomato varieties we grow are heirlooms which grow tall and need strong support. In the wild (in Central America) tomatoes are actually perennials and will grow and grow, here where they get killed by frost we forget about that. These old heirloom types are closer to their wild cousins than the new hybrid types that are bred to be shorter and easier to grow. The standard tomato support system in the industry is called “stake and weave” where you drive a stake every other plant and then weave a string down both sides of the plants and around the posts and so on. In the past we have done some stake and weave on short plants and I hate it! For one it means driving 35 stakes per 100 foot row and it’s difficult to weave with tall stakes. So we developed what I call the one sided tomato cage. Research has shown that the best production is tomatoes grown in cages, round cylinders of wire mesh where the plants just grow up in the middle and out the sides. The problem with cages is they take a lot of wire and room in the field. So we run the wire, field fencing, down the middle of the row with plants on either side. They grow up through it and we only have to tie up the branches that head out into the aisle. It only takes nine posts to support it and it fast to put up and take down at the end of the season. Trellising 101.
Trellis done we planted half the rows on Thursday and finished up Friday with the rest. Only fifteen varieties in this main planting this year, kind of going back to basics. Sometimes a person gets so carried away with trying new kinds that it doesn’t leave enough room for the ones we need to grow to make a living and the new ones don’t give us enough to really make a display at market. There is a new red that several growers raved to me about at meetings this winter and we are growing Mortgage Lifter (a pink) again for the first time in years partly due to a Slow Food tomato taste challenge going on later this summer (I will let you know more details later). We are still trying to settle in on one of those Italian paste/eating tomatoes we brought back that everyone has given high marks to. After years of side by side testing we have settled in on just two yellow varieties Kellogg’s Breakfast and the high acid Azoychka and have let Nebraska Wedding go, just not good enough production. The rest are the mainstays of our show- Big Beefs, German Johnsons, Viva Italias, Green Zebra and Aunt Ruby’s German Green and of course the champion Cherokee Purple taking up a full third of our production.
The other high point of the week was the arrival of the little turkey poults. After a year hiatus raising turkeys we are once again back in the business. You may remember all of the trials and difficulties we have participated in with poultry processing which is the reason we decided to take last year off. The great news is we have a brand new processing plant in Siler City which just opened this month. Abdul Chaudhry of Chaudhry’s Halal Meats has built a beautiful new poultry facility next door to his red meat plant and we are very excited to be working with him. As usual the phone rings early, 7:30, and it’s the Post Office, “come get your turkeys” and you can hear them cheeping up a storm in the background. Betsy zips off to Graham to collect them while I get their feeders, waterers and heat lamps ready. Betsy returns with 66 energetic, Bourbon Red poults, maybe the best looking ones we have ever received. Each on gets it’s beak dipped in the water then plopped down in the feed tray so they know where it is. Now a week later they look great and it is nice to have them back on the farm.