Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Marini Farm's Love For Tomatoes

The growing season for tomatoes is in full gear in the Marini Farm hot houses. Managing the scheduling process would overwhelm most farms, but Marini has historically built off of the prior year's production successes.

The farm is now planting 3,000 tomato plants in three separate hot houses for a June harvest of "Big Beef" tomatoes. In the fields, they follow a precise scheduling process of three consecutive plantings of 10,000 plants on 5/1, 5/30 and 6/30, with an overall production of more than 30,000 plants. All tomatoes are grown on raised plastic beds with drip irrigation, and row covers are used on the first planting for frost protection, as well as for the last planting during late season harvest. The tomatoes are picked vine ripe for exceptional flavor, and if all goes as planned, a Marini Farm grown tomato will be available from late June until Halloween.

In addition to the "Big Beef" tomatoes, the farm grows over 20 different heirloom and cherry tomato varieties which are all stacked and tied. Field tomato varieties include: Primo Red, Red Duce, Primetime, Florida 57, Sonoma, BHN, Mountain Fresh, Scarlet Red, Applause and Biltmore.

Marini's tomatoes are sold at their retail farm stand, as well as wholesaled to outside farm stands, supermarkets, restaurants, and to other local CSAs (Community Supported Agriculture) participants.

As Mike Marini points out, "Many factors go into growing great tomatoes, but our number one focus is to produce tomatoes with exceptional quality and taste." The farm is always testing out new varieties that meet their quality tasting standards.

Marini has increased the population of grafted tomatoes over the years. The grafting process ties disease-resistant and insect-resistant roots onto familiar heirloom and hybrid tomatoes. Grafted tomato plants are stronger and lead to increased yields.

Many seed catalogs are featuring a wider selection of grafted plants and this year was a "roll-out year" nationally in the home-garden market. Tests in the U.S. have shown that the grafting process makes it easy to become a super producer of good-tasting tomatoes. The grafting process is recognized to be the single biggest advance in tomatoes since they were first hybridized over a century ago. With grafting, growers get a higher yield with a more rigorous plant, better taste, and do not have to worry about the risk of disease from fungal, bacterial, viral, and nematode diseases.

Grafts are made by severing the rootstock and scion at a downward 70 degree angle and re-attaching the plant with the root stalk with a rubber or silicon clip. Very much like plant surgery, it begins with precise cutting and ends with a carefully supervised healing process. Grafting is a sustainable farming process, which eliminates the use of products such as the soil fumigant methyl bromide to keep the plants healthy.

Tomatoes and other vegetables are big business:

"The National Gardening Association's annual survey found that while overall gardening activity, which includes everything from landscaping to potted plants, fell from $36 billion in 2008 to $29 billion in each of the last three years, vegetable gardening sales were up by roughly 20%, to about $1.7 billion annually."

Did you know...
  • Americans eat between 22-24 pounds of tomatoes per person, per year.--U.S. Department of Agriculture.
  • The largest worldwide producer of tomatoes is China, followed by U.S., Turkey, India and Egypt.
  • Tomatoes are originally from South America and can be traced back to being cultivated by the Aztecs and the Incas as early as 700 A.D.
  • Tomatoes are high in vitamin A and a good source of vitamin C and potassium, and that their biggest claim to fame is their copious amounts of Lycopene, a proven cancer preventative.
  • California produces 96 percent of the tomatoes processed in the U.S.
  • The name comes from the Aztec "xitomotl," which means "plump thing with a navel."
  • Tomatoes are America's fourth most popular fresh-market vegetable behind potatoes, lettuce, and onions.
  • The largest tomato tree grows at Walt Disney World Resort's experimental greenhouse and yields a harvest of more than 32,000 tomatoes and weighs 1,151.84 pounds.--Guinness Book of World Records
  • Americans have increased their tomato consumption 30 percent over the last 20 years (mostly in processed forms such as sauce, paste, and salsa).  
Mike Marini frequently addresses customers' questions on home growing techniques for a successful garden. Marini's advice to at-home farmers is to add cow manure or compost to their gardens. He also recommends home gardeners plant a cover crop in the fall, rotate their crops, and test the soil after  rototilling. Marini stresses that you "need to know where you are to get to where you want to be!" There are home soil tests available and companies on the internet that accept samples and conduct testing and analysis. Marini sends its samples to UMass/Griffin Greenhouse. For an abundant garden the pH level is very important for plant growth, according to Marini.

And, Marini, like his customers, knows "nothing beats the taste of a fresh vine ripe tomato!"

Written by Blogger Pros