I was recently able to take a trip to Bushel Boy Farms in Owatonna, MN to tour the hydroponic tomato facility. As a person that is always asking “why” and “how”, farm tours just make my day!
I have loved tomatoes since childhood and have been known to eat a plate full of garden-fresh tomatoes (with lots of salt and pepper) as a meal during the summer months. Living in the midwest (Iowa, Minnesota and Wisconsin) all my life has seriously limited my tomato consumption from September – June (every month except those joyous months of tomato-rich July and August). That is until I discovered Bushel Boy tomatoes. These babies are harvested on the vine when they are ripe (not green), so they actually taste and SMELL like tomatoes (even in January).
As a retail dietitian, I knew that Bushel Boy tomatoes were grown hydroponically (in water), but how I pictured them being grown and the reality were so very different. I pictured rows and rows of plants floating on a river of water. -How they were able to stay upright, I wasn’t sure. (I guess my vision of hydroponics was sort of like some dreams. – It felt real, but some things just didn’t make sense).
When I walked into the greenhouse the first thing I noticed was the amazing aroma of tomatoes and the sheer size of the tomatoe vines. Those babies were HUGE (up to 35 feet in length)!
Like on any farm tour that I have taken, I am always amazed at the amount of pride that the growers/staff/farmers have for their products. -Just like I have pride in my garden-fresh veggies.
We were able to meet Alfredo, the head grower for Bushel Boy, and hear about some of the tactics he uses to improve the crop.
Did You Know?
- They warm the tomatoes up in the morning -even on hot summer days- to help them adjust to the hot temperatures.
- Bees are used as natural polinators?
- And 100% of the water used to grow the tomatoes is used (none is wasted). They filter back any overages and recycle it.
- They have sticky bug traps throughout the facility to keep tabs on the varieties present. This helps them decide how to treat the plants (usually by releasing a different type of bug to eliminate the harmful pest).
So I challenge you, the next time you are in the grocery store to find Bushel Boy tomatoes. Pick up a bunch and just smell it. It smells like tomatoes, so you know it will taste like tomatoes. Grab a bunch, along with some fresh basil and mozzarella cheese. You won’t be sorry!