Growing Tomatoes In The Snow
Posted on Mon, 02/07/2011 - 18:28Submitted by Your Produce Man on Mon, 02/07/2011 - 18:28
When you think of Tomatoes, you think of a hot, balmy summer day. Tomatoes indeed are a subtropical fruit. They love the heat. So here we are, in the middle of winter and California growers are still producing Tomatoes. One of those growers is even mocking Old Man Winter. John Van Diepen has agricultural degrees from Cal Poly San Luis Obispo and North Carolina State University. And with all of his ag smarts, he decided to grow Tomatoes…in the Sierra Nevada, in Pioneer, California. It happens to be at the 3,000 foot elevation, and winter time, is his peak time for summer Tomatoes. Farmer John owns Cedar Mills EcoFarms. At this location, there used to be a cedar mill. In fact, for decades, this cedar mill in Pioneer produced virtually every #2 pencil in the world. So why is Farmer John growing Tomatoes here? A former cedar mill has lots of flat ground, just what you need for 5 acres of hot houses. Second, at the 3,000 foot level, his hot houses are above the San Joaquin Valley fog line, and just below the Sierra Nevada snow line. Third, plenty of crystal, clear water. Fourth, he’s within three hours to major distribution markets like Whole Foods. In fact, Tomatoes from Cedar Mills EcoFarm are delivered to the store within 24 hours of being picked. That's fresh. Farmer John heats his 150,000 square feet of hot houses with one of the largest boilers found on the West Coast of the United States. It’s a 10 million BTU boiler, bringing temperatures in the boiler to 2,000 degrees, heating circulating water to 200 degrees, keeping his hot houses perfectly warm at 65 balmy degrees, day and night, snow or cold. His cluster vine-ripened Tomatoes are one of the best sellers at places like Whole Foods. By the way, his one-of-a-kind boiler uses biofuel. Wood and lumber that is sent to the dump is chipped into 2” pieces and shipped to his farm. Very eco-friendly and economically sustainable. In the Sierra Nevada, Tomatoes have their own Club Med. His hot houses look like the hanging gardens of Babylon. And that’s how you can grow Tomatoes in the snow.