So, who's the family at the family farm?
There's me and my husband. He started growing tomatoes when he was little, with his grandfather, and he's got customers who have been with him 30 years. My 16-year old son and 12-year-old daughter help out when they're not in school. And I have another child on the way in July.
Are the high fuel prices hurting you?
Absolutely. We sell some tomatoes and all our strawberries at our retail store here at the farm, but we deliver the majority of our tomatoes and it's just unbelievable how much fuel's costing us now. And we're not even in our peak season yet, it's just the greenhouse tomatoes. Propane's up so much, too, and we heat our 23 greenhouses with propane.
Will your prices go up?
It's hard to pass along but so much of the cost. Even though they're having to pay more for their gas, it's hard to explain why you're raising prices to customers.
Will you have to decrease your profit margin?
What's your favorite way to prepare strawberries?
I like to make strawberry cobbler.
Is that different from shortcake?
With shortcake you make an actual cake and put the strawberries on top with cream. This is just a cup of sugar, a cup of Bisquik, and a cup of milk all mixed up with about a quart of cut-up fresh strawberries [and baked at 375 for about 45 minutes]. I made one just the other day and it was wonderful.
How many pounds of tomatoes do you grow?
Between 15-20 pounds per plant, I don't know—lots of tomatoes, I'll say that.
Mainly Celebrity and Empire. They're called "fresh market" varieties and the difference between them and a Florida tomato is that the Florida tomato has a longer shelf life, but our Grainger County tomato has a better flavor. If we tried to switch I think our customers would buck up on us.
How much better are the vine-ripened tomatoes than the ones from the greenhouse?
I think the greenhouse ones are better; they have a better flavor. Not everyone would agree with me, but I like that they have more of an acid flavor. But they are more expensive because of the propane cost.
What's your favorite tomato recipe?
I don't really cook tomatoes. I do like mayo and tomato on white bread—that's my favorite.
Do you ever get where you never want to see another tomato or strawberry?
No, that's how we make our living, so I don't guess I can be like that.