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Tomato Growers to Meet, Consider Association to Promote Industry

Tuesday, March 31, 2015 | 05:20am

NASHVILLE— Tennessee tomato growers have the opportunity to help build a foundation for their industry’s future at a number of scheduled meetings across the state.

The Tennessee Department of Agriculture has been granted federal Specialty Crop Block Grant (SCBG) funds to launch the Tennessee Tomato Initiative. The goal of the initiative is to provide growers necessary information to determine if a grower-owned organization can increase national recognition and markets for Tennessee tomatoes. The growers will decide by vote in May.

Stanley Trout, consultant for the statewide initiative, will host three regional meetings to discuss the benefits of forming a statewide growers association. “The goal of the association would be better promotion of the Tennessee tomato as a brand with inherent qualities, in much the same way that Vidalia onions are promoted,” Trout said.

The meetings are scheduled as follows:

  •  April 27 – Pikeville
    • 6:30 p.m. CDT/ 7:30 p.m. EDT at the Pig-N-Catch Restaurant, 3651 Main Street
  • April 30 – Morristown
  • 7 p.m. EDT at the Best Western Plus, 5435 S. Davy Crockett Parkway
  • May 5 – Jackson
    • 7 p.m. CDT at the Casey Jones Restaurant, 56 Casey Jones Lane

Growers traveling more than 25 miles to a meeting are eligible for mileage reimbursement, and a meal will be provided.

“There will be a give and take atmosphere at these meetings as we get input, and as we educate growers about this opportunity,” Trout said. “We’ll discuss challenges facing the tomato industry in Tennessee and the potential that a grower-owned association could help Tennessee tomatoes have a competitive edge.”

Growers will hear about the kinds of associations most commonly found in the fresh produce industry and discuss the activities and benefits each type of association can provide. According to Trout, “growers have expressed an interest in a number of support programs, from an association to education, marketing, insurance programs and supporting extension research.”

“Tomatoes are a dynamic part of Tennessee’s rural economy,” Trout said. “Tennessee growers spend an estimated $23 million to grow this crop with another $10 million devoted to harvest and marketing.”

Tennessee’s significant tomato industry includes more than 4,000 acres of production across the state. The 2012 crop was valued at more than $60 million by the USDA National Agricultural Statistics Services, making Tennessee the fifth largest producer of fresh market tomatoes in the nation.

To learn more about the Tennessee Tomato Initiative or about upcoming meetings for tomato growers, contact Stanley Trout at 615-971-0505 or email Stanley_Trout@yahoo.com.

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