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Old July 14, 2016   #1
Urbanheirlooms
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Default Fewer Varieties Next Year

This year, I planted about 40 different varieties of tomatoes for market. My thought is that people like variety and the names sell. After this season, I believe that I am going to cut it down quite considerably. So many of the cherry varieties look so similar, even I can't tell the difference after putting them in a bin. I know there are differences in flavor, but put Purple Bumble Bee, Safari, Violet Jasper, Pink Boar & Pink Bumblebee together in a basket and see if you can tell the difference. Customers do not seem to care what variety it is either.

This is only my third year of selling to the market, so I am learning slowly. I plan on planting about 300 plants next year and growing maybe 15 varieties.

How many varieties do you folks generally grow?
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Old July 14, 2016   #2
My Foot Smells
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in my experience, people generally like "RED" tomatoes. I grew some persimmon one year and could not give them away. they tasted great, but the orange color really turned people off for some reason. Ppl always like "BIG" too.

as a market grower, I would also think "unblemished" would be a factor. So an "unblemished big red tomato." Just about any home grown tomato is going to out produce the super market tomato.

Personally, I like the sweet 100 and sun gold cherries for taste and performance. I know, I know, BOOOOOO - Mr. BORING!! But think those would be suitable for market, and even thought he sungold is orange, for some reason ppl are forgiving on the cherry and the flavor does pack a wallup....
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Old July 14, 2016   #3
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Colors sell well for me, with dark purple varieties like Chr. Purple being the best sellers. Customers are familiar with it so they feel comfortable buying them. Orange Jazz has done well for me as a big orange tomato. GGWT has also sold well because it taste amazing and is quite uniform for an heirloom type.

I find knowing about the variety helps because people ask a lot of questions. I try to convince people to try a few different colors so they can see what they like. Others will only buy red tomatoes. Try to find varieties that look decent, taste good and are eye catching.

Ones that don't sell well for me are small colored tomatoes and any tomato with lumpy bottoms. I also sell plants early so many customers grow what I sell and then are more willing to try whatever I tell them is good.

With cherry tomatoes any good color mix sells fine. I think Ron's CC is better than BC and I try to get a orange/red/yellow/blue mix for the most eye pop. Just remember, it can look like a million bucks but if it taste like crap people wont buy again. I didn't get a blue planted this year because the previous 2 I grew tasted like watery poop and customers complained some. Good Luck, and happy growing!

Edit: Oh and always grow varieties famous in your region, the old timers always buy those. Here thats CP, rutgers, better boy etc
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Old July 14, 2016   #4
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Thanks for your comments. I don't directly sell at a farmers market, but sell to a buyer who has an upscale farmers market (farm to table), but I do show up and help out on occasion. Last year when I planned my garden, I did plant some Better Boys since I know some people would want R & R tomatoes. Then once I started to sell all of my heirlooms to that market, I asked the buyer if he wanted my R & R tomatoes. He said he didn't he could buy those for 50 cents a pound in bulk and didn't want to mess with that-there are plenty of other farmers markets and stands in our area for those varieties.

I only grow "specialty" type heirlooms which are different from the norm. Last year, I did grow some Indigo Rose and while they were pretty, they didn't taste very good to me and customers would not buy them regularly. I grew some Helsing Junction Blues this year and it almost looks like a smaller version of the Indigo Rose and does not taste much better. I grew some Indigo Apple this year (I do not have any ripened ones yet) and I have a feeling that they will not be any better.

I agree with BigVanVader about the Cherokee Purple. It outsold every beefsteak/slicer tomato by a long shot-even better than the R & R's he had. I must say that his Sugar Cubes cherries outsold my mixed heirloom cherries. I gave out a few samples of the Chocolate Cherry and Purple Bumblebee, I guess we will see if they come back for more.

This week, I have some Blue Ridge Black, Bordovyi, Siney, Rose, & Brown Flesh Jumbo to add to the Cherokee Purples. I am anxious to see if they are as big of a hit as Cherokee Purple.
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Old July 14, 2016   #5
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Sounds like you are looking for your niche'

Which you already have a headstart.......

CP is a crowd pleaser here as well.

Good luck with your eclectic selections this week. Will be interesting to see how the market fairs....

I would be tempted to give those a try.
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Old July 19, 2016   #6
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Originally Posted by My Foot Smells View Post
. . . Personally, I like the sweet 100 and sun gold cherries for taste and performance. I know, I know, BOOOOOO - Mr. BORING!! But think those would be suitable for market, and even thought he sungold is orange, for some reason ppl are forgiving on the cherry and the flavor does pack a wallup....
I wonder if perhaps people are more willing to try colors-not-red in cherry tomatoes because they are dual purpose -- eating tomatoes plus some may use them as garnish. And if there are children/grandchildren in the picture they may prefer cherry tomatoes and be more adventurous than us old stodgy folks.
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Old July 19, 2016   #7
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I was at a farmers market last year and the gentleman had no clue what varieties of "heirloom" tomatoes they were selling. What a shame. I do believe that whether it was the owner of the farm or just an employee, knowing what product you are selling makes a huge difference. Tell the story, talk about the taste. Maybe cut some up and give out free samples. Educate the consumer and open their eyes to more than just red.
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Old July 19, 2016   #8
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Originally Posted by pinklady5 View Post
I was at a farmers market last year and the gentleman had no clue what varieties of "heirloom" tomatoes they were selling. What a shame. I do believe that whether it was the owner of the farm or just an employee, knowing what product you are selling makes a huge difference. Tell the story, talk about the taste. Maybe cut some up and give out free samples. Educate the consumer and open their eyes to more than just red.
Yep, our market is full of the same thing. I used to go and buy produce there and nobody ever knew what tomatoes they were selling. It is one reason I decided to sell there. I saw an opportunity to educate customers and show that I actually know about the tomatoes I grow. The response has been better than I hoped, and every week we get more new customers from word of mouth. It seems a good story can sell lots of tomatoes and them being delicious doesn't hurt Now I just need to find extra hours in the day and land to meet demand
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Old July 19, 2016   #9
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Originally Posted by Urbanheirlooms View Post
Thanks for your comments. I don't directly sell at a farmers market, but sell to a buyer who has an upscale farmers market (farm to table), but I do show up and help out on occasion. Last year when I planned my garden, I did plant some Better Boys since I know some people would want R & R tomatoes. Then once I started to sell all of my heirlooms to that market, I asked the buyer if he wanted my R & R tomatoes. He said he didn't he could buy those for 50 cents a pound in bulk and didn't want to mess with that-there are plenty of other farmers markets and stands in our area for those varieties.

I only grow "specialty" type heirlooms which are different from the norm. Last year, I did grow some Indigo Rose and while they were pretty, they didn't taste very good to me and customers would not buy them regularly. I grew some Helsing Junction Blues this year and it almost looks like a smaller version of the Indigo Rose and does not taste much better. I grew some Indigo Apple this year (I do not have any ripened ones yet) and I have a feeling that they will not be any better.

I agree with BigVanVader about the Cherokee Purple. It outsold every beefsteak/slicer tomato by a long shot-even better than the R & R's he had. I must say that his Sugar Cubes cherries outsold my mixed heirloom cherries. I gave out a few samples of the Chocolate Cherry and Purple Bumblebee, I guess we will see if they come back for more.

This week, I have some Blue Ridge Black, Bordovyi, Siney, Rose, & Brown Flesh Jumbo to add to the Cherokee Purples. I am anxious to see if they are as big of a hit as Cherokee Purple.
Would love report on Bordovyi. I had some difficulties germinating it and still no fruits
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Old July 19, 2016   #10
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Would love report on Bordovyi. I had some difficulties germinating it and still no fruits
It was a very typical black tomato in regards to taste and looks. I too had issues with my plants, but a completely different reason. I left my gate open one night and the deer ate the tops off of many of my plants. They did come back somewhat, but I have not had very many tomatoes. Sorry I couldn't give you more feedback, but I love the black varieties and this one didn't disappoint me.

I have tasted about 25 different varieties this week and it is getting hard to tell much difference in the similar varieties.
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Old July 19, 2016   #11
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Urban, I am in a similar boat.
I am going to pare down.
My buyer resells at his large retail produce stand in a high end area.
Pretty much pointless to grow anything red no matter how large it is.
The customers can get that from his standard tomato display.
The heirlooms have to be pink or brown/black or striped etc.
His eyes lit up when he saw my black beauty (which is one of my favorite tasting this year and productive).
People buying heirlooms here want the unique. They don't seem to care about a red heirloom. In fact, I sense there could be a segment that now thinks if it's red it can't be an heirloom.
The restaurant scene is similar but I am going to move away from that next year. They just don't move the volume I need to unload to make real money. And doing delivery twice a week to multiple stops to drop of a box or two at each place in a busy beach area is a nightmare.
I have a good friend that is a broker that will be able to move 40 boxes a week for me to a guy he supplies that does a produce route to dc and ny restaurants.
Uniformity and production are the two keys for my selections next year.
My stuff is over the place with size this year. Grading and correctly packing the product is a must if you are selling to people who handle lots of product. I would not make the money that I want with the culls I have this year.
So what heirloom or OP do you all like that is productive and a uniform size that is not red?
Is CP uniform for you? Productive?

Last edited by PureHarvest; July 19, 2016 at 10:43 PM.
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Old July 20, 2016   #12
Urbanheirlooms
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Quote:
Originally Posted by PureHarvest View Post
Urban, I am in a similar boat.
I am going to pare down.
My buyer resells at his large retail produce stand in a high end area.
Pretty much pointless to grow anything red no matter how large it is.
The customers can get that from his standard tomato display.
The heirlooms have to be pink or brown/black or striped etc.
His eyes lit up when he saw my black beauty (which is one of my favorite tasting this year and productive).
People buying heirlooms here want the unique. They don't seem to care about a red heirloom. In fact, I sense there could be a segment that now thinks if it's red it can't be an heirloom.
The restaurant scene is similar but I am going to move away from that next year. They just don't move the volume I need to unload to make real money. And doing delivery twice a week to multiple stops to drop of a box or two at each place in a busy beach area is a nightmare.
I have a good friend that is a broker that will be able to move 40 boxes a week for me to a guy he supplies that does a produce route to dc and ny restaurants.
Uniformity and production are the two keys for my selections next year.
My stuff is over the place with size this year. Grading and correctly packing the product is a must if you are selling to people who handle lots of product. I would not make the money that I want with the culls I have this year.
So what heirloom or OP do you all like that is productive and a uniform size that is not red?
Is CP uniform for you? Productive?
Pure, it does seem like we do many things similar, but you deal in much higher volume than I do. In regards to Cherokee Purple, I always grow these as the flavor offsets some of the deformities. My buyer knows that heirlooms will have some weird shapes.

In regards to productivity and size, I will give you my picks for this year that I will grow again next year. I understand the R & R thing, but one variety that you might want to still consider is WV 63. It is definitely round and red, but the one selling characteristic with this one is how dense it is with few seeds. It is definitely very prolific.

I will grow Lucid Gem again next year. It does have a few odd shaped ones, but most are uniform. It has that great look and very good flavor.



In regards to the pink, I grew Rose this year. It is my favorite pink variety now. Great taste, uniform, few blemishes and very large size with many over a pound. This picture looks kind of red, but it really is dark pink.



Now to the black/chocolate varieties. Winners are Blue Ridge Black & Tsindao, They have nice uniformity and have been very productive. Here is a picture of Tsindao:



Now to the salads. My top picks so far this year are Trentons Tiger, Black Icicle, Red Zebra and Sarandipity (dwarf variety). They all have been extremely productive, beautiful colors and very good tasting.



Red Zebra



Sarandipity



Trenton's Tiger



Black Icicle (most are usually longer than this one)

On to the yellows/bi-colors. I have always had good luck with Big Rainbow. I grew Kelloggs Breakfast this year and they have just starting coming in, so the verdict is still out on these. The one I cut up last night was pretty good though. It was the most dense tomato that I have seen with hardly any seed pockets. Taste was pretty good for a yellow/orange (full disclosure, I am a black tomato junkie in regards to flavor).

The only other one I would add at this point is Brown Flesh Jumbo. You can't go wrong with the colors, productivity, uniform size & good flavor. Sorry, but I don't have a picture with me of this variety, but will post one later.

So those are my keepers so far this year so far. The verdict is still out for some other varieties.
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Old July 20, 2016   #13
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I find "old timey" tasting reds do great. Wes for example isn't really round so it still stands out in appearance and pretty much everyone who is looking for that taste they remember from "the good ole days" thinks Wes taste just like it. I had people go through all kinda channels to locate me to get plants for it after I took it to a tomato tasting last year, and it is pretty much good for anything (eating/processing/etc) if you give taste peoples eyes generally light up. Try one or two plants sometime and see what you think. Truly a great red variety, and I typically do not like any red tomatoes.
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Old July 20, 2016   #14
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In my case reds don't do as well, even when people are tasting them. Although Crnkovic Y, Chapman, and Cowlick's seem to transport older people back to their childhood.

Blacks, GWR, and stripes are the hot sellers down here.

Last edited by Gerardo; July 21, 2016 at 05:31 PM.
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Old July 20, 2016   #15
BigVanVader
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Originally Posted by PureHarvest View Post
Urban, I am in a similar boat.
I am going to pare down.
My buyer resells at his large retail produce stand in a high end area.
Pretty much pointless to grow anything red no matter how large it is.
The customers can get that from his standard tomato display.
The heirlooms have to be pink or brown/black or striped etc.
His eyes lit up when he saw my black beauty (which is one of my favorite tasting this year and productive).
People buying heirlooms here want the unique. They don't seem to care about a red heirloom. In fact, I sense there could be a segment that now thinks if it's red it can't be an heirloom.
The restaurant scene is similar but I am going to move away from that next year. They just don't move the volume I need to unload to make real money. And doing delivery twice a week to multiple stops to drop of a box or two at each place in a busy beach area is a nightmare.
I have a good friend that is a broker that will be able to move 40 boxes a week for me to a guy he supplies that does a produce route to dc and ny restaurants.
Uniformity and production are the two keys for my selections next year.
My stuff is over the place with size this year. Grading and correctly packing the product is a must if you are selling to people who handle lots of product. I would not make the money that I want with the culls I have this year.
So what heirloom or OP do you all like that is productive and a uniform size that is not red?
Is CP uniform for you? Productive?
CP has been quite uniform and productive for me and is also much more resistant to environmenal stresses and disease. I grew several blacks this year an I gotta say CP has been the best overall in every category except taste, but that is just my taste buds, customers love em.
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