From Seed to Tomato
It might still be winter, but summer will be here before we know it! Who else is ready for some ripe, juicy tomatoes? Here at Patterson Farm, Inc., we have been busy this week seeding peppers and tomatoes. We will be growing over 200 acres of tomatoes and 160 acres of peppers this year. In case you didn’t know, that’s a lot of seeds to plant! There are over 5,500 tomato plants planted per acre. We will grow over 1 million tomato plants this year! We are one of the largest tomato growers in the state of North Carolina. We grow all of our own plants because we want to control the process from seed to your plate.
In order to prep these seeds to go into the field, our workers have to place the tiny seeds, often using tweezers, into soil trays with small cells. There is a machine to help, but yes, it is all done by hand! When I have helped with this before, I felt a lot like that episode of “I Love Lucy” where they are working at the chocolate conveyor belt. The machine keeps pace “planting” a row of seeds on the tray every few seconds and I would have to use the tweezers to make sure that each cell had the correct number of seeds. You have to be quick because the next tray is coming! You start to go cross-eyed after an hour or two! Not to mention, those seeds sure are tiny!
Once the trays are seeded, they are watered, stacked on the pallet and placed in a dark, warm room called a “germination room.” Once the seeds germinate, we take the pallets of trays to our greenhouses and spread them out so they can get plenty of air and sunshine. We take care of these plants by watering and fertilizing them for about 6 weeks until they are ready to be planted in the fields. These plants will be planted by hand by our employees.
Thanks to all of our workers’ hard work these next few weeks, we should have plenty of tomatoes for this summer. You can find our tomatoes and peppers this summer at our market, as well as in restaurants and grocery stores across the United States, Canada, and even as far as Puerto Rico. Locally, our produce is carried by Walmart, Food Lion, Lowe’s Foods, Harris Teeter and of course, our Market on Caldwell Road.