You are here
Northeasterners normally must wait until July for local ripe tomatoes, but some upstate New York Wegmans shoppers received theirs a lot earlier: the first ripe cherry and grape tomatoes were picked May 21 at the grocer’s Organic Research Farm in Canandaigua, N.Y., a mere two months after planting — fulfilling Wegmans’ ambition to get the fruit in its stores before the unofficial start of summer.
“We’re excited because one of our goals is to find ways to extend the growing season in the Northeast,” said Jim Heberle, team leader at the farm. “We aimed for ripe tomatoes before Memorial Day, and we made it!”
The farm team was able to hasten the ripening process by preparing the soil with plenty of compost for rapid plant growth and by shielding the young tomato plants from low temperatures with a hoop house over the soil bed. During the day, energy from the sun kept the structure warm, even when outside temperatures were in the 30s. At night, heaters kept temperatures comfortably in the 70s.
Wegmans’ farm grows 14 varieties of cherry and grape tomatoes, all of them commercially available in the grocer’s stores in Pittsford and Canandaigua, as well as its restaurant, Next Door Bar and Grill in Pittsford. Popular varieties include Sun Sugar Cherry Tomato, Santa Sweets, Black Cherry Tomato, Beam’s Yellow Pear Tomato, and Grape Red Tomato.
Wegmans started work on the farm five years ago to learn more about growing fruits and vegetables organically in the Northeast, and to share that accumulated knowledge with local grower partners.
“We set aside time each year to meet with local growers, have them tour our farm, and exchange information about what we’ve all learned during the most recent growing season,” explained Jamie Robinson, another team leader at the farm. “It’s a two-way street that helps everybody.”
Over many years, Wegmans has forged hundreds of local grower partnerships, enabling produce to be delivered directly from farms to the grocer’s stores. Customers can track local produce deliveries at Wegmans by following the @WegmansLocal Twitter feed and reading tweets live on wegmans.com, or learn more about local suppliers by clicking on the “Choose Local Produce” tab on the Wegmans Web site home page.
Rochester, N.Y.-based Wegmans Food Markets, Inc. operates 75 stores in New York, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Virginia and Maryland.