How Many Cherry Tomato Plants?

Leigh lh at pressroom.com
Sun Jun 2 23:16:33 EDT 2002


Allan,

As a fellow CSA farmer I have a problem with cherry tomatoes.  Here 
is the problem:  Cherry tomatoes are extremely labor intensive 
(almost as time consuming as stringbeans).  If I was a market farmer 
that wouldn't be a problem.  I would know how many cherry's I could 
pick and I would know how much I could sell at what price and I could 
figure out the correct equation of cherry tomato plants for my market 
as opposed to growing something else.  In other words, if I could 
make more money per time spent on cherry tomatoes than other crops, I 
would find that level that I had time and room to grow and that I 
could also sell.

But as a CSA farmer my concern is different.  My customer isn't 
paying for an individual crop but for the entire package.  I have to 
ask myself, are cherry tomatoes worth it to my customers as opposed 
to something else.

How much time do I have available each morning to pick cherry 
tomatoes as opposed to harvesting something else that my shareholders 
will like just as well. A crop that will take up less picking time, 
that comes ripe at the same time, and that the shareholders will 
enjoy just as much is always preferable, in my mind, to a labor 
intensive crop.

Here is what I do-- since cherry tomatoes come in early, earlier than 
almost all other tomatoes, I plant enough to give my subscribers an 
early taste of tomato (as if you can call sungold's tomatoes - around 
here we tell the children of our shareholders they are undried 
skittles).  And that's it.  Once the other tomatoes start coming in 
along with the other summer vegetables the cherry tomatoes are often 
ignored and allowed to fall to the ground unpicked.  There is only so 
much time in a day.

The only exception to this rule is the years where I feel like 
setting up crops for u-pick for the shareholders.  Then I will grow a 
couple hundred extra cherry tomatoes for the shareholders to pick. 
However, this is often frivolous. Shareholders only come out so often 
and only pick so many cherry tomatoes.  Still, a large percentage of 
the crop goes to waste.

Also in Norther Virginia
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