DiMare Farm Review
A visit to the DiMARE Tomato Farm before our trip to the Ruskin Tomato Festival was the perfect warmup for the Tomato Festival.
Experiencing the process of production tomato farming compared to growing tomatoes at home provided interesting tomato growing tips.
DiMare operates 16 facilities in 8 States. They have been in business for 75 years. Their place in the industry as a major agricultural company in the United States started with a vegetable pushcart in Boston, Massachusetts.
The Ruskin operation works in conjunction with the University of
Florida in an effort to constantly improve farm and production
methods. Learn more about
On our way to the Ruskin Tomato Festival we took an 11 mile detour to visit the Dimare Fresh Ruskin facility. Tony DiMare hooked us up with his Farm Manager Johnny Guerrero. We pulled up to the packing house and took a look around while waiting to get together with Johnny for the farm portion of the visit. A combination of state of the art technology and the careful eyes of production workers insure the best product possible reaches your table.
A phone call and directions from Johnny had us heading out to the Grape Tomato farming portion of our visit. Farm rotation was evident as we passed by a number of grass covered fields on our way to 52 acres of beautiful grape tomatoes.
We were fortunate to be there during harvest time. Harvest time for these indeterminate tomatoes runs from just after the first of year through June. The Plants are top trimmed to a manageble six foot height as needed. This is a good lesson for home tomato growers. Many home growers don't trim indeterminates. Doing so can make for a stronger, thicker plant adding to harvest totals. Irrigating and fertilizing 52 acres of tomatoes is powered by a large farm irrigation pump system.
We were permitted to walk through the area and take pictures. These plants are managed beautifully. There were copius amounts of grape tomatoes at all phases of ripeness. Harvesting starts at one end of the farm and by the time they get to the other end they are ready to start all over again. Looking closer at the plants there is a blend of green and all phases of ripeness to red.
The State of Florida deems any phase of color other than green can be considered vine ripened. The pickers seem to pick everything from yellow-orange to bright red. The tomatoes are then sorted by color and quality in the packing facility.
The growing is based on raised rows covered mostly by white plastic mulch with the irrigation system running throughout the farm. The plants are supported by six foot high stakes strung with multi level wire. Because these plants are topped regurally the plants grow very wide and the fruit can be deep inside the vines.
Soil in Florida ranges from sand to clay. The farm had a nice sand ratio that tomatoes thrive in. The farm had rich soil just under the sandy top. The Ruskin region is known to have marl in the soil. Marl is a nutrient rich, usually a calcium or lime based, blend of mud and clay. Marl based soil often has a spongy feel. Beyond the inherent minerals in this type of soil, it also has the ability to absorb fertilizer without it being depleted during irrigation. This farm's soil in combination with the beautiful Florida weather it is easy to see why the Ruskin area is so productive. Anyone know where a home tomato farmer can get some marl?
Farm Manager Johnny Guerrero runs a tight operation. Johnny was a great help during our farm visit. The DiMare farm is a great organization both in the smoothness of it's operation and it's involvement in the community.
Tony DiMare was a major influence in keeping the Ruskin Tomato and Heritage alive. Some of these delicious Grape tomatoes made an appearance at the Ruskin Tomato & Heritage Festival
Special thanks to Tony DiMare and Johnny Guerrero, Farm Manager, for their hospitality. Visiting the DiMare Packing Facility and Grape Tomato Farm was a unique experience.
Next is our review of the
Ruskin Tomato & Heritage Festival
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