“We thought by doing a tomato contest, it would be a way just to promote the market and to get people out there,” said Lauren Brunette, coordinator for Community Health Network’s Healthy Bartow initiative. “I think tomatoes are one of the most popular items at the market during the summertime, and ... [this would be] an opportunity for people to taste the tomatoes and to give their input to the farmers. It’s more engaging for the community.
“Our plan will be for the Community Health Network to purchase some of the tomatoes from the farmers, granted that they will allow us to buy them, and cut them up. Then we’re going to have a table laid out with the different tomatoes from [each participating] vendor. Then we’ll just kind of offer taste testing for people just to come by and taste the tomatoes and kind of rank them, [such as] who has the prettiest tomato or who has the ugliest tomato, the largest tomato, just different judging contests.”
Started in the early 1980s by the late Bartow County Extension Agent Walter Culverhouse, the Cartersville Farmer’s Market operates Wednesdays and Saturdays from June 1 to Sept. 28, 7 a.m. to noon.
This year — after a town hall meeting was conducted in 2012 — vendor permit fees were implemented to help strengthen the market through increased promotion, additional activities and providing farmers an assigned selling space. The vendor permits — $20 for season, $10 for monthly and $5 for daily/weekly — can be obtained at the Welcome Center, One Friendship Plaza in Cartersville.
“One of the things that this festival will do is for folks that maybe don’t garden, it’ll be an opportunity to see what we can grow in Bartow County as far as variety of tomatoes,” Bartow County Extension Coordinator Paul Pugliese said. “A lot of people might not realize this but there are hundreds of varieties as far as colors and shapes and sizes and different flavors. There’s a lot of heirloom varieties that people have never even heard of before.
“So that might be a good chance to either share what you’re growing [or] taste it to see what the different varieties are. And again it’s all in good fun as far as the competition here. It’s just a good chance to see what else is out there. It’s not just your sandwich tomatoes that you see at the grocery store. You’re going to see all different types.”
With Bartow experiencing ample rainfall over the past few months, Pugliese said tomatoes, like other crops, have been negatively impacted.
“It’s been a challenge, for me included, trying to grow tomatoes this year with all the rain,” he said. “We’re getting a lot of leaf-spot diseases and permanent wilt-type diseases on tomatoes and a lot of that has to deal with just way too much rain this year. A lot of gardeners, if they’re having success with those tomatoes, they’ve either really been lucky to have a well-drained garden or one that dries out very quickly when it does rain and/or they’re using fungicide to try to avoid some of those disease problems.
“... But yes, that’s been a challenge. Some varieties are going to be more resistant and tolerant to leaf-spot diseases than others. So this is a good year to figure out which varieties perform the best under this intense rain pressure. That might be a good chance for gardeners and farmers to make a checklist of those that perform well and those that didn’t for future reference.”
For more information about the Cartersville Farmer’s Market, call 770-607-3480 or visit its Facebook page, Facebook.com/cartersvillefarmersmarket. To enter the Tomato Festival’s contest, farmers are encouraged to email Brunette at firstname.lastname@example.org.