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- “We’re not trying to compete with the huge companies growing gassed green tomatoes,” he says. “We grow vine ripes. That’s what sets us apart from the others, and this market is growing very fast.”
He doesn’t want to grow the biggest tomato, as large-volume producers do; rather, Javier Torres has built his career in tomatoes by thinking differently.
“I tell the seed companies I don’t want the number one variety with the big yields and the disease package,” he says. “I’ll find a way to handle the diseases and those problems. What I need is a tomato that tastes good — what I’m doing is all about flavor, taste. If it doesn’t get big, that’s good; if it doesn’t gas well, that’s even better.”
Torres, 38 years old, owns a pair of Florida-based companies that produce and pack tomatoes, Tomato Thyme and Red Diamond Farms.
“We’re not trying to compete with the huge companies growing gassed green tomatoes,” he says. “We grow vine ripes. That’s what sets us apart from the others, and this market is growing very fast.”
It could also set his company apart from the greenhouse-grown Mexican tomatoes, whose reduced prices currently hammer most Florida tomato growers. His company grows Ruby Ripes, Tasti-Lees, grape tomatoes, flavorful peppers, and a bit of squash for rotation.
In 2012, he put big hopes on Tasti-Lees, the new release from the University of Florida. He grew them in the Homestead area, at Wimauma and, later in the season, at Quincy, in the Panhandle.
He then followed the production season northward, growing Tasti-Lees at Dayton, Tenn., Sylva, N.C., and at Old Fort, Ohio.
“They did really well; We’re still excited about them,” Torres says. “We have strong demand from new retailers coming on toward mid-December. We’re going to more than double our acreage of Tasti-Lees.”