Transcript of our Interview with Tony White aka Tony Tomato (Episode 310 Transcript)

March 9, 2022

You can hear the interview with Tony Tomato, or Tony White to those who think about more than the tomato farm and business, in your favorite podcast app.


Tony Tomato episode transcript



tomatoes, business, people, plant, tony, grow, love, produce, restaurants, garden, cherry tomatoes, farmer, heirloom tomatoes, big, farm, pounds, market, year, started, person


Tony Tomato, Grounded by the Farm – Janice Person


Grounded by the Farm – Janice Person 00:03

Food is more than just what’s on our plate. It’s the places where it’s grown. It’s the people who grow it and so much more. Join me, Janice person, your host on grounded by the farm every other week as we talk about the foods we love. I first met Tony White, when I was with a big group of people, we were at a chef driven restaurant if you’re in St. Louis, it’s called Edge wild out in Chesterfield. And Tony was bringing in the tomatoes. And we were eating some of the most glorious tomatoes as an appetizer there. What a great introduction to a farmer. And there are quite frankly, very few ways to beat that. I mean, what a halo for a person when you’re enjoying the food. And then he comes in, and they introduce him as Tony tomato, I have to say it was pretty powerful. Now I understand, Tony, that he got into all of this, because you are working in the market related to the Yellow Pages. But that market was tanking and really getting stressful. And all of that stress and trying to find a way to relieve it is really what led you on a path where you became Tony Tomato.


Tony Tomato  01:13

You know, everything was by accident, you know, you and I had had a chance to chat. You know, I have a background in marketing, and started running into some problems. And it was becoming stressful. I’m not a gym person. And then I had met this older gentleman who owns land down in the creek core bottoms, right by the lake and right by the airport. And he suggested that why don’t you try a garden? And I said, Okay, and so all of a sudden I had this little plot of land, and it was probably the size of 25 yards, right and, and I put a lot of energy and I lost 20 pounds that summer working in that garden. And you know, it was the year that we had that wind gust that came through and tore up the airport. Oh, yeah. Okay, where that went through Maryland Heights, and it went right across the farm. And it broke freeze. He has hogs in the property, they got out, they got into my garden, every everything got into the garden. I mean, it was just it was a total failure. I mean, at the end of the season, I just had two plates of peppers. And the farmer laughed. And you know, and the person that was at that time, she kind of chuckled and said, Okay, well looks like you’re not too good at this thing here. But you know, I’m a pretty motivated person, very competitive. And that led to the next year where we fenced in four acres of the 17 and started the garden. And then from and then from there, everything that I put into the ground grew, and we had so much produce that was coming in. And it was it was just everywhere. I had to solicit everyone that we knew who knew how to can. And you know, from that year, we made watermelon jelly. We had tomato jams, we, you know, we pickled tomatoes, we took, you know, carrion peppers and made mustard out of it here. And it was just, I mean, it was a real fun time. But it was a lot of work that was involved. And the person I was involved with at that time said, Look, if you’re going to do this garden thing next year, if we can’t consume this food in three days, just take it across the street and sell it. I said, Well, that’s a great idea. And it just happened that a restaurant from the Hill had relocated a second location there in Chesterfield, Baldwin called me a syrup. And you know, it was just, I mean, you’re talking 75 yards away from our house. So we walked across and had dinner on potentially a good relationship with the, you know, with the owner. And you know, we’ll come back to that a little bit later on, because that is that was the beginning of how this business got started. And I walked in and I said, Steve, I think I can grow tomatoes. And he said these words. I will buy everything that you produce, if it’s picked at the peak of perfection.


Janice Person  04:10

Oh, yeah.


Tony Tomato  04:13

And I just smiled and I said, You better watch out because here I come right. It was like the first week of July that year. My two young kids, you know, I had them working the farm and you know, just really getting them engaged. And you know, my daughter is she’s on her way to become a doctor who based on nutrition and I just kind of wonder, wow, eating those tomatoes in the field. I wonder what that was that part of you know, what gave her the influence of wanting to eat healthy, but we showed up that night with 300 pounds of heirloom tomatoes. And the craziest thing the people that own cafe Napoli were were dining next to the restaurant next door of just a burger place next door. He came out and it was like 830 at night so picture Here’s Steve Conrad, and Andy piuttosto. And these guys are in a bidding war over the tomatoes that we have that are epic on the tailgate of our truck. And my youngest son, his eyes were just so big. It was just like, wow, well, what’s going on here? And that night, we wound up selling those 300 pounds for about $800. Because $850 And the kids were just like, whoa. So I turned to them and said, Here’s a check. Here’s your here’s your, your false cool clothes. Enjoy. But Steve komarek won the bid that night. And then I remember telling Andy, I’ll see you on Tuesday. Because you know, once your home starts coming in, you got tomatoes coming right in. And then that’s just how this thing got started. And I went from him, I went to any guns. And they said, Yes, I went to edge wild where we met at and they said, Sure, we’ll take it. I walked over the across the street to yours. And all of a sudden, I got this tomato business.


Janice Person  05:55

You became Tony Tomato.


Tony Tomato  05:57

Right? You know. And it was funny though, the one of my customers called me. So there’s a tomato guy, his name is Tony, Tony tomato, tomato. I said, Okay, I guess if it sticks, it works. And, you know, I had spent some time in New York with the pub with the telephone company. And I met some corporate consultants in that area. And I kind of called him and I said, Hey, I got this thing going and is actually having a better stickiness than my publication is, I don’t know. And he goes, Well, you need to, you know, stick with it. Stick with the slogan, you know, like, for instance, KFC, Kentucky Fried Chicken, right? Famous Amos cookies, you know, the Men’s Wearhouse. He goes, You have to, as a business, try to distinguish yourself from everybody else. He goes, a tomato is just a tomato, but it becomes a Tony tomato, then there’s a connection that people have with it. I love


Janice Person  06:53

  1. I love it. So you started out with heirloom tomatoes, sort of big slicing tomatoes,


Tony Tomato  06:59

right? The steak, your traditional red tomatoes and heirloom tomatoes. And that’s how this thing got started. And then it led into the cherry tomatoes. And then, you know, all of a sudden, when you start getting into farming in Missouri, our season is not quite, you know, I mean, it’s warm here, you know, I mean, we like a lot of people like to plant in April. But you got to be careful, because it could snow in April, and I could kill everything that you got going on, right. But, you know, we figured out a way to turn our field three times. So we’ll start with Cole crops, and then we’ll get into the tomatoes and we get into some of the fall crops. And, you know, my God, the things that I grow are based on what my chefs want. And that’s, that’s how it that’s what pretty much determines what’s happening.


Janice Person  07:48

That’s awesome. So are you still on that same farm? Or where you started gardening?


Tony Tomato  07:53

I am? I am. Yes, we are. Yeah, so there was three of us that was out there. Now there’s just two of us. And so we just kind of split right down the middle. And, you know, he’s the one that has the big tractor, but you know, I’ll I bring in folks or whatever it needs to get done. You know, if I, if it’s over my scope, or you know, if I can, you know, do it in the course of the day, then I’ll solicit some help. And, you know, there’s a lot of people that like getting their hands dirty, and they go, Oh, I love to have a garden, I always try to encourage them, don’t worry about a garden, come out, come out and give me him here, you know, we’ll get we’ll get that filled, we’ll get all the garden in that you want. And you get a chance to have a bunch of fresh, fresh, fresh produce throughout the course of the year as well.


Janice Person  08:32

Yeah, it’s funny. I think people tend to think it’s great to have a garden, but most of us start doing it. And it’s so much work that if you can find community gardens where you can contribute or something, it seems to work better for some of us, some of us want the autonomy of doing their own thing, but others of us are like, I think maybe somebody else who knows what we’re doing would be


Tony Tomato  09:00

well, you know, if you Yeah, I mean, here in the Midwest, you don’t have to go far to run into someone who has a grandparent that loves tomatoes and they spent their life you know, figuring it out how to grow them and and they want to kind of follow their footsteps because you know, there is nothing like a fresh tomato if you love them. I mean that that juiciness and flavor is just incredible. And I’m Southern


Janice Person  09:24

and they say in that movie still Magnolia is you know you’re not southern if you’re not growing tomatoes, so Oh, I still grow up but I keep some sugars this small orange, cherry tomatoes at my front door. Okay, there you go. And this summer as you can my go.


Tony Tomato  09:42

Yeah, well, you know, I know that you mentioned that. You know, there’s a lot of people that really they see the big heirloom tomatoes and they want to plant them right and they make the common mistakes of either over watering them and they you know, and not trimming those plants so that the nutrients are getting to already Have a lot of animals that really will decimate what’s going on girls


Janice Person  10:05

kill you in my neighborhood. But the orange tomatoes, they don’t eat as much they don’t. The color is not as bright or something, it doesn’t attract them as much.


Tony Tomato  10:14

I don’t know. That’s, yeah, that’s strange. But I always encourage people just to grow cherry tomatoes, just skip the, the planter boxes and put it on your porch and watch them grow. And you’ll produce so many tomatoes, you know, and there’s so many different varieties of colors that you’ll have a lot more success and you will, you know, trying to grow the beef sticks. I know the people from burpee, or they don’t want to hear that. But that’s just what I just tell everybody, you know, again, yeah, we’re big tomatoes, and you live in St. Louis, come out to the farm, we’ll always forget to do


Janice Person  10:45

well. And we had talked to somebody the other day who grew processing tomatoes, and the idea of getting disease if you plant the same spot, and ones are resistant to this disease, or that disease and all that kind of stuff. So we’ve talked about that with a farmer how complicated it could get. So maybe I should ask you, how many varieties? Are you planning now that you’ve gotten the Tony tomato business going?


Tony Tomato  11:11

You know, that’s a very good question. How many varieties do I plant today? Well, when I started, I had 10 to 15 varieties that I tried growing. Yep. Now, I learned fast that some will grow better than others, right. But the other concern becomes, let’s say if I, if I planted a black Krim Okay, which is a nice, colorful cool tomato, but only had 30 plants out. And if you’re averaging, you know, 10 to 15 pounds, well, that’s only 300 pounds of that particular variety. And in depending on how you staggered Fantine them, they could all come in together at the same time. Now, when you’re you know, dealing with a lot of customers 300 pounds, the tomatoes don’t last long when you’re, you know, when you’re trying to encourage them to have a really nice tomato salad. Right? Yeah. So, so today, you know, I usually have somewhere between 18 120 500 plants for tomatoes that I grew up, wow. Right? Yeah, it’s it, but that’s nothing compared to my neighbor, who might have 10, you know, 10,000 and some of the people that, that college that I contract with, you know, they may have 20,000 plants, but they’ve got the space and they have the labor to kind of make things happen and they can grow it, you know, the varieties that I want. So, I usually grow one or two different varieties of red tomatoes. And that’s what I had out in the air. Now I may put in, you know, 150, you know, mountain gold or something with some color that I have it because sometimes some of the farms that I that we have to bring the product back, you know, it’s it’s, it’s an hour, hour and a half drive to get to their place. But and I may have a customer who just had a massive runoff or sell off or sometimes even says Tony I need 300 pounds of yellow tomatoes, I’m like, Okay, how are we going to coordinate this, you know, so I do keep an additional variety at the farms. And I don’t grow cherry tomatoes, because I just don’t have the labor to pick them, you know, when you like your son gold, I mean, that plant could have, you know, 5060 tomatoes that you’re picking at that time. And that takes a lot of time to collect and gather all of those items off the plant there. So I just like let’s get this you know, six to 10 ounce, 12 ounce or even a one pound tomato, and let’s just pick it and go. It looked beautiful and we’d run out there. But now you know four different heirlooms you know one of the farms will have five different varieties that are grown there. And then I have another farm that grows cherry tomatoes for me and there may be 15 different variety of cherry tomatoes that are out there. But again, the success there is they have young kids that are out in the field picking and you know and I try to encourage them because I come to pick them up. I’m not their fan that week. They’re like you know I couldn’t play because we had to pick these cherry tomatoes Tony


Janice Person  14:19

I love it. I have a friend who has three daughters and they do three daughters tomatoes or something


Tony Tomato  14:26

especially younger group and well would they Prusa very nice heirlooms they


Janice Person  14:30

they’re they do a great job Eric and his girls so how they pay for college I think it’s the deal. So how often do you plant tomatoes? Do you start planting and continue planting for a period of time or more moving out of one set of crops into another?


Tony Tomato  14:50

So very good question and you you want it so here’s here’s the the tomato game okay. Everybody has spring fever, right? Everybody wants to reach out and plant that tomato, because you know, we’ll have, you know, 6065 degree weather days in April, right. And it may be the course of a four or five day period. Well, every grower right now is already starting to plant the tomato seeds. Okay. And so they’re going to be ready to sell you those, those three inch potted tomato plants, right? Yeah, that’s the business. Right. And, and every, you know, wholesaler, you know, big box store is going to have some tomato plants around. Okay? So I try to go a little less at the very beginning because of the risk, right? So up in what I’ve learned here in Missouri, and you got your every soil is every climate is different, right? I mean, if I put something in the ground of April 15, because I just got to get it out on my system, in my anxieties, you just go on so crazy. And then I plant may 1, you know, two weeks later, Well, ironically enough, you know, 72 days later, 80 days later, all those tomato plants are still ripening at the same time. So I really haven’t gained anything except for just burned off some additional energy, right? So I’ve learned to be a little patient. And so the first so usually around May 1, for Mother’s Day, you know, is kind of what I kind of gear for, right? If it’s at the beginning of the month, I’ll try to put in 700 to 1000 plants, the first planting, okay, and then I’ll wait another 45 days, and I’ll do another plan. And then another 30 days, I’ll do my final planting, because what I was starting to say is there’s a point where the market is saturated with tomatoes, right? And I mean, everybody, you know, once a crop comes in, you got to have a place to go with it, right. And as a person who’s trying to, you know, keep the consistency going, I don’t really try to you know, run with the crowd, right? I’m okay, you know, let’s get their product out there. Because the market prices, its supply and demand correct at the great supply is great, the price is going to be lower. And so I’ll you know, work with that. But again, my growers, I come in every year with an average, this is what happened last year, here’s a fair market price that I’m going to pay you to produce, you know, X 1000s of pounds for me each week, okay? And what they what we’ve learned, you know, and sometimes it gets very frustrating because the market can really drop because of the supply. But I’m still paying a higher rate for but then when the market, you know, starts to go crazy. Okay, I’m still at a very nice, average, they’re happy, I’m happy. And so that’s kind of how we how we kind of work it. So three plantings a year is what I used to focus on. And then my other folks, I let them kind of do what they want to do on that.


Janice Person  17:59

Nice. So um, I can totally understand that because there’s a point at which you almost can’t give away tomatoes. It’s not like zucchini. People don’t. People aren’t that desperate to get rid of them. But there’s definitely more high flavored tomatoes in the market at one time. So it makes sense if that’s not your peak. Customers, they get them from lots of


Tony Tomato  18:24

sources, right? Remember, you know, Janice, Mike, my mission is red tomatoes all year long. Right? And so we have to try to make sure that we’re we got the right market balance out there. But also, you know, there’s, there’s so much business out there for everybody. I don’t really stress over that anymore. It’s just like, Okay, do your thing. Because I know in two weeks, you’re going to be out of the game. Okay. Alright, too


Janice Person  18:49

many tomato focused business, it’s like, really awesome. So So you want to have all your lawn study, you work with some farmers that have greenhouses or hoop houses or


Tony Tomato  19:07

and then one that you haven’t even probably heard of, is a glass house. You know, the, the Danish, the Danish folks really have figured out how to grow, you know, indeterminate tomato plants. 15 feet high in a glass house structure the size of seven football fields. And so we’re starting to see that technology show up today. And our markets, I’m at least for the last five years or so it’s really started making an appearance and they’re producing a tomato. That’s really decent. I mean, you know, yesterday, it was 60 degrees, right. And, you know, I was at a family friend’s barbecue and you know, I brought in Capri salads, and they’re like, well, these tomatoes. That’s right. That’s exactly right. And so


Janice Person  19:54

I found that in the in North America that typically is out in British Columbia and but The Vancouver area typically has that kind of glass house.


Tony Tomato  20:04

Yeah, well, you know, in Vancouver, I mean, it’s beautiful up there, but you also have grey skies that are just insane. You know, surprisingly enough, we actually receive more moisture here in St. Louis than they do in Vancouver, but it’s just so consistent that canopy cover is just there. So those glass houses, you know, they really, you know, the temperatures are 70 degrees, and they can control the lighting and, you know, and I mean, those tomatoes are right, and ideal growing conditions, and it seems to work. So when, you know, so we start around May planting, right. And then usually, the first hard frost is what Noxus the local stuff out the market, right? I mean, they’re, they’re gone, you know, I mean, that frost hits. And you would think, I mean, like my growers, they disappear for the where they’re like, see you later, right. Now, I’ve talked to a couple of them who have high tunnels, you know, because we can lift the sides up and let air pass through and try to keep everything flowing that way. And so I usually rely on them, you know, October, early October, because there’s a little overlap, because we still have some, you know, if it’s an Indian farmer, or you know, or Indian winter, you know, fall, were great, but then we’ll, we’ll go right about to December, then we’ll start transitioning from the high tunnels to the glass house, and maybe a few greenhouses and then that glass house provides us tomatoes all the way up until May. Okay, so there’s that overlap, you know, that’s there. So that’s how we’re able to kind of keep our business going all year long in providing, you know, decent tomato.


Janice Person  21:44

That’s amazing. So are there other tomato brokers or tomato specialist? Us? I mean, in each big market? Is there somebody like you?


Tony Tomato  21:55

You know, um, no, there really isn’t because and that’s, you know, it’s really funny, because I do have some friends that are in the, you know, the food business that work for some of the big distributors, you know, there’s, you know, like us foods, PNG, kunas, old time, produce, you know, those folks are out there, but they really focus on so many other things from you know, they want to serve as the whole restaurant, or schools for prisons, I mean, that’s where their business is at. And, you know, tomatoes is just kind of been like, Okay, well, we don’t really have the proper facility, you know, the keep those tomatoes at, you know, 50 degrees, we just don’t want to allocate that we just want to just bring us in the tomatoes from, you know, down south or from wherever, you know, Florida will produce a few tomatoes at this time of year. And we’ll gas them because they’re green, and we’ll ship them across. And, you know, there’s a lot of businesses that really, you know, still don’t have that much of desire to put a great tomato on. But there are other restaurants that do and you can see, you know, once you start having that happen, then you’re gonna obviously gravitate to them, but there’s people they just do volume, you know, I mean, all day long.


Janice Person  23:09

So, you’ve mentioned you took a caprese salad. Is that one of your favorite ways to eat tomatoes? What are the other dishes that you go to?


Tony Tomato  23:19

Oh my goodness for tomatoes? Well, I mean, the Caprese salad is fantastic because it’s just such a mind blowing thing the walk in with this guy these tomatoes are red and they’re flavorful, right? I love that. You know, I just mind my thing I just uncovered this past year was finding some real fresh burrata and then putting that on top of the top of the tomato that’s I mean, I just That’s delicious. In the summer I there’s just something that’s just so beautiful about you know, a big variety of heirloom tomatoes and then you mix heirloom tomatoes with green cherry tomatoes, some of your son gold, you know, types of tomatoes, and you know, there’s small little black ones and then that just presentation just really blows you away. And I love salsa, also, I mean, that’s the other thing we were at, you know, Super Bowl party and here’s some salsa that comes in and hey, the tomatoes are red, they’re not you know, translucent, you know? So, I mean, obviously I love tomatoes.


Janice Person  24:18

Again, bang because you probably spend a lot of time focused on


Tony Tomato  24:21

  1. Right? And then you know, and it’s so funny, you know, I I’m six years from a divorce and so I’ve been you know, I was dating for a while and one of my criteria is every time I ask somebody is it so do you like tomatoes?


Janice Person  24:36

It’s a screening question,


Tony Tomato  24:38

right? Because if you don’t you’re we’re not gonna make it honey. Okay? Because you’re gonna have males coming out of your you’re gonna hear tomatoes conversations all day long. You know?


Janice Person  24:49

Funny I thought in the Midwest that was more sweet corn has southerners I think southerners love their tomatoes more than the Midwest. But, Tony, you’re making me think that there are others like me in the area that just love tomatoes, somebody


Tony Tomato  25:04

paid by color sweet corn is delicious as well, too. Oh,


Janice Person  25:07

I did not mean any slack towards sweet. Folks in this part of the world can talk about sweet corn way more than I can I can talk about tomatoes a lot longer. One of the things I wanted to ask you, you kind of mentioned how you got into restaurants with all these different people just happen to be right next door or right across the street? How did you deal with COVID, and I kind of watch you on Instagram and stuff. So I kind of think I know a little bit of it. But like many farmers, your market, just kind of tank overnight, but you probably already had a lot of tomatoes in the ground. And we’re starting more tomatoes in the ground.


Tony Tomato  25:51

When, you know, it was very interesting, because I had a very good friend who used to who was a scientist. And she worked with Monsanto. And I was we were watching the Super Bowl. And we were watching what was going on overseas in Italy and China. And she looked at me and she said, this is going to be really bad. And I didn’t know how to gauge that. Right? You know, because today she’s she’s a therapist, and you know, they’re always calm about everything, right? But she said, No, this is going to be really bad. We need to order some some M 95 Mask, and you need to get your house your business in order. So I looked at well, what where am I? Where am I you know, weaknesses out with my with my business. And like most people, you know, when you’re the main guy, you’re the ship captain and crew, right. And so I my focus is I love engaging with my chefs, I love selling the product. I’ll send the invoice coming to check when you when you get a chance. Right. And that was a an area that I I felt that if we were going to have some problems, I really need to get my act together and tighten that up. And so I did have an aging report that was a rapid I mean, it was it was out of control, right. I mean, I had quite a few people that were in the 60 to 90 day window. And so when we, you know, started focus over, you know, I had, you know, my accountant, and I said, Okay, let’s start getting our invoices out and start getting some reminders. And let’s start making sure that we cover our bases, we really started covering the gap there. And there was, you know, there was almost an annual salary that was floating out there, that we were able to reel it in, you know, within an acceptable number. Okay. But when that when they announced the shutdown, I had no idea that that was ever going to be conceived or it was coming, it was a big punch in the gut. And everything was doing for two weeks, like everybody else, we just hid under our beds, you know, make sure that we were out of sight, you know, it came to me that the grocery store lines are starting to get, you know, people were making the run for the, for the toiletry items, you know, which was like insane, and, you know, all of a sudden, oh, wait a minute, we’re not gonna have any more cows, we’re not going to have to, I mean, there was still produce that was being produced. But we just had to figure out how to get it to the people and, and people were, you know, the lines at every grocery store. I mean, it was just ridiculous. They were lining up around and, and so he said, All right, let’s kind of pivot to the Start pivoting to home delivery. Now, as farmers and as business people, one of the things that we don’t have as a lot of time, right. But, you know, the environment that I grew up in with my mom, it was always about community service and involvement. You know, in her case it was with the church and then today for me is just with the different businesses, you know, like the Chesterfield Chamber of Commerce or just for regional. So I’ve been involved with them, their golf committee, you know, have those those assignments got involved with their, you know, their quarterly publication out and about, and when the pandemic hit. Now, you know, the other media sources are looking for story and suggestions. Hey, can we identify some folks? You know, the Post Dispatch reached out and they said, you know, in Seattle, we’ve done this, we we identified seven different businesses and then we just kind of followed them throughout this whole piece. Would you like to be part of that? And so because it gave me some great exposure to here’s this whole new business that I’m or whole new entity within my business that I’m trying to get involved for i and then that led to Fox News, Chris Haynes coming out saying, Hey, we like to do a story on you because you’re local, and we’re hearing this and that synergy, just kind of really just helped me explode into this whole other division within my company. And so that’s what really kind of got me through the whole process, you know, the restaurants kind of figured out how to open back up, but they still were really slow and into, you know, coming back to the tomato volume that I had, because, you know, everybody’s trying to survive Right? and willing to buy a $3 pound tomato when they can get one for $1. They just said, We just, we just want to throw something on the menu. I mean, on it, right? So I had to work through that. But then there were some of my good, better restaurants in the area here, really said, you know, we’re still going to continue to serve even on the takeout stuff, because you want people to experience the quality. And, you know, I mean, takeout food isn’t the same as having the dining indoor dining experience, right. And so that’s what some of them were really concerned with. But they said soon as we start to open back up at the 25% of 40%, then things are starting to grow. And then I also realized, well, I have this food delivery business now. You know,


Janice Person  31:00

what else? Can you deliver? A?


Tony Tomato  31:03

Right, right. Yes. You know, I mean, you know, so we, I mean, it’s the produce box has everything in it. I mean, you know, as you know, right before our meeting today, I was just laying out the list of things that I need to pick up from some of the wholesalers, because I mean, I don’t grow potatoes, right, or oranges and stuff like that. But I work with a couple of distributors, and I pick up those items from them, as we build these boxes out. But we still have local butternut squash, we still have locally grown acorns, you know, the fall crops?


Janice Person  31:33

Yeah, exactly. How has your business kind of recovered them, because restaurants are back pretty much to normal around here, some staffing issues and stuff. So they’re not, you know, necessarily back to where they were before, but pretty normal. And then you have this extra delivery business? Have you somehow been able to grow your business throughout all this? Now?


Tony Tomato  31:57

We, you know, the pandemic did claim a good portion of restaurants. Yep. This year, I’ve been tracking the numbers, you know, of sales, prior to COVID. Going into COVID. And then currently now, and so the numbers that I’ve been that I’ve posted, you know, for January, were very close to what pre COVID numbers were. Okay, so the trend is climbing up. I mean, I know, even with this month, right? When I look at two years ago, you know, it isn’t quite what those numbers were. But they’re better than last year. Okay. And I mean, when I say better than last year, I mean, I’ve already have exceeded about 25% of what I did the year before. And I still have another 10 days ago within this month. So I’m going to have a pretty decent month here, provided we can still get out to the restaurants without ice and snow and stuff like that. Because this this brother doesn’t get out on the icy roads, okay.


Janice Person  33:03

I don’t either. I don’t either. If people want to get a produce box here in St. Louis, or if they think oh my gosh, I would love to know more about how you can get those kinds of tomatoes. Where do people find you?


Tony Tomato  33:20

Yeah, the easiest way is just to type in Tony tomato or go to Facebook or Instagram or Tony white and you know on Instagram you’ll see me pop up and the slogan is tomato Tony Tony or Tony tomato underscore tomato Tony but the easiest one is on Facebook and just type in Tony’s family farms. And then you’ll see it pop up and if if you want to be more specific Tony family farms, Tony tomato, and then you’ll see the site appear and they just send me a message. Sign up for our newsletter on our website. It’s you know, the website is tomato Tony dot XYZ and you every two weeks we’ll send out a newsletter. And it will tell you what’s kind of happening and will kind of give you some tips on what you should be doing with your farm. You know what your gardening and if you want to buy a produce box, that would be the time you sign up. And it’s very simple. There’s no subscription required. Our produce boxes are a little bigger than other folks. I know there’s some people that will do a $25 produce box. Ours are with tax you know, local taxes is $65.80 but it’s a lot of produce that we drop off.


Janice Person  34:28

Yeah, and things like tomatoes, potatoes and onions and stuff. Those are things that you can keep around for a little bit.


Tony Tomato  34:36

Right You know, I mean, like I said, you know, what, you know, we do a lot of work with Operation food search. And as we were you know, creating a custom box for them. You know, they indicated that they love cabbage, I’m not a fan of cabbage but you know there’s a lot of people that can do a lot of things with cabbage so we just follow their lead because we like you know, we listen to what your


Janice Person  34:56

miter look my mace was making egg rolls. Let’s Nice I’m sure she had some cabbage and ball


Tony Tomato  35:02

Okay, all right all right. Learn something today.


Janice Person  35:08

Well Tony, thank you so much for joining us on the show. I really appreciate it.


Tony Tomato  35:12

Thank you Janice for having me in. Good seeing you again. Okay.



And seeing you


Grounded by the Farm  35:18

and that wraps up our episode with Tony tomato talking all things tomato is pretty much the sweet spot for me. would appreciate it if you have friends that you know love great restaurants and love a great caprese salad. Give them a chance to give this a listen send them the link on your favorite platform. Just tell them hey you guys out of here this encourage them to listen to some of the back episodes. You can always find us on social media or check out our website grounded by the farm calm. Talk to you again in two weeks.

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