Greg Weber is passionate about tomatoes. 80% of his three acres just outside of downtown Grass Valley are planted in tomatoes, whose names read more like an exotic zoo than a seed packet; Green Zebra, Great White, Purple Bumblebee – Greg’s favorite is the Pineapple, and you can try out the hybrid tomato on your burger if you eat at Pine Street Burgers. Actually you can find Greg’s tomatoes in an astonishing number of Nevada County restaurants: Pete’s Pizza, Diego’s, Flour Garden, and Jernigan’s, to name just a few. Nevada County students also get to dine on Greg’s tomatoes – they are a favorite of both Grass Valley School District Child Nutrition Services and the Nevada Joint Union High School District. Not many kids realize that the tomato on their plate is the same one that the chef at the five-star Ritz Carlton in North Star is serving. Greg is a sustainable organic farmer and is actively involved in the farm to table food movement
Grass Valley Charter (GVC) students might find this out next year – they got more than a taste of Greg’s tomatoes when he donated tomatoes to their garden stand last year, and Greg has agreed to be GVC’s official farm partner, providing more tomatoes for the garden stand, giving talks at the school, and inviting students out to experience a tomato farm firsthand.
Greg Weber didn’t plan to be a tomato farmer. He started out by growing
20 tomato plants in his backyard, and giving them away to friends. Greg says: “I didn’t know what I was doing back then and on some level I still don’t.” His methods have evolved since the backyard turned into a farm – he “dry farms” which means he uses 75% less water than a conventional tomato farmer. And he has been saving seeds for five years, honing in on strains that produce the tastiest tomatoes that give the highest yield with the least amount of water.
Greg’s advice to budding young tomato farmers? It’s not all encouraging: “This is one of the hardest jobs I have ever had in my life, from a physical, emotional, and intellectual standpoint. This job will push you to the edge of what you can deal with. It’s not for everyone. So many people try and fail. It’s very difficult to pull off.” In the end though, he loves what he does: “Whatever you do, if you are truly passionate about it, that will come through in your product. That’s what differentiates me at the end of the day.” Greg’s organic tomatoes can be found in restaurants and grocery stores all over Nevada County, including Briar Patch, Natural Selection, and SPD (look for the Greg’s Organics logo). Or, to learn how to get your very own tomato CSA, visit Greg’s website at www.gregsorganics.com.