FRESH FROM OUR FARMERS
Tomatoes from Parsons
Published: Wednesday, February 6, 2013 at 4:03 a.m.
Last Modified: Wednesday, February 6, 2013 at 4:03 a.m.
Parsons Homegrown of Fulton fills a very specific niche -- fresh local tomatoes from January through July or August.
Kelley Parsons established her operation in 1994 and it is thriving today. This year, she is growing three varieties: Favorita, a cherry tomato; Geronimo, a red beefsteak, and Yellow Boy, a yellow beefsteak.
In the early 1990s, Kelley and Tom Parsons were starting their family. Their second child had just been born and Kelley was working full-time as an insurance underwriter. She wanted to find a way to make their land generate enough income that she could be at home with her family and, while working on insurance for a business based in Mariposa that included a hydroponic greenhouse operation, she found her inspiration.
Her first year, she sold her tomatoes to Oliver's Market in Cotati. By 1996 or 1997, she became a vendor at area farmers markets. Today, she also sells to several other markets and restaurants.
Tomato seeds are planted in Parsons' 5,800-square foot greenhouse in September and in a typical season, harvest begins in January. The greenhouse holds exactly 1,512 plants, which yield about 1,200 pounds of tomatoes a week.
Solar panels provide electricity for fans, lights and irrigation and natural gas generates the heat the plants require.
A greenhouse operation does not protect plants from all types of weather. If it rains for several days, humidity can become a problem and, if there is an early heatwave, Parsons must respond quickly.
The Parsonses also grow grapes. In 2001, they replanted on old vineyard and now sell their 8½ acres of pinot noir to Siduri Wines each year.
Parsons Homegrown attends began attending the farmers market a couple of weeks ago and will continue to be a vendor until summer tomato season is in full swing.
"I consult with other tomato growers," she explains, "and wind down when they are hitting their stride."
If there is still a lot of fruit at this point, Kelley calls in volunteers to help harvest the tomatoes, which she donates to such local organizations as The Living Room and the Redwood Empire Food Bank.
Parsons Homegrown sells tomatoes to Shelton's Market and Big John's Market in Healdsburg, Molsberry's Market in Santa Rosa, Speers Market in Forestville and to all three Oliver's Markets. John Ash & Co. and Rosso Pizzeria also buy Parsons tomatoes, and you can find them at the Santa Rosa, Healdsburg and Windsor farmers markets.
Michele Anna Jordan hosts "Mouthful" each Sunday at 7 p.m. on KRCB 90.9 & 91.1 FM.
E-mail Jordan at firstname.lastname@example.org.
You'll find her blog, "Eat This Now," at pantry.blogs.pressdemocrat.com
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