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Fresh From the Farm: Massachusetts Tomatoes Take Center Stage

Posted by James Arena-DeRosa, Northeast Regional Administrator for USDA’s Food and Nutrition Service in Food and Nutrition Farming
Feb 21, 2017
FNS Regional Administrator James Arena-DeRosa judges tomatoes at Tomato Festival in Boston
FNS Regional Administrator James Arena-DeRosa judges tomatoes at Tomato Festival in Boston

Recently tomato farmers from across the Bay State converged on Boston City Hall Plaza seeking top tomato bragging rights at the 26th Annual Tomato Festival.  I joined a panel of food writers, chefs, cookbook authors, grocers, and state officials as we readied our score sheets.

As a first time judge, I rated the slicing category and my top pick Pink Girl took first place!  Farmers’ markets play an important role providing low-income individuals and families with access to healthy and affordable, farm fresh foods. They are the very heart of Know Your Farmer, Know Your Food.

Thanks to a lot of hard work during the past year among federal, state and community partners SNAP/EBT was expanded to 52 markets, including City Hall. This is a perfect example of partners collaborating on creative solutions during these tough economic times to promote healthier eating through increased access to fresh fruits and vegetables.  In the coming year we’ll be working at USDA and with our many partners to help more farmers’ markets gain access to EBT.

Many people don’t think about New England when they talk about farming, but in Massachusetts alone more than 500 farms produce 6.5 million pounds of tomatoes each year.  In fact, earlier this month, USDA ranked Massachusetts sixth in the nation for the number of farmers' markets; there’s 228 and growing.

While I’m tempted to enter my own tomatoes next year, it was too much fun meeting farmers and tasting tomato varieties from across the State so I hope they invite me back!  And finally, congratulations to first place winners Pepperell's Kimball Fruit Farm (slicing, heirloom, & heaviest categories), and Sharon's Wards Berry Farm (cherry category). I’m going to slice my tomato, top it with mozzarella and basil, drizzle a little olive oil and enjoy. Buy local, eat fresh! Find more recipes at USDA’s recipe finder.

Category/Topic: Food and Nutrition Farming