The North Natomas Tomato Farm

Thursday, April 2, 2009

I bet you didn't know there was a "Tomato Farm" in the North Natomas area did you?

Neither did I. And I live in North Natomas!

Not only is there a Tomato Farm in North Natomas -- as it turns out -- it's in my backyard. As Gomer Pyle once told a non-amused Sergeant Carter, "Surprise, Surprise, Surprise."

I knew these tomato plant starters were coming. But I had no idea they were coming so soon. Coming they are -- as in tomorrow -- just in time for the weekend.

The plants come courtesy of this gentleman to your immediate left. That is Fred Hoffman -- aka -- Farmer Fred Hoffman of KFBK/KSTE radio fame. He and I both encountered enormous success in starting seeds this winter, and those planting efforts have resulted in some rather enormous monsters. The table that Fred is sitting in front of contains the entire stock of Bill & Venus Bird's North Natomas Tomato Farm -- 100 starter plants -- or as Fred calls it -- 44 square feet of "Heirloom Heaven."

Not only that -- but this is just the "first delivery." Yes -- more is to come. The pictures you see here do not contain the sixty odd tomato and pepper plant starters I have growing at home in a spare bedroom, nor does it contain the "other plants" in Fred's greenhouse. In other words -- I've been told to expect a second delivery during the third week in April.

Ain't life grand? The plants will arrive right about the same time as my bees -- but that's another story for another time.

Fred started these plants from seed about two weeks before I started mine. And you can plainly see the obvious advantage of having a greenhouse nearby. My starter plants look pretty good. But they look nothing like the monsters that are about to invade my backyard.

So -- the real question is this: What am I going to do with 100 starter plants? Plant them all? Hah! The backyard is big -- yes -- but not big enough. I posted this little problem on my Facebook Page yesterday for all to see (and laugh at), when a reporter and fellow heirloom tomato afficianado by the name of Hank Shaw picked up on it and ran the following story in today's edition of the Capitol Morning Report:

"It's time again for Bill Bird, spokesman for Sen. Sam Aanestad, to offer scores of tomato seedlings to members of the Capitol community. Some may remember the Great Seedling Massacre of a year ago, in which 150 tomato seedlings that Bird had grown mysteriously perished before the planned giveaway could happen. This time Bird has a backup. He says he struck a deal with Fred Hoffman, host of KFBK radio's garden show, to house a "few" tomato seedlings in his greenhouse. Hoffman just called Bird to tell him that he's delivering 120 seedlings this weekend, which will be combined with the 60 plants that Bird has already started in his home. Needless to say, with nearly 200 such houseguests, Bird is eager, maybe even desperate, to find takers. So, if anyone needs tomato seedlings, contact Bird to pick them up at his house in North Natomas. What varieties you ask? "Let's just say there's a lot," Bird says. The range from Brandywine to Black Krim to Pink Ping Pong to Clint Eastwood's Rowdy Red (seriously). Want to see what 120 tomato seedlings looks like? Well Hoffman has posted up a video of his miniature jungle on YouTube here. Let's hope they don't whither by Sunday....Contact Bird at

Gee, thanks Hank -- especially about that reminder of how I singlehandedly managed to butcher (massacre is also a good word) last year's entire heirloom tomato crop after MONTHS of careful growing efforts inside. It's not like that memory is going to fade anytime soon, but thanks for the reminder pal.

I should also mention that Hank is the proud author of the wildly popular and James Beard Award nominated blog "Hunter Angler Gardener Cook." It also happens to have about twenty times the readership of my blog.

Not that I'm jealous or anything. Nooo.....

As luck would have it, the delivery of this "farm" comes on the eve of what may be the last blast of cold weather in the Sacramento area. The long range forecast looks ominous -- five or six days of rain with lows into the mid forties. I've posted before about the effects of cold weather on young tomato plants, so I'm just a tad nervous. Nothing will get planted -- yet -- but will rather go indoors. I'd rather be safe than sorry.

There's nothing quite like watching a crop go under from blight in June.

Venus and I will perhaps keep anywhere from 15-20 of these for our garden and the rest will be given away to family, friends, associates, or may just find itself mysteriously planted in the front yard of an unsuspecting neighbor.

I can just hear my neighbors now: "Hey! Where did that dang tomato plant come from?" Surprise, Surprise, Surprise...

As much as I like to complain, I must admit, this is a rather fun and exciting problem to have. Get ready growers: Heirloom tomato season is just around the corner.

Don't forget -- check out Fred Hoffman's "monster" tomato plant video here.


Carri-The Queen Bee said...

love the video- and by the look of your facebook page i dont think you're gonna have a hard time finding a home for your plants!

Garry said...

OMG - Bill, you have got a forest there! one lucky guy, hangin' w/ the fred - not any fred, mind you - but THE fred and he even delivers. you are in the cat seat. those look great. my seed buddy delivered my seedlings today, way shorter as this is a learning curve year for us, i also think we need to start these things in the december time frame instead of february. when did fred start his?


Bill Bird said...


Fred started the plants the weekend before the Super Bowl -- last weekend in January. And he admits now that he jumped the gun a bit.

I started mine two weeks later -- the week AFTER the Super Bowl. But I do not have monsters like this. My plants are big -- yes -- but not monster sized. These things are massive.

What you're looking at are the results of a real greenhouse -- and the green thumb of Fred Hoffman.