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Giving Back: Let the tomato bragging begin

PAULINA — The River Region’s farming roots will be on display next week at the 7th Annual St. James Parish Tomato Field Day.

Al Orgeron and Mariah Bock speak at a previous St. James Parish Tomato Field Day.

Al Orgeron and Mariah Bock speak at a previous St. James Parish Tomato Field Day.

The open event takes place at 5:30 p.m. June 4 at T-Black Millet, located at 2124 Millet St. in Paulina.

Field day activities will include discussions on new tomato, bell pepper and cucumber varieties, insect issues and controls, and disease issues and controls.

Organizers hope the seasoned grower and novice gardener attend, picking up valuable tips along the way.

“We hope that growers and gardeners will learn more about newer varieties that have good disease resistance, how to better control diseases and insects in their fields and gardens and be encouraged to try some of these newer varieties available on the market today,” St. James Parish Horticulture Agent Craig M. Roussel said. “Also, the garden contest results and biggest tomato contest adds some fun to the day with good clean competition and bragging rights for local residents.”

The event, put on jointly by the LSU AgCenter, West St. James Farm Bureau and East St. James Farm Bureau, provides plenty of opportunity for bragging rights.

A taste test of the tomato varieties planted for the field day is planned, along with the announcement of the 2015 Youth and Adult Garden Contest winners.

By popular demand, the second annual Biggest Tomato Contest returns. First time winner Willy Martin Sr. said a recent surgery has slowed his gardening, but he plans to get back in the outdoor groove as soon as possible.

“I raise almost everything I eat,” said Martin, 82. “I was raised on a farm so I have always liked fooling with that, so I still like doing it. I’m sure everything is going to be all right (with my surgery), but it’s going to take awhile. I’ll be back.”

Martin, a Grand Point native, said his children and grandchildren are always waiting to get some of the vegetables he grows.

Those wishing to enter this year’s contest should bring their biggest tomato to the field day. Organizers will have a weigh-in, and the winner will be announced on the spot.

Anyone planning to attend is asked to call the Parish Extension Office at 225-562-2320 by Friday so organizers can properly plan for the event.

Roussel said he is expecting between 150 and 200 people to attend next week’s Tomato Field Day based on the event’s popularity in years past.

“It has become a community event,” Roussel said. “Tomatoes are the most popular home garden vegetable. Additionally, St. James Parish has a history of growing tomatoes commercially for local sales to retail stores and roadside customers.”

Newcomers to gardening are also encouraged to attend.

“It would give someone who does not grow their own (food) a perspective of what is involved in the production practices, including insect and disease issues that growers need to deal with,” he said.