The other day I had on a polo shirt with a Big Red Tomato Growers logo on it. My son Paul asked me if I had any that said Harllee Packing. They too would become collector’s items, as that long established tomato grower/shipper was going to be closing its doors like Big Red had done some years ago.
The exodus from the Florida tomato deal started when the retiring snowbird population wanted golf courses and condominiums in the Sunshine State. The farmland was worth more for development than it was for agricultural production. The tenuous relationship with imported Mexican tomatoes added more financial strain on the domestic tomato growers. Their decision to sell off land and preserve the family wealth was an economic no-brainer.
Now there seems to be a rash of announcements regarding the future production of tomatoes in Florida. Rumor has it that Tomatoes of Ruskin might be exiting the deal. Triple E is said to be moving out of the US and into Mexico. Del Monte (who purchased the assets of East Coast Tomato) is not planting a tomato crop this fall.
While it is sad to see these long established operations close their doors, there certainly is no shortage of tomatoes in the marketplace. Newer facilities with more efficient production methods will produce fresh market crops, in the necessary quantity, with requisite quality. In a free market, productivity will eventually trump tradition. We wish the exiting growers well and embrace the contemporary producers.