Tomato Shortage Not As Big Of A Deal In Minnesota

OWATONNA (WCCO) — Minnesotans may have heard there is somewhat of a tomato shortage across the nation because tomatoes in Florida and Mexico froze this winter. However, it may not be as bad here in Minnesota.

At a Wendy’s restaurant south of the Twin Cities, the sign at the drive-thru says tomatoes are given by request only. WCCO-TV crews requested one on our hamburger and got one.

Just a few miles away in Owatonna, there are thousands of tomatoes. Bushel Boy Farms grows five to six million pounds a year. The tomatoes fill up six huge greenhouses on 20 acres of land.

Jay Johnson founded Bushel Boy Farms 21 years ago.

“We can harvest a tomato when they’re red, ripe, like you would out of a garden and have it in the store, most of them, the next day,” he said. “We used to have to use like a giant electric toothbrush that would vibrate each flower, vibrate the pollen out of it.”

Now, the plants are pollinated by bees that are flown in from Detroit.

“Every week on our way back from delivering tomatoes we have a pickup of bumble bees,” said Johnson.

Bushel Boy Farms grows Vine-On, Beefsteak and Baby Boy tomatoes year round in a climate-controlled environment.

All the major grocery stores in the Twin Cities sell Bushel Boys. So do some high-end restaurants and some schools.

“We are just in the Minnesota market so we have people from Iowa and Wisconsin calling,” said Johnson.

However, Bushel Boy Farms can’t take on a lot of new customers right now.

“We really have the same amount of tomatoes we had a year ago when there wasn’t a freeze. So, they are kind of already spoken for,” said Johnson.

Shoppers in the Twin Cities, Mankato and Rochester are in luck.

“We charge the same as we did a year ago. We’ve kind of set that up in advance and we don’t change that,” said Johnson.

Fast food chains like Wendy’s may have to wait until next month to get Florida’s next crop of tomatoes.

  • tom

    Hmm, tomatoes in winter, maybe we should start growing all our veggies and fruits in state. But the question remains, why do tomatoes not taste like garden tomatoes? I think we need more of this type of manufacturing or food growing in minnesota. Good job. Now if they would serve only the 5 state area, mexico could keep there crap.

  • Katie

    I’m impressed! Here’s a small business owner who gave his word LAST YEAR as to the cost of his product, and despite the market, did NOT break his word! Kudos to you, Mr. Johnson, and Bushel Boy Farms. It’s nice to see that corporate greed has NOT gotten to everyone.

    • Sky

      If a small business gave their word to stick to something, they know they better stick to it, even in rough times, because those who he kept his word to will remember, stay with him, and spread positive word of mouth! And when things get better, those customers will keep taking care of him just as he took care of them! That’s how a good business is run. Way to go Mr Johnson and Bushel Boy Farms! I’m very glad you are leading by example!! Just wish more business would follow your example!

  • Iconoclast

    I’m having some of these vine ripened wonders right now. It’s a nice perk to have in the middle of winter. Too bad the whole deal is not sustainable. Eventually it will just cost to much to heat and light that much green house in the winter. Perhaps they could lead the way in some sort of alternative energy for their farm.

  • NOMW

    When I have a choice, I will always pick Bushel Boy tomatoes because of Mr Johnson’s integrity. Thank you for being such a great example.

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