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.