DRACUT — Weighing in at 2.6 pounds, a bright red Brandywine tomato, grown on Brox Farm, has won the coveted trophy for heaviest tomato at the 23rd annual Tomato Festival sponsored by the state Department of Agriculture, the New England Vegetable and Berry Growers Association and the Federation of Massachusetts Farmers Markets.
“The tomato actually weighs more than the trophy,” said Brox Farm proprietor Dave Dumaresq, who attended the event in Boston on Aug. 20. “It’s actually a little smaller than the one we entered last year that came in third place.”
Dumaresq painstakingly nurtures his tomatoes, starting as early as March when the plants begin the growing process in one of the greenhouses on the farm, located on Broadway Road. In May, once they are ready to be transplanted to the field, a thin plastic cover provides a greenhouse effect and protects the plants from rough weather. In June, workers start putting in the stakes and the tomatoes begin to take form.
Among the strawberries, blueberries, apples, peaches, sweet corn, beans, cucumbers, peppers, squash, pumpkins and even Brazilian eggplant on Brox Farm, are the ripe, red tomatoes. The tomatoes, as well as other vegetables, are watered by an elaborate underground irrigation system.
“It’s a main line that’s buried under the fields,” Dumaresq explained. “There are little hydrants at the end of the fields and there are drip-tape hoses that run along the rows. The water only goes to the roots and not to the leaves. That gives you a bigger, better and healthier tomato and it also prolongs the harvest.”
Pointing out that the purpose of the Tomato Festival is to boost consumer awareness about local agriculture, DAR Acting Commissioner Scott Soares addressed those who attended the event on Boston City Hall Plaza.
“We all benefit from the commitment to and passion for farming demonstrated by the farmers of New England,” he said.
Top tomato prizes went to Ward’s Berry Farm of Sharon (slicing), Kimball Fruit Farm of Pepperell (cherry), Verrill Farm of Concord (heirloom), and Brox Farm of Dracut (heaviest). Entries were judged by a panel of food writers, chefs, cookbook authors, grocers, state officials and gardening experts.
Dumaresq entered about 80 tomatoes in the contest and in addition to winning for heaviest tomato, Brox Farm also placed ninth in the slicing category.
“One of my favorite things in the world is slicing a nice fresh tomato and putting it on pita bread with a little fresh lettuce. That’s just great,” said Dumaresq during a recent tour of the farm. “All winter long I wait for fresh tomatoes. I’ll be in a restaurant and they’ll put a couple of slices on the plate. I just brush them aside.”