Tomato sandwiches, contests, live music, craft beer and a farmers’ market are some of the attractions
The Tomato Feastival grew out of a laid-back gathering of farmers and friends in 2006, taking place in the backyard of Louise Divine and her husband, Herman Holley, the owners of Turkey Hill Farm.
Four women – Louise, Katie Harris, Malini Ram Moraghan and Mary Russ – cared about the farming community and loved tomatoes. They got together and decided to celebrate their crops of tomatoes, pick the best ones and share tips.
Louise Divine, one of the feastival’s founders, and husband Herman Holley, owners of Turkey Hill Farm. Photo / Red Hills Small Farm Alliance
“It has grown every year, organically, the way I think things should grow,” said Louise. “We started with a few girlfriends growing tomatoes and we each brought a covered dish.”
Terry White, now executive chef/co-owner of the Tallahassee restaurants Sage and Il Lusso, was the judge for that first tomato contest.
“The feastival grew so popular over the years that it was time to find a new home,” Louise said. “When it grew to be 300 of your closest friends, it got to be too much.”
Welcome now to Tomato Festival 2023, which will take place from 2 to 6 pm.June 11 at Goodwood Museum and Gardens, 1600 Miccosukee Rd.
The feastival is expected to be as big or bigger than the 2022 version, which attracted more than 1,000 attendees.
“Because the grounds are so open, it never felt crowded,” said Louise. It always feels just friendly and small. People come to eat a tomato sandwich, have a beer, listen to music, participate in the Cakewalk and they’re done. It’s a big picnic.”
Some of the Festival’s attractions:
- Tomato contests. Anyone can bring their homegrown tomatoes to compete in these categories: ugliest, best-tasting and largest tomatoes.
- A farmers’ market with more than a dozen vendors selling tomatoes, other locally grown produce and artisanal items.
- Live music by Finn and the Kingsnakes with special guests, Ben Banks and Austin Boyd.
- Lawn games for kids and adults and the always popular Cakewalk.
- Raffles of local foods, art, products and services
- Food options including the event’s classic beloved Southern tomato sandwich by Tupelo Bakery, lasagna by Martin’s Harvest, bruschetta by Rocky Soil Farm, oysters from Oyster Mom, Seasonal Scoops, Lofty Pursuits and Tally Kombucha.
- A craft beer scene with six local breweries pouring their brews.
“This is now the third year that the Tallahassee Beer Society has been involved in the Tomato Festival,” said Danny Aller, co-founder of the society. “And it’s truly a terrific event that brings together the community all in the name of locally sourced products — with a heavy focus on the tomato of course.
Danny Aller, co-founder of The Tallahassee Beer Society, with interns with interns Lauren, Zack and Brian.
“This event didn’t start with much emphasis on incorporating local craft beer, but in the last few years the craft beer offerings have just gotten better and better,” Danny said. “There will be more breweries pouring than ever before this year – five of them from right here in Tallahassee and one from Jackson County, which is a well-known nearby farming community. And I think it’s now safe to say that this has become a mini-craft beer festival wrapped inside of a much bigger festival.”
“The local breweries that have graciously donated beer to the event this year include Lake Tribe Brewing, Ology Brewing, Proof Brewing, and Oyster City Brewing. Tallahassee’s new brewery that is about to open in the next few months, Amicus Brewing Ventures… And rounding out the list is Southern Fields Brewing in Campbellton.”
The Feastival is a fundraiser for the Red Hills Small Farm Alliance, which is a 501c3 nonprofit organization that incorporated in 2010 with the mission to “promote economic stability for small farmers, promote farmer development and consumer education and enhance food access to the community.”
One of the Alliance’s major projects is the Red Hills Online Farmers Market, which connects residents who pay a small yearly fee with local producers. All the items sold on the market come directly from farm/producer to table. The market accepts SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program) payments as well.
The alliance “brings economic benefits to our community and health benefits,” said Cari Roth, chairman of the Red Hills Small Farm Alliance Board and interim executive director of the alliance. “We feel passionately about giving more people great access to great local food.”
The online market has grown to more than 100 farmers and 2,000 customers who can buy locally grown produce, milk, meats, cheeses, baked goods, garden plants, juice, granola, honey, mushrooms and artisanal items. Everything for sale is produced within 100 miles of Tallahassee.
The alliance still exudes those same values that started with Louise and her friends.
“Our goal was to develop a spirit of collaboration and community,” she said. “I love that. We help each other. What I’m most proud of is that the community connects from Madison to Marianna to Moultrie and Crawfordville. We’ve been able to grow our farming community.”
When you go ….
The Tomato Feastival is from 2 to 6 p.m. Sunday, June 11 at Goodwood Museum and Gardens, 1600 Miccosukee Rd.
Tickets are $10 for adults, $5 for children between 12 and 17, $25 for a family ticket (families with kids up to 17 years old). Visit https://www.redhillsfarmalliance.com/tomato-feastival to buy tickets or to find out how to become a sponsor. There are sponsorships at different levels. My Seed sponsorship is $150 and includes two event tickets, two raffle tickets, one T-shirt, a listing on their website and a social media shoutout. More importantly, it feels good to support the important work of the Red Hills Small Farm Alliance.
Farmers Market vendors include: Zinnia Collective, Moccasin Grove, Ecoculture Farms, Longleaf Pasture Farm, Schmoe Farm, K & R Hidden Farms, Green Gate Olive Grove, Apalachee Farms, Compost Community, Florida Georgia Citrus, New Green Organiks
Tips: Bring suntan lotion. While there are tables, you might want to bring a blanket and a chair and sit back to enjoy the festivities.
Here are some pictures from 2023 Tomato Feastival.