The fund-raising event offers a farmers’ market, tasting contest, live music, games and local food at Goodwood Museum and Gardens
The Tomato Feastival is back this year as an in-person celebration of the tomato and the best of locally produced food, taking place at Goodwood Museum and Gardens on June 6.
The Tomato Feastival is a long time tradition of the Red Hills Small Farm Alliance, a nonprofit supporting our local farming community.
Due to the pandemic, the feastival switched to virtual in 2020, focusing on Facebook events and contests.
“Now it feels safe to do an outdoor event,” said Cari Roth, president of the Red Hills Small Farm Alliance. “As we’re all emerging from Covid lockdown, to be able to have an in-person, outdoor event like this — we’re delighted.
“We’re ready to see people and have fun and celebrate the best of local food,” said Roth. “You’ve never tasted anything so wonderful as a tomato that’s grown close to your home.”
Along with a farmers’ market offering a variety of fruit and vegetables, the feastival will present a tomato tasting contest, cake walk, live music, lawn games for kids, a photo booth, raffles, T-shirts for sale and locally produced food for purchase.
“We’ll be bringing back just about everything we had before” and more, said Alliance board member and feastival planner Kate Wasson.
For the first time, the owners of the microgreen farm, Legacy Greens will be offering a demonstration with a booth where you can put together your own microgreen kit and take it home.
“Hopefully we can get some kids involved with growing their own microgreens,” said Daniel Miranda. owner of Legacy Greens with brother Jordan.
The event is a chance for the public to meet many of our farmers. And, noted Lovett Farms, “It’s an excellent opportunity to meet our customers.”
The feastival keeps growing, much like the interest in local products. The first feastival at Goodwood was held in 2019, but for more than a dozen years, it was a smaller gathering at Turkey Hill Farm.
“The first year, it wasn’t really a feastival,” said Louise Divine, owner and operator of Turkey Hill Farm with husband Herman Holley. “I just had five or six people growing tomatoes come over with a covered dish. Terry White was our judge. He picked the best tomato and we said ‘Hooray.’ ”
“Who would have thought the feastival would turn into what it is now,” said chef White, who opened Sage in 2006, which Divine said was the first year of the gathering.
“We didn’t know if we would ever do it again. But the next year we did,” Divine said. And it kept going.
“It was nice at the farm, cozy with 300 of your closest friends,” she said. “Everyone brought a covered dish.”
But she is happy about the move. “Having the feastival at Goodwood maintains some of the coziness and intimacy. We see our friends and colleagues and make some new friends over tomatoes.”
Another advantage: “Goodwood is centrally located, the grounds are so beautiful and there’s plenty of room,” said Divine. “The kids have so much space to run around. They have so much fun.”
Also fun: “First there’s celebrating the tomato, and then there’s feasting,” she said.
A big part of the feasting will be locally made fare, including tomato sandwiches, made with local heirloom tomatoes, mayo and white bread, sausage dogs made with Iberico pork by Glendower Farms, ice cream by Southern Craft Creamery and homemade tomato pies cooked by local chef Jessica Bright McMullen, owner of KitchenAble Cooking School and Catering.
“I was not a tomato enthusiast for a long time because if you haven’t had a fresh-picked local tomato, you really miss out,” said McMullen, who will also be selling her gourmet iced tea and signature seasoning.
“The tomato feastival is a great opportunity to explore and discover what a tomato is meant to be,” said McMullen. And that means “moving beyond the stereotypical round, red tomatoes. There will be tomatoes of different colors, shapes and textures, more than the tomatoes you find sitting flavorless on grocery shelves.”
Attendees will certainly see a wide variety of competitors in the Tomato Tasting Contest. Anyone — whether you grow tomatoes in your backyard or a farm — can compete in these categories: tastiest big tomato, tastiest small tomato, biggest tomato and ugliest tomato, which may be the most fun.
While the feastival is a celebration it’s also vital to the prosperity of the Red Hills Small Farm Alliance.
“It’s our biggest fund-raiser,” said Roth. “We’re a small, nonprofit organization and a $10,000 fund-raiser makes a big difference. It’s an important piece of the move we’re making.”
The Alliance operates the Red Hills Online Market which has been operating out of a hub at the Northwood Centre. That building will soon be demolished, with a new Tallahassee Police Department a big part of the new development there.
The market switched to home food deliveries during the pandemic, but the hub is still used for receiving and sorting farm goods and some customer pick-ups. Market organizers have found a new home in a 2,400-square-foot space in a warehouse area at 1531 Commonwealth Business Drive with the move happening by the end of May.
“It gives us room to grow and it will enable us to improve our services to producers and customers,” said Roth. “Having the tomato feastival helps as we’re moving up and having new expenses.”
The online market has also become increasingly popular, attracting new producers and customers.
“A lot of our farmers have expanded to meet demand,” said Roth. “It’s a happy spiral upwards.”
Online market sales “have already exceeded what we did the entire year of 2019,” she said.
The online market offers a lot of diversity of products, it’s easy to order and your food is as fresh as it comes unless it’s coming from your garden.
The online market now has 900 shoppers and it has also increased to 110 producers compared to 78 in 2019. With more producers, it’s also enabled the market to drop its waiting list so anyone can now join.
If you haven’t been to a feastival before, it’s a way to learn more about our farming community and how to show your support.
“The event brings an awareness, not just about tomatoes, but about all the great local food produced in our region,” Roth said.
Tomato contest: You don’t have to be a farmer to enter this contest. Anyone who grows tomatoes can compete in these categories: tastiest big tomato, tastiest small tomato, biggest tomato and ugliest tomato.
Farmers Market: Local farmers sell a variety of their home-grown products.
Microgreens demonstration: The microgreens farm, Legacy Greens, will be offering a demonstration with a booth where you can put together your own microgreen kit and take it home. A good activity for kids.
Raffle: Items to be raffled include restaurant gift certificates, items from farms, pottery, art, jewelry and gift baskets. Raffle tickets are $5 each or 5 for $20.
Music: Moondance with Paul Boyle.
What to eat, drink: Classic Southern Tomato sandwiches made with farmer grown tomatoes, tomato pies and iced tea from KitchenAble, sausage dogs made with Iberico pork by Glendower Farms, ice cream by Southern Craft Creamery and Satsuma Wheat craft beer (using local citrus) from Lake Tribe Brewing Company.
Lawn games: Corn hole, bocce ball, giant checkers and other family and kids’ activities.
If you go …
What: 2021 Tomato Festival
When: 2 to 6 p.m. Sunday, June 6
Where: Goodwood Museum & Gardens, 1600 Miccosukee Rd.
Tickets: $10 for adults or $25 for families or become a sponsor. Tickets available online or at the door; cash or credit cards.
Parking: Feastival goers are asked to park at nearby Ghazvini Center at 1528 Surgeons Dr. Handicapped parking at Goodwood.
Note: Organizers advise that social distancing and masks for unvaccinated persons are encouraged per CDC guidance.