Tomato Feastival 2022 is coming back to the Goodwood Museum & Gardens on Sunday, June 12 from 2 to 6 p.m., offering more food, beer and attractions than ever before.
Along with traditions like lawn games, kids’ activities and an old-fashioned cake walk, there will be an even bigger raffle and silent auction, live music, a farmers’ market with more than 30 participants and a tomato contest, of course.
A big addition: Five local craft breweries – Lake Tribe Brewing, Ology Brewing Company, Oyster City, Amicus Brewing (coming to the Old City Waterworks historic building in downtown Tallahassee), and Proof Brewing Company – will be set up in a beer garden this year. The beer will be donated and you can buy tickets at a designated booth, noted Danny Aller, co-founder of the Tallahassee Beer Society.
The Feastival organizers have beefed up their amount of everything in ‘22 for good reasons. If you saw the line to Goodwood last June, you might have assumed the throngs were there for a big concert or a massive giveaway. Instead, at least a thousand people were there to celebrate the tomato – and maybe something more.
The Tomato Feastival came back in 2021, after relegation to a virtual event in 2020 due to the pandemic.
“We were overwhelmed last year,” said Louise Divine, an originator of the Feastival, and owner of Turkey Hill Farm with husband Herman Holley. “It was the first real event in the community and people wanted to go out somewhere.”
The Tomato Feastival was such an unexpected success in ‘21 that vendors quickly ran out of food and beer. But organizers have been preparing for what could be the biggest Feastival yet, getting a boost from major sponsor Tallahassee Nurseries along with Goodwood and other supporters.
This year, “it’s going to be bigger and better,” said Cari Roth, president of the Red Hills Small Farm Alliance. “Last year, we were surprised in a really good way by how many people came. We expected about 500 people and there were over 1,000.”
The Feastival is a major fundraiser for the Red Hills Small Farm Alliance, a 501c3 nonprofit organization dedicated to helping farmers located within 100 miles of Tallahassee.
The Alliance was formed by four women who care about the farming community – Divine, Katie Harris, Malini Ram Moraghan and Mary Russ – and it has steadily grown.
“We met every Monday night for months,” said Divine. “We asked farmers – if we did an organization what would they want it to look like? I think there were about seven people who came out at first, but they wanted a reliable market and an outlet for their goods.”
The Alliance 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 became 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 has started accepting SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program) payments as well.
“Getting food to underserved communities has been one of our biggest challenges,” said Divine.
Another was meeting the community’s needs during the pandemic.
When Covid hit, consumers joined the online market in droves. The number of shoppers rose from 403 customers in 2019 to 1,205 customers in 2022. In turn, the number of producers increased during that time from 68 producers in 2019 to 108.
The online market offers an array of goods, including vegetables and fruit, herbs, baked goods, meats, eggs, cheese, flowers, plants, coffee and tea, kombucha, homemade pasta, spices and vinaigrette. The list keeps growing.
“We love RHOM and all it stands for,” said Barby Moro, owner of RedEye Coffee, which sells its local products on the market. “At the core of every strong community is its commitment to supporting locally made, grown or produced items.
“As the region’s only woman — and minority-owned coffee-roasting company — we take great pride in being included,” she said. “The response to our offerings has been amazing. It’s such an honor!”
Despite the increase in interest in the market, “we’re always still surprised about how many people don’t know what amazing quality fresh produce and meats and other kinds of food are available locally,” said Roth.
“I feel like our farmers really stepped up to the plate,” said chef Jessica Bright McMullen, owner of KitchenAble Cooking School and Catering. “They were there for us during Covid. They were a constant resource that many of us desperately needed. They, and the Red Hills Small Farm Alliance, built strong relationships with the Tallahassee community. They were there for everybody and it created a bond that is still really strong and continues to grow.”
McMullen is one of a handful of food vendors who will be at the 2022 Feastival. As she has in past years, she’ll be selling her homemade tomato pies, flavored tea and her daughter’s chocolate zucchini cupcakes.
“It’s one of my favorite celebrations,” said McMullen. “I love that it brings like-minded members of the community to celebrate one of my favorite things – food. And in the purest form. The Feastival shows how one ordinary ingredient can be extraordinary when it’s locally sourced and grown with love.”
The list of vendors selling food at the Feastival keeps expanding.
Chef Shacafrica Simmons (Chef Shac) will be serving her watermelon salad cup, tomato pie empanada, jambalaya, peach cobbler cheesecake bread pudding bites, watermelon lemonade, mango basil tea and fruit infused water outside her restaurant Soulful. The cafe is at Goodwood, handling special events with plans to open for regular service.
Other food for sale at the Feastival will include sausage dogs from Glendower Farms; cold brew, iced tea and other locally sourced items from RedEye Coffee; ice cream from Lofty Pursuits; classic tomato sandwiches made by volunteers from Tupelo Bakery; oysters from OysterMom and bruschetta from chef Chris Wagner, co-owner of Rocky Soil Family Farm with wife Kiona.
Kiona Wagner, on the Red Hills board and the Feastival committee, said consumers will find tomatoes, fruits and vegetables and a bunch of other local items from more than 30 participants in the event’s farmers’ market.
“It offers a chance to put a face with your food,” said Wagner. “You gain an appreciation when you know where your food comes from.”
The same may be said of your spirits. In 2021, the high attendance on a hot June day also brought a rapid run on the beer supply at the Feastival. Two local breweries, Lake Tribe Brewing Company and Ology Brewing Company, twice had to run back to their warehouses and bring more beer. That issue should be helped with the presence of the five craft breweries this year.
The size and scope of the new Feastival still impresses Divine. She and her husband launched the first gathering, with an informal tomato contest, at their Turkey Hill Farm in 2006.
“We started it as a potluck and Terry White (now chef/co-owner of Sage and Il Lusso) was our first judge.”
“The contest has always been the core of the Feastival,” said Divine, noting that you don’t have to be a farmer to bring your backyard beauties for judging as either the tastiest big tomato, tastiest small tomato, biggest tomato or the ugliest tomato (a fan favorite).
Turkey Hill Farm was the scene of the Feastival until 2019, when it moved to Goodwood.
“It was super fun but it got to be a potluck with 300 of your closest friends,” said Divine. “Goodwood is the perfect venue with all the outdoor space for a big family gathering, which is what we always wanted it to be. From the start it was about friends and family and tomatoes and having a party.”
The Alliance and the online market have also helped foster a collaborative feeling in the farming community, she said.
“The thing that’s the most gratifying to me is the friendships and relationships that have developed among the farmers,” Divine said.
The Feastival expands that bond with the community.
“It’s a sweet event and it brings people together who may not normally gather because we all love tomatoes,” said farmer Katie Harris, co-owner of Full Earth Farm in Quincy. “The country feels divided more and more but the Feastival is an event we all love.”
- Tomato contest: Categories include the tastiest big tomato, tastiest small tomato, biggest tomato and the ugliest tomato.
- What to eat, drink: Look for tomato pies and flavored iced tea from chef Jessica Bright McMullen and chocolate zucchini cupcakes made by her daughter Madeline; bruschetta from Rocky Soil Farm; sausage dogs from Glendower Farms; ice cream from Lofty Pursuits; classic tomato sandwiches made by volunteers from Tupelo Bakery; oysters from OysterMom; iced coffee, tea and other items from RedEye Coffee. In addition, Chef Shac will be serving several items including watermelon salad cup, tomato empanadas, jambalaya, peach cobbler cheesecake bread pudding bites and cold beverages at her Soulful Cafe at Goodwood. A beer garden will feature local craft breweries Lake Tribe Brewing, Ology Brewing Company, Oyster City, Amicus, and Proof Brewing.
- * Farmers’ market: More than two dozen local growers, artisans, ranchers and other participants will be selling their products at the Feastival.
- Activities: Corn hole, bocce ball, giant checkers and other lawn games. An old-fashioned cake walk.
- Live music by the Air-Fried Turkeys.
- T-shirts available online and at the Feastival.
- Raffle and silent auction featuring gift baskets, local baked goods and food, art, products, services, gift certificates – even a spa package and guided fishing trip. Advanced tickets purchased online include a free raffle ticket; family tickets include 2 free raffle tickets. Raffle tickets can be purchased at the Feastival for $5 each or 5 for $20.
- If you go…
- What: Tomato Feastival 2022
- When: 2 to 6 p.m. June 12
- Where: Goodwoods Museum & Gardens, 1600 Miccosukee Rd.
- Tickets: $10 for ages 18 and up, $5 for children ages 12 to 17 and free for kids under age 12; $25 for families, sponsorships available. Get tickets online or at the door..
- For tickets or more information: redhillsfarmalliance.com
- Here’s a sampling of participants expected at the Feastival Farmers’ Market:
Apalachee Farms LLC
Bumpy Road Farm
Clear Lake Farm
Green Gate Olive Grove
Handsome Harvest Farm LLC
Hillside Urban Farm
Blue Bear Farm & Cattle Company
K&R Hidden Farms
Seven Hills Organics
Love’s Labor Farm
Lucky Dog Farm
Rocky Soil Family Farm
Schmoe Farm, LLC
Toad Lily Farm
Sweet River Farms
Longleaf Pasture Farm
New Green Organiks
Tomato Sandwiches (Volunteers from Tupelo’s Bakery)
Top photo credit Red Hills Small Farm Alliance