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Tomato festival celebrates history in the Ozarks

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A successful crop of tomatoes may lead to a common challenge for gardeners: how to use them all.

Tomatoes have a long and celebrated history in the Ozarks. Tomato growing and canning as a commercial enterprise began in the Ozarks sometime in the 1890s and reached a peak during the 1920s and 1930s, before trailing off dramatically around the time of World War II, and died out completely around the 1950s or 1960s.
While tomato production in the Ozarks has since declined, there is a growing potential for new local markets according to University of Missouri Extension specialists. Even without commercial production, tomatoes are a favorite of local gardeners.

Everything about tomatoes will be celebrated as part of University of Missouri Extension’s “Tomato Festival” from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m., Tuesday, July 18 in the large classroom at the Botanical Center, 2400 S. Scenic, Springfield, Mo.

The workshop will include presentations by Patrick Byers, an MU Extension horticulture specialist, Kelly McGowan, a horticulture educator with MU Extension, and Dr. Pam Duitsman, a nutrition specialist with MU Extension.

Tomato production, including how to choose the best variety, planting and caring for tomatoes, and the harvest and storage of tomatoes – will be addressed in presentations at the festival. There will also be a tomato tasting opportunity along with the sale of different tomato varieties.

There is a cost of $15 per person for the program. Advanced registration is needed and can be done online, in person at the Greene County Extension, by sending a check by mail to Greene County Extension at 2400 S. Scenic Avenue, Springfield, MO 65807. A registration form can be found online at

George Freeman is a veteran journalist and photographer. An award-winning writer, editor and columnist in Springfield, Mo., with more than 50 years experience. His preference is for positive and uplifting stories about people, places, traditions and trends that make the Ozarks one of the most livable regions anywhere. A member of the Garden Writers Association of America, he is a past-president of the Society of Professional Journalists of Southwest Missouri, the Kansas and Ohio AP societies; a board member of Friends of the Garden and a member of the Rotary Club of Springfield. In 1976, he traveled to India as a member of a Rotary Foundation Group Study Exchange Team.

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