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National Ag Day: Spotlight on Chattaroy Tomato Co.

On National Ag Day, the Agriculture Council of America invites folks around the country to learn more about the importance of agriculture and support their local growers. Debby and Lonnie Bowen are two prominent growers in the Williamson Area.

The pair, known as the Chattaroy Tomato Co., have been gardening since their retirement in the early 2000s, and they’ve become a fixture at the Williamson Farmer’s Market. “We have been a part of the Farmer’s Market for many years,” Says Debby. “And he spends most of the day at the market talking to other growers and customers about gardening techniques and the varieties he grows.”

For them, the best part of the Market is “interacting with customers and friends. We look forward each week to seeing and talking with others.” Debby also loves the chance to introduce customers to new foods. “Often they purchase something they have never tried before, and they come back the next week to tell us how they prepared it and usually purchase again.” In addition to the heirloom tomatoes they’re known for, they also sell a variety of vegetables and herbs, so customers have plenty of chances to try new things.

Try New Things and Don’t Be Afraid To Fail

In addition to selling at the Market every week, the pair also regularly help out at the community gardens in East Williamson. At the community gardens, people can rent garden plots to learn to garden on their own, and the pair enjoy helping beginners learn to grow their own food. “We take a lot of pride in discussing and instructing others in different ways of preparing fresh vegetables,” Debby says. “Since we’re both retired educators, it comes naturally to us.”

Debby encourages folks to learn to grow their own food, and, when they can’t, buy from local growers instead of hitting the grocery store. “The satisfaction of producing and preserving your own vegetables is priceless. I buy some items that we don’t grow from other local growers… things in the stores are mass produced who-knows-where, and although they are regulated, they lack the personal touch and the time, energy, and satisfaction of making it yourself.”

For Debby, the best part of working at the community gardens is learning and sharing all kinds of old and new skills with the gardeners she meets.

Debby’s advice for anyone looking to begin growing their own food is to start with something simple that you’ll enjoy. “Start with something you like... start small… experiment with different foods and don’t get discouraged. It is a lot of trial and error, so don’t be afraid to fail.”

All photos courtesy of Williamson Farmer's Market

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