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1st tomato box kicks off yummy season

by Special to The Commercial | June 9, 2021 at 3:05 a.m.
River Grice, a fifth generation farmer at Warren, brought in the first box of tomatoes for 2021 to the Bradley County Cooperative Extension Service Office. River is pictured with his father, Lynn Grice. (Special to The Commercial/John Gavin, University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture)

The 2021 season for one of Arkansas' favorite summer treats is off and running now that the first box of tomatoes has been delivered to the Bradley County Cooperative Extension Service office.

"The first box of tomatoes for 2021 was brought in by River Grice, a fifth-generation farmer in Warren," John Gavin said Friday.

Gavin is the Bradley County extension staff chairman for the University of Arkansas System Agriculture Division.

"River and his father, Lynn Grice, produce approximately 16 acres of tomatoes and other produce that include tomato varieties of Red Mountain, Purple Cherokee, Bradley and Pink Girl," he said.

Gavin said the Grice family also raises watermelons, cantaloupe and peppers.

The first box contained Red Mountain tomatoes, which will go on display at the Bradley County Chamber of Commerce during the Pink Tomato Festival. This year is the 65th annual festival celebrating the county's famous pink tomatoes.

Events surrounding the festival kicked off Saturday, with the Tour de Tomato Bike tour, pageants and a baggo tournament. All are leading up to the events of this Friday and Saturday, which include a tomato-packing contest, a tomato-eating contest, music and a fireworks show.

Arkansas has had its share of cool, wet weather this spring.

"Tomatoes are about one to two weeks late this year because of the weather," Gavin said. "It has been a good year for zucchini, yellow squash and cabbage, but the cool and wet weather has delayed the tomatoes."

In 2015, Arkansas produced 1.82 million pounds of tomatoes, according to the 2020 Arkansas Agriculture profile.

To learn about extension programs in Arkansas, contact a local Cooperative Extension Service agent or visit www.uaex.uada.edu. To learn more about Division of Agriculture research, visit the Arkansas Agricultural Experiment Station website: https://aaes.uark.edu. Follow the agency on Twitter at @AgInArk, @uaex_edu or @ArkAgResearch.

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