TOMATO FEST

A Tasty Tradition

Every year, hordes of folks stream into downtown Jacksonville to explore the array of vendors and activities that line Commerce Street on the second Saturday of each June. The Annual Tomato Fest has ripened into its third decade as a celebratory homage to the town’s heritage, a much-anticipated event for its residents and visitors alike, and a vehicle for local farmers to hawk their glorious ruby-red harvests.

In its agricultural heyday, Jacksonville donned the crown of Tomato Capital of the World. And, no wonder: our land was made for growing tomatoes. How so, you ask? Dirt and air. Or, more generally-speaking, soil and climate.

If you’ve ever plunged a spade into the virgin soil of the East Texas region, you will have discovered very quickly the abundance of native iron ore in the soil (and no doubt be continually cursing the seemingly-impenetrable nature of such throughout your laborious dig). And yet, this dastardly dirt has seasoned the region’s acid-rich soil which lends the Jacksonville tomato its signature acidic “bite”.

The climate is tomato-friendly as well. An extended growing season – coupled with elevated summer temps – ensures a hefty harvest (barring any crazy climate detours that Texas, in general, is known for).

Add to all this the local farmer’s proclivity for the crimson crop: For generations on end, farming families have perfected their craft for rendering fine specimens of the fickle fruit (or vegetable, as the case may be).

With its versatility as a salad sidekick, burger buddy, foundation for countless sauce and salsa sensations, and mother lode of nutritional benefits, it is no wonder the tomato remains a revered in the human diet.

Or, as one might hear in the Jacksonville vernacular: ‘Maters matter.