Gene from Farm Fresh Ventures Stopped by the Greenhouse to Talk Tomatoes

Gene is the horticulture therapist and head of the Horticulture Program, Farm Fresh Ventures, at Recovery Ventures

Gene is the horticulture therapist and head of the Horticulture Program, Farm Fresh Ventures, at Recovery Ventures, a two year drug and alcohol treatment program located down the road from Painters Greenhouse in Old Fort. Having studied horticulture therapy in the US and Canada, Gene built this program from the ground up in 2012.

Today with help of only 3-4 assistants per week the program is supplying 21 restaurants in McDowell and Buncombe Counties with some of the best local tomatoes, lettuce, microgreens, and more. Thats over 6,000 heads of lettuce (chefs requests dictate the varieties), tomatoes from 900 tomato plants (some tomatoes weigh in at 1.5 lbs!), and squash blossoms all of which are ASAP (Appalachian Sustainable Agriculture Project) certified.

The lettuce and microgreens are grown hydroponically. One advantage is the lettuce can be sold with the roots attached without getting soil on everything - keeping the roots attached helps the lettuce stay fresher much longer. There are two greenhouses which enable Gene and his assistants (?) to grow some tomatoes until early December and start others in late December and January!

Gene stopped by Painters this week to drop off some beautiful lettuce and microgreens for staff to buy (really, this is some of the best lettuce you'll ever have and will make a salad-eater out of the staunchest carnivores!), and gave us the run down on some of his favorite varieties of tomatoes. Gene also supplies Painters Greenhouse with some of the tomato plants we sell including Pink Bumblebee (a staff favorite).

Gene's favorite tomato is the Mortgage Lifter. Do you know the story of this tomato? In the 1930's a man who worked on radiators (and went by the name of Radiator Charlie), crossed German Johnson and Brandywine varieties to create a new tomato that could grow up to 1.5 lbs., had a delicious flavor, and meaty texture. They were so good that in six years he had sold enough of them to pay off his mortgage, inspiring the name for those tomatoes - Mortgage Lifters!

Gene also recommends Geronimo, Marnoura, Bigdena, and Cauralina Tomatoes for growing in greenhouses.

If you get the chance swing by the greenhouse, located at 306 Davistown Church Rd. (10 minutes off the Old Fort exit), to pick up lettuce, microgreens, and tomatoes to help support a great program! You'll find their hours, availability, and Gene's contact info here.