Otis LewisIf there is one vegetable that is in constant demand in the deep South, it is the humble tomato. From spring salads to year-round BLTs, tomatoes are always welcome at south Georgia tables.

To keep up with this demand, Perry Wellness Center founder and CEO Stuart Perry has overseen increased on-site production of tomato plants for Rudy’s Happy Patch Market. Before campus plots are ready for harvest, tomatoes and other early vegetables are purchased from area vendors. But year-round campus availability is a goal.

“We now are trying to meet the requests of our customers and offer tomatoes on a year-round basis,” he explains. “We make a point to suggest to our peers that they plant tomatoes in their personal raised bed gardens. We also identify any vacant ground with adequate sun for more tomato planting.” Stuart concludes with a smile, “I guess tomatoes are the official vegetable of Perry Wellness Center.”

Stuart and market staff remind those who plant tomatoes to be sure that adequate water is available, particularly as temperatures rise in this region. It is also important that plots are checked for adequate nutrients at every planting season.

Peer Otis Lewis is active in tomato growing on campus. While weeding is not an ideal task, he takes a long-range view. “We try to pull and till weeds and avoid any use of pesticides and week killers in our planting area,” Otis explains. “This rear blade tiller is good, but it takes you where it wants to go. I just think of the good tomatoes that we will have in later months.”

In the above photo, Otis Lewis tends a small garden plot the old-fashioned way: fewer chemicals and more manpower!

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