The picture that accompanies this entry is a source of great joy for me- I met one of my tomato heroes!
I had the wonderful fortune of travelling to Decorah, Iowa in the summer of 2007 to attend the Seed Savers Annual Convention at Seed Savers Exchange headquarters, Heritage Farm.
And the reason this trip was so important to me was because I wanted to meet Tom Wagner and hear him speak.
Tom Wagner is a tomato and potato breeder extraordinaire. He began cross pollinating tomatoes as a child, it was in his blood and his families blood. He has created hundreds of tomato varieties, thousands of potatoes, and his work continues to this day from his base in Washington State. He's the Tater Mater man!
The Green Zebra tomato is perhaps his most well known and loved creation. Open up countless seed catalogues and there it is. Not a true heirloom but what Tom would call a created heirloom( as are all Tom's tomatoes) dating back to 1985, when Tom stabilized this variety.
To meet Tom was priceless: he is a character. He loves to talk, tell stories and explain his life's work. What surprised me the most though was he fact that so many people are making money from Tom's hard work by reproducing and selling seeds, but Tom himself continued to teach high school science to eek out a living. He had made nothing from his creations although many people have and he lives in virtual poverty.
It is hard for me to imagine how this can be.
I am selling seed for Green Zebra tomatoes this year and plan on helping Tom out a bit-see how by reading my 2010 seed listing.
I also sell the Green Zebra seedlings and they always sell out, no matter how many I grow.
If you don't know the Green Zebra, make this your year to love it too! It is of course green, a bit bigger than a ping pong ball with beautiful yellow striping. It has a distinctive zing-y taste.
Although I do grow hundreds of striped tomatoes now, it was my first (!) and it is the one people always ask for by name. You'll love watching it develop and turn into one of the prettiest tomatoes you can imagine.
Bless you Tom for your inspiration!