US (WI): Tomatoes are always in season in Melrose

It’s been a long, cold winter.

But snow, ice and freezing temperatures outside don’t stop Rose Strait and her daughters Ann and Mary from growing and harvesting tomatoes at their The Tomato Patch greenhouses on the north edge of Melrose.

The Tomato Patch, also known as Melrose Tomatoes, grows its produce year-round in five greenhouses next to the Strait home. Its tomatoes are sold to 12 grocery stores and four restaurants within 40 miles of Melrose.

Rose and her daughters have about 3,200 tomato plants in their greenhouses, which are heated with propane in the colder months. The Tomato Patch typically produces 60,000 to 80,000 pounds of tomatoes a year.

Rose and her husband Dean, who died in 2014, started the business in 1986 almost by accident after enclosing their porch with sheets of plastic to make their house warmer.

They decided it looked like a good place to grow tomatoes and looked into the possibility of raising them indoors. A University of Wisconsin-Madison expert said that wouldn’t be economically feasible because of a lack of winter sunlight and high heating costs. But after starting their business with 40 tomato plants on their enclosed porch, the Straits proved the expert wrong.

Read more at the La Crosse Tribune (Steve Cahalan)

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