US (AZ): Disadvantage for organic tomatoes against fast and inexpensive conventional growing

Conventional methods of growing tomatoes in Arizona are fast and inexpensive placing organic growers at a disadvantage. “It’s a lot more work and a lot more expensive,” states Steve Murdock owner of Murdock Family Farms, “But I sell vegetables from the same garden my family eats from. There are no chemicals involved.”

In their six acres Murdock Family Farms grows a multitude of summer crops organically including four types of melons, five types of squash, eggplants, bell peppers and of course tomatoes. “We grow hybrid tomatoes and heirloom tomatoes for slicing and consumption.” Heirlooms are the original breed of tomato while hybrid tomatoes consist of a cross between two or more. “There is a high demand for good tasting tomatoes that are full of acid. People want to eat tomatoes that taste like tomatoes.”

But all that great organic taste comes at a cost. “Our tomato production was limited this year. We lost about forty percent of our crop.” While grasshoppers posed a threat, the real danger came from rain. “We had a lot of rain, which does not let you control ripening.” When the plants absorb an excessive amount of water they split becoming unsellable. “When you control the water intake of the plant, you also control its reproduction.” A tomato plant receiving healthy amounts of water will focus on growing, while one in a drought will send all its nutrients to its seeds.

While conventional methods may yield crops more quickly, Murdock Family Farms relies on picking and planting their crop by hand, using only a tractor to help in cultivation and sells their crops domestically. “Labour is one of the biggest problems. There are no workers.”

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