A whopping 140 tomato varieties in a greenhouse tunnel. The tomato cultivation at social enterprise WAAK, in the Belgium town of Heule, is everything but ordinary. Not only are the varieties selected specifically on taste and grown locally, the production is run by people at a distance from the labor market who can develop themselves at WAAK.
“In the spring of 2018, we started cultivating the tomatoes at the request of our neighbor company Fruy Catering”, says Danny Deschuymer, representative of the WAAK plant nursery. “Manager Xavier Fruy is a member of a club that has as its aim the cultivating of unique and tasty tomato varieties. He started cultivating these tomatoes in a small plastic tunnel at his company, after which he looked for a way to expand production. The shorter supply chain, the cultivating without using any chemical crop protection, and the social production method make the product attractive to his customers. His clientele has an increasing interest in the story behind the food they eat.”
Shorter supply chain
WAAK is cultivating a whopping 140 tomato varieties in tunnels that have been cleared out especially for this application. “Every plant grows in a pot that can contain 30 liters, in which only organic fertilizer gets added. You really can’t compare it to the massive tomato cultivation that happens in greenhouses. We cultivate Golden Chick, Green Zebra, Kiekenvilla, Tigerella, and Purple Perfect among others. Some varieties taste very good but have a short shelf life. The only reason we can cultivate those is because of the shortened supply chain.”
Also zucchinis and peppers
In May, all of the plants that have reached a height of 40 centimeters by then get delivered to WAAK. After six weeks, the harvest can begin. “Last year we trialed a large number of tomato varieties in order to continue using only the very best. This year we cleared out another tunnel for Fruy, in which we cultivate three types of zucchinis – green, yellow and striped – and peppers in a variety of colors.”
Two times a week, the products are picked up by the catering company. Xavier Fruy comes by regularly to check up on the cultivation, to taste it and to harvest it. After all the tomatoes are being grown only a few hundred meters away from his company. Not all of the harvested crops are used in the catering business. Some get used as business gifts, Danny says. “Fruy has designed a wooden box in which he can bring a selection of tomatoes to potential new clients. An ideal way to tell the story about this unique tomato cultivation.”
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