Inside a greenhouse in northeastern North Dakota, tomato plants stretch from the floor up, and up, and up, 9 or more feet toward the roof, where they are secured with garden twine. Each plant is dotted with tomatoes in various states of ripening. The vines will continue to grow and produce fruit until nearly the end of 2020.
While gardeners across the Upper Midwest may be just starting to see little yellow flowers develop on their tomato vines, Dennis Loewen already has been producing tomatoes for months in his 4,300-square-foot Meadowlark Garden greenhouse. And the operation is far from a hobby; Meadowlark Garden is a well-oiled business, sending tomatoes onto the plates of high-end restaurants and into grocery stores across eastern North Dakota.
North Dakota isn’t exactly known for its vegetable production, beyond more hardy crops like potatoes and onions. Shoppers expect the tomatoes in grocery stores likely came from across the country, or even out of the country.
But 12 years ago, Dennis and his wife, Vera, planted their roots in the produce business with the help of a friend in Canada’s tomato business. And the path that got them there is almost as long as the vines inside Meadowlark Garden.
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