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North Carolina’s 'tomato man' saves and shares heirloom tomatoes

Many North Carolinians may know Craig LeHoullier simply as 'the Tomato Man' or maybe 'the North Carolina Tomato Man' if they’re being specific. But he never even ate a tomato until he was a teenager. It’s an odd fact in a love affair that certainly didn’t begin with love at first sight.

His fame in the tomato world may seem a far cry from the kid who had never tried a tomato, but the truth is, a love of gardening was planted in him at an early age. It just took several years for that love to grow and eventually bloom. 

Over the past 30 years, LeHoullier has received many, many more heirloom varieties seeds, and he feels like he’s become a guardian of those seeds. He turned the driveway of his house in Raleigh into his open-air nursery where he’s grown hundreds of tomato seedlings each year. For many years, he sold the seedlings at the State Farmers Market, and he gave away many of them also.

“We ended up making friends for life from our plant sales,” LeHoullier said. “We’d call them our annual tomato friends.”


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