PALMETTO — The Palmetto Tomato Festival, a Manatee County agricultural tradition, will not be held this year due to budget cuts, Palmetto Mayor Shirley Groover-Bryant announced Wednesday.
Speaking to fellow members of the 2009 Farm City Week planning committee at the Manatee County Fairgrounds, Groover-Bryant said she felt chances are good that the Tomato Festival will return in November 2010.
“Our staff and resources are just stretched too thin this year,” Groover-Bryant said.
Although the Tomato Festival won’t be held, Farm City Week, which honors Manatee County’s agricultural roots, will roll on for the 52nd straight year, Nov. 9-21.
This year’s theme is “Buy from Manatee,” urging consumers to buy local produce from local producers who sell here.
Those producers will be identified throughout Farm City Week this year, said Farm City Week chairman Ralph Garrison.
One of the event’s highlights each year is the annual Farm Tour. This year’s 18th tour on Nov. 13 has four first-time sites on the docket.
Blueberries are an up-and-coming crop in Manatee County because you can grow them on small acreages. The tour will be visiting its first ever blueberry farm, said Betty Glassburn, the Farm Tour’s expert guide.
Mitchell John Blueberry Farm, on U.S. 62 between Parish and Duette, has been in existence just about a half decade and is doing well, Glassburn said.
“If they are not happy, plants don’t thrive when you plant them,” Glassburn said. “But these blueberries are thriving. We’ll learn why.”
The farm tour begins at 8 a.m. Friday, Nov. 13, at the Fairgrounds in Palmetto and ends around 4 p.m. when the two tour buses return to the Fairgrounds, filled with an estimated crowd of 110.
The tour costs $40 per person and seats can be reserved by calling Linda Means at 722-4524.
This year’s tour starts with a visit to Gamble Creek Farm, on Golf Course Road in Parrish.
“They do a lot of hydroponic growing,” Glassburn said.
The blueberry farm is next, followed by lunch at Dry Prairie Baptist Church.
After lunch, the tour goes to H&H Nursery on U.S. Highway 64 near the DeSoto Speedway.
After the tour leaves H&H, it heads to either King Organic Farms on Morgan Johnson Road or Mike Council Strawberry Farms on State Road 64.
“We haven’t locked that down yet,” Glassburn said. “We may do one or the other or both.”
After that, the tour heads home.
Farm City Week kicks off with a Manatee River Soil Speech Contest open to middle and high school students on Nov. 9.
The Kiwanis Luncheon is scheduled Nov. 17 where the 2009 Outstanding Agriculturist of the Year will be named.
The Leadership Manatee Tour through the Manatee Chamber of Commerce is set for Nov. 18.
On Nov. 19, An Agriculture Hall of Fame inductee will be honored at the Historical Luncheon.
Ag Venture, the popular event featuring 1,200 third graders learning about agriculture at the fairgrounds, is set for Nov. 20.
The Beef Prospect Show, open to all Manatee County 4-H and FFA members, is set for Nov. 21, the same day as the Cortez Folk Festival.
Richard Dymond, Herald reporter, can be reached at 708-7917.