MANATEE -- A local farm will offer the public a saucy deal on its tomatoes beginning at 8 a.m. Tuesday .
For those willing to bring their own sacks, pillow cases, buckets and boxes and a strong back for picking, Hunsader Farms on County Road 675 will sell ripen tomatoes right out of its fields at $1 for 25 pounds.
The farm offered the same deal last spring, but this year the reason for the nearly giveaway price is different, said farm co-owner David Hunsader.
“Last year we did this because the price for a 25-pound bucket of tomatoes on the wholesale market was only three or four dollars so it didn’t make economic sense to pick,” Hunsader said. “This year the price is good, about $14 for a bucket, but we can’t find enough labor to pick them.”
The Hunsaders are not sure why produce picking crews are short this year, but fellow farmers in the area also report diminished farm labor, he said.
“Everyone is having the same problem,” Hunsader said. “We aren’t sure if the workers are going into construction or going back to Mexico. All we know is that crews that used to number 60 people are now numbering 20.”
The public doesn’t have to rush out to grab this deal because apparently, there is enough for everyone.
The farm is turning the public loose on a 50-acre field that is filled with, literally, millions of light pink or orange tomatoes.
“They can have a field day,” Hunsader said.
Tomato buyers without a sack or bucket can buy a box from the farm for 50 cents.
Pickers can wear their shorts, socks and sneakers and bring garden gloves if they wish, but bug spray for legs isn’t necessary, Hunsader said.
The fields will be open for the public from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m . Monday through Saturday until all the tomatoes are gone, which the Hunsaders believe will take until June 1.
To reach the farm from Interstate 75 or Bradenton, U-pickers can go east on State Road 64 to County 675 and go south 2.7 miles or go east on State Road 70 to County 675 and go north 3.5 miles.