The 3rd Annual Homegrown Tomato Festival

Supporting Local Non-Profit: 100 Gardens

Ah, July – the month of increased air conditioning bills, sun burns, and getting marred by rouge fireworks. Yet, we forget about those small inconveniences because July brings us homegrown tomatoes.

Homegrown Tomato (noun): A delectable, vine-ripened fruit grown with love and sacrifice. This species can be consumed alone or in conjunction with white bread and Duke’s mayonnaise. The homegrown tomato’s native environment is the backyard, raised or in-ground garden bed, local farm, farmer’s market, and within certain discerning restaurant establishments. The homegrown tomato is currently on the endangered species list at many grocery store chains. The species ranges in color from pink to black and prefers unique names such as “Big Boy,” “Cherokee Purple,” “Early Girl,” and “Brandywine,” among countless others. Sentence example: “I eat homegrown tomatoes because they taste hella better than the ‘water dog maters’ at Food Lion.”

Where can one sample and celebrate this homegrown tomato perfection? Let’s get down to it.

The When and Where:
Saturday, July 27, from noon to 4pm at the Neighborhood Theatre.

The How:
Tickets are available for $10/person in advance online on the Neighborhood Theatre’s website or the Homegrown Tomato Festival’s website. Kids under 13 years of age are free. Each ticket includes a voucher for a free tomato sandwich (paid tickets only).

The Big, Juicy Day:

  • The Homegrown Tomato Contest:
    Backyard growers will compete for the best overall tasting tomato in the land. Attendees will have the (quite amazing) opportunity to sample tomatoes from the contestants. As long as samples are available for the tasting, tasting shall be had. Contestants will vie for a People’s Choice title (voted on by YOU) as well as a Critic’s Choice title (voted on by a pre-selected panel of experts/enthusiasts).
  • The Homegrown Tomato Cocktail Contest:
    Ten CLT restaurants/bars will compete for the best overall tasting tomato-inspired cocktail in the region. What’s made of awesome sauce about this fact? Each attendee will have the opportunity to try a cocktail sample. Yes, this is included in your ticket price. Don’t faint. Full discloser: The samples are small as well as legally and ethically responsible. Also, there is a limited supply available. When cocktail samples are out, they are out. If this part of the day peaks your interest in a keen way, arrive sooner rather than later. Contestants will vie for a People’s Choice title (voted on by YOU) as well as a Critic’s Choice title (voted on by a pre-selected panel of experts/enthusiasts).
  • The Just for Fun Way to Compete:
    Only growing a tomato plant or two this season? Not interested in serious competition? No worries. This year, the festival will also offer some “just for fun” categories open to all attendees to enter. The categories are: heaviest tomato, weirdest/ugliest tomato, and best dressed/decorated tomato. Submissions are due by 2pm, and winners will be announced by 4pm.
  • The Icing on the Cake:
    Tomato sandwiches will be available for sale if you are hankering for more than the one included with your entry ticket and/or for the kiddos. Vendors will be around with local produce, goods, and wares. 100 Gardens will have a large display on stage, and their students will be representing the impact the programs have had in their school systems and in their lives. Pretty heartwarming.

The Why
The Homegrown Tomato Festival is an annual fundraising event benefiting 100 Gardens, a Charlotte based non-profit that implements aquaponics farming in schools to provide hands-on learning in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM), with additional emphasis on nutrition and business. All proceeds from the event will directly benefit the missions of 100 Gardens.

Currently, 100 Gardens has aquaponic programs in eight local schools including Garinger High School, Myers Park High School, Oakhurst STEAM Academy, and Stonewall Jackson Youth Development Center. Within each school’s greenhouse, students learn how to grow fresh fish and vegetables using aquaponics. 100 Gardens installs the system, develops lesson plans aligned with NC Essential Standards, trains teachers, and organizes workshops and internships for the students.

With your help, we can improve and expand their efforts and achieve the goal of “100 Gardens.” To learn more, please visit their website and also view “Aquaponics and a New Way of Thinking,” a TEDx talk by 100 Gardens Executive Director, Sam Fleming.

Volunteers Needed
Calling all volunteers! Generous, time giving people are needed for such tasks as: slicing tomatoes, working the doors, aiding in judging, setting up, putting up posters around town before the event, and more. Interested in being a good person? The volunteer sign-up is on the Homegrown Tomato Festival website and Facebook page .

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