Best tomato crop in years for Essex County farmers

Ideal weather conditions this summer have helped tomato farmers in Essex County grow some of the best crop they've ever seen.

Processors finding it challenging to keep up with accelerated tomato crop this year.

Donna Clarkson, left, Brandon Clarkson and Tanya Clarkson harvest a near-perfect roma tomato crop this year on the family farm. (Jason Viau/CBC)

Farmers in Essex County are cashing in on the best tomato crop some have ever seen.

Dry weather in the summer made for ideal conditions this season. With the help of sophisticated irrigation systems, crops were able to get a perfect amount of sunlight, heat and water. 

"Going into the harvest season it was the best looking crop I've ever seen," said David Epp, the president of Lycoland Farms in Leamington.

The continued heat throughout the summer accelerated the growth of the tomatoes, making it challenging for processors to keep up. If they don't have the capacity, ripe tomatoes are forced to sit in the field longer than normal.

It was a different story last year. Wet and cool conditions made for a difficult growing season, Epp said. Luckily, things rebounded in the fall  setting up for two consecutive years of good harvests. 

The Clarkson family farm lost about 75 per cent of its field tomatoes this year due to spider mites. But the roma tomato crop was described as near-perfect. (Jason Viau/CBC)

Clarkson's Farm in Essex grows roma and field tomatoes. 

It was a near-perfect harvest for the family's roma crop, with workers collecting well over 3,000 laundry hampers worth of roma tomatoes. But spider mites dashed hopes for a similar crop of field tomatoes. They lost 75 per cent of their field tomato crop this year.

Spider mites come along with the dust during dry conditions and eat away at the tomato's surface. Rain then splits open the tomatoes, destroying most of the crop.

"It kind of hurts a bit, but the romas kind of covered that," said Tanya Clarkson, who helps run the family farm.

Pumpkins, squash and strawberries also grew without any issues this year, Clarkson said. Ten wagons full of squash and about 500 pumpkins made it "a good way to end the season."

Tomatoes will continue to be picked from the field over the next month and growers are hoping for cool and dry conditions in the fall.