Interview with Brad, Wild Boar Farms “Tomato Guy,” and seed giveaway!

front of chicken coop covered in snow

Last weekend’s blizzard dumped nearly a foot of snow on us.

If you are a market farmer or a serious tomato grower, you probably have heard the name of Bradley Gates. And if you don’t recognize that name, you may know the names “Blue Beauty,” “Blue Berries,” “Pink Berkeley Tie Dye,” “Indigo Apple,” and so forth. (And Brad, if your name isn’t yet a household word, I’d reckon that the name ‘Pink Berkeley Tie Die’ is, at least in many households!) These are just a few of the new breeds of tomatoes that Brad has developed in the past few years. There are more; they are impressively beautiful, strikingly different, and Brad has shared seeds from some of them with me so I can do a tomato seed giveaway! (With you, dear gentle readers.)

Winter is not loosening its grip on Nebraska. By the way. *siiigh* But we do not complain.

Okay, maybe we do complain. A little. Or a lot. But if–after complaining a little or a lot about another snowstorm, another week of grey, cold days, another BLIZZARD THAT MADE US MOVE OUR MELODRAMA TO ANOTHER DAY (true story)–we are holding a handful of seed envelopes in our winter-chapped fingers; if we have a garden planner in one hand and a bag of germinating mix in the other; if our seed catalogs are dog-eared and coffee ring-stained: why, we know that we will survive until Princess Spring condescends to appear. “Better late than never” we’ll grumble, as we pick up our hoes and wheelbarrows, raise our fish belly-white faces to the sun, and get to work.

We will make it through this, the longest winter ever (seemingly). The record-breaking, chilblain-inducing, winter of 2018 and 2019.

(I can tell you one thing. I, for one, will never again moan and complain about never getting enough snow here in Nebraska, nor will I wonder aloud the matter of whatever happened to the “good old-fashioned winters of my youth.” That is my stern resolve.)

Anyway. *sigh* Back to Brad Gates, my new friend and (I wish) my new neighbor. I just had this flight of fancy, after I heard about how many tomato plants that Brad plants every year, and also how he invites chefs out to his place to taste all those new varieties that he’s coming up with . . . yeah. I’d take him for a neighbor. Especially if I could move to the San Diego region of California where (I’ll reckon) I bet it’s not STILL snowing. Though it started snowing in October, and it’s nearly March.

So . . . unlike here.

Brad Gates in field, box of tomatoes in arms

See, Brad grows even more tomato plants than I do!

I blame this congenial farmer Brad, in part, for getting me into market farming. Heirloom and artisan tomatoes (like the new breeds that he has been developing) are such a satisfying thing for me to grow, that years ago I got into this habit of growing more than we could ever use. Waaaaay more.

Another farmer friend wondered aloud why I wasn’t selling them. Good idea, thought I, and so . . . I started selling them. It turns out that chefs in Nebraska like fancy, unique, delicious tomatoes, too.

Brad’s my kind of guy. I’ll bet when he first started growing tomatoes, a few of his nearest and dearest raised their eyebrows at the number of plants he grew each year. You and me, Brad.

After working Saturdays for a summer selling at farmers markets for a friend, Brad became fascinated with the farmers market scene and began growing “those weird non-red tomatoes,” or heirloom tomatoes. To find heirloom tomatoes then (and now, actually), you either had to shop farmer’s markets or grow them yourself.

Brad grew 500 tomato plants his first year, and the next year he doubled that number. Now 14 years later, Brad owns a farm and wholesale business that supplies tomatoes to Bay Area restaurants and businesses. He also hosts a series of Farm to Table events in mid to late August as the tomatoes ripen on his farm each year.

Brad is the proprietor of Wild Boar Farms near Napa, California, where he offers some of the most unusual tomatoes available on the planet. Using heirloom genetics and mutations as a foundation, and growing organically and sustainably, he creates tomato varieties with new colors, flavors, and shapes. His goal: to create the most amazing tomato varieties possible. You can read about my experience with many of Brad’s varieties by looking back at my “Heirloom Tomatoes that I’ll Grow Again posts. There are several of them.

Brad’s current main focus is on bi-color and striped varieties with different flavors and fascinating looks.

bin of tomatoes

These tomatoes, a new variety named “Brad’s Atomic Grape” were heavy producers in my garden patch last year–see?

Brad’s a busy farmer and it’s a super-busy time of year for him too (I hear that Spring has arrived in California), yet he was good to answer a few of my questions:
Me: Brad, I’ve read about your journey from being a market farmer, selling tomatoes at farmers markets, to being a tomato breeder. You’ve developed some of the most unique tomatoes around. What’s next for you?

Brad: I have been obsessed with tomatoes for about 25 years so I don’t see that changing. I’m wanting to expand my Nursery business. I will definitely continue breeding new tomato varieties, without a doubt that is the funnest part that I do. I have dozens and dozens of tomato crosses still yet to finish.

Me: How many tomatoes are you growing this year?

Brad: I’m growing about 15,000 plants to sell as Nursery plants. Another 2000 plants for breeding and evaluation that will be field-grown. Also working on a project to grow two to three thousand plants to sell the fruits.

This is one of my favorite cherry tomatoes to grow: Blue Berries, one of Brad’s beauties.

Me: If you could only grow, say, ten tomato plants each year, what would you grow?
Brad: Such a tough question as I’ve developed over 60 varieties and all of them have great potential.
But if I only had 10 spots in the garden I would go with these: Barry’s crazy cherry, pink Berkeley tie dye, pork chop , Lucid gem , blue Beauty, black and brown boar, Summer of Love, solar flare, crushed heart and Cosmic eclipse.
Yup. It did happen. Picture of multi-colored cherry tomatoes.

Here’s my pretty assortment of cherry tomatoes from a picking at our place last summer. Several of Brad’s varieties are in this mix.

Me: Every year I tweak my tomato planting process, trying to better meet the needs of my tomato plants. Last year, for example, I realized that I really needed to put more space between my plants, which ultimately did make for healthier plants. Do you have any tried-and-true tomato planting techniques that you would share with my readers?

Brad: One of the problems some gardeners have is not enough space for all the tomato varieties they want to grow. I have a technique where I put three or four plants where you would usually plant one. I then prune all the suckers off of each plant. In the end the four plants look like one plant but have four different tomato varieties instead of one essentially tripling or quadrupling the amount of varieties you can grow.

Me: What’s your biggest challenge currently in growing healthy tomato plants?

Brad: Every year is different for sure. I do not own land and have to lease so moving to new locations can be very challenging. Optimizing soil health is key. Hard to grow healthy plants in the unhealthy soil. Good compost and organic fertilizers work best for me. I truly believe that healthy soil amps up the tomatoes natural defenses.

–swoon!–

Me: Brad, thanks so much for your time! Is there anything else you’d like to share with my gentle readers?
Brad:Remember that you vote with your purchase. If you like farmers markets be sure to shop there. If you like amazing tomatoes be sure to support those that provide amazing tomatoes. If you like having local produce be sure to seek out your local farmers and support them.
That is super advice, from a successful farmer in California. I concur!
Brad graciously sent me a sampling of some of his new tomato variety seeds, with enticing names such as: Lucid Gem, Painted Lady, Large Barred Boar, Cosmic Eclipse, Amethyst Cream Cherry, and several others, so I can do a giveaway with you! Moreover, he sent me enough that I can grow them, too, so we can grow these fun varieties together and compare notes! But you have to enter the giveaway below for a chance to win them. There are several ways to enter, but it ends on March 11, so enter now!
I’ve been chatting with many of you on my Facebook page about strategies to make it through this long winter. Many of you focus on your gardening plans–as do I–to make the cold greyness of a long winter more enjoyable. Jump in, enter this giveaway, share it with your friends, and check back here often for more winter survival tips!
If you don’t want to wait for a chance in my giveaway, you can buy many varieties of Brad’s tomatoes in the Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds catalog or check out all the varieties available at Brad’s website.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

 

Thanks for popping in, Gentle Reader. Hang on. Spring is coming. I hear. I hope. It is, right??

blue berries tomatoes

These Blue Berries cherry tomatoes of Brad’s are one of my favorites, and so photogenic, don’t you agree?

63 thoughts on “Interview with Brad, Wild Boar Farms “Tomato Guy,” and seed giveaway!

  1. Tenley Long

    I love your blog! I have been a reader for a couple of years. You are a gifted writer!
    I ordered Brad’s Atomic Grape seeds from Baker Creek this year but hope to try other varieties in the future. I am hoping to expand my garden space this year. I live in coastal SC where growing conditions can be difficult. Be encouraged, spring WILL come!

    1. dramamamafive Post author

      Tenley, I do appreciate your encouragement!! Thank you for your kind words. I’d love to hear what you think of Brad’s Atomic Grape. I grew it last summer and really liked it.

  2. Mickey Louth

    Well, if I win I’d need the seeds to start next month. We have such a short season and typically only get the tomato plants transplanted June first. Last year we had a horrible HARD freeze in early Sept…wiped out all my tomatoes! I was so not happy! It just caught everyone by surprise and then no frosts for the rest of the month when I would have been canning all that wonderful stuff….some years….blah..

    1. dramamamafive Post author

      Oh! Painful to get a hard freeze so early in the season, Mickey!! Do you ever cover your plants when there’s an early freeze in the fall?

  3. Janet Dugan

    Brad’s tomatoes are so photogenic,they don’t even need to be delicious! I bought Lucid Gem to try this year,and I hope they taste as wonderful as they look!

  4. Dave

    Thank you for the giveaway. Some vary interesting varieties. About winter…. our state (Oregon) got nailed yesterday, in areas that hardly, if ever, see any snow. Usually the flowering cherry trees here in the south western area of the state have started blossoming by now. Not yet. Patiently waiting for some sign of spring.

    1. dramamamafive Post author

      Dave, it is a strange year, weather-wise. Here in Nebraska, we are within a few inches of breaking the largest snowfall record EVER recorded for the month of February, and it is one of the coldest Februarys on record, too. Alas, I am not so patient, as I wait for spring.

  5. Pearl

    Cherry tomatoes are eaten like candy here at my house…so we’re looking forward to seeing all different kinds of those. Recently learned about the blue berry cherry tomatoes that you pictures above and would love to try those!!

  6. Denise Fedor Falicki

    I thought I grew a lot of tomato plants. WOW. Last year I had 60+. I like growing a lot of cherry land currant tomatoes in different shapes and colors.

  7. Lydie

    Those Blue Berries look so good! I’m afraid my tomato tastes run a bit superficial.. my favorite on the farm where I work is the Margold, which no one else on our crew particularly likes. I swear it tastes the best, but it is also the most beautiful so who knows why I really like it 😉

    1. dramamamafive Post author

      Lydie, I’ve heard some folks say that the Blue Berries are too tart for them–but I prefer the more tart tomatoes to the super sweet ones that are currently the rage. Plus, you’re right, the beauty of this variety is hard to resist!!

  8. Anne

    Oh goodness!! I am going to try the planting technique he shared. Just don’t tell Boyd. 😉 Grateful for a real winter, but dreaming of spring.

    1. dramamamafive Post author

      Indeed!! I am going to try that with a few of my plants, too! I think Timothy and Catie did that very thing last year in their garden. Springtime dreams happening here, too, my friend. <3

  9. Heather Richins

    I love all tomatoes, but I will always be partial to the beefsteak tomatoes my grandparents grew that my dad used in bacon and tomato sandwiches.

  10. Jenn

    I absolutely love the blueberry tomatoes! I grew them 2 years ago and had more than I could possibly eat by myself and had to give lots of them away!

  11. Susan

    I grew the Large Barred Boar last year. I loved them. Great Flavor!!. I am trying his new one this year Cherokee Rose along with the Large Barred Boar and Secret Sauce

  12. Vikki

    I am still trying varieties to determine my favorite, but I really haven’t met a tomato that I don’t like… So with that said, I’m most excited about growing WBF Blue Berries and Barry’s Crazy Cherry…. They are already well on their way since I’m in zone 9b. So excited for my first raised bed garden this year. I have only had 3 or 4 containers per year until now. Happy Growing!

  13. Ivana

    I loved this post! I shouldn’t order anymore seeds but I’ve been dying to try Wild Boar’s unique tomatoes! This post just convinced me to order a few lol I’ll find the room! Thank you for blogging about this. I love the site and can’t wait to read more of your posts. Happy planting!

    1. dramamamafive Post author

      Thank you, Ivana! Be sure to subscribe to my blog (put your email address in the little box up on the right) so you receive new blog posts!

  14. Brianna Myers

    I love Wild Boar Farms tomatoes! I actually had a whole raised bed named “The Brad Gates Garden” last summer and plan to do the same this year. Blue Beauty is my fav.

  15. Audrey

    I can’t wait to get into the garden this year, winter has been awful here with snow and ice and cold. I want warm weather and plants! These tomatoes are so beautiful.

  16. Gretchen Rodriguez

    I am so excited that growing season is about to begin! I have never been so excited about growing tomatoes, until I discovered Wild Boar’s varieties. I hope that this year is a success.

  17. Nicole C Mindek

    I want to grow all of Brad’s amazing new heirlooms!!! I am slowly geeing a chance to grow his many varieties! I am only able to grow like 4 tomato plants at a time and almost all space is devoted to his varieties! So I am looking forward to getting to grow all of them hopefully one day soon!!!! Thank you Brad for putting your talents to making these amazing tomatoes!!!!

  18. Vikki Weaver

    I didn’t find my original comment, but this is my first year growing Wild Boar Farms tomatoes. I’m excited about lots of them, but this year I’ve got the Blue Berries and Barry’s Crazy Cherry going already. I’d love to try one of the fuzzy varieties, dark Galaxy, or even the Pink Berkley Tie dye.

  19. Samantha

    My favorite so far has been the Blue Berries Tomatoes, fun colors. I”m trying Barry’s Crazy Cherry this year and can’t wait.

  20. Helen

    Well… look where I am… I find myself in “the present” with this post! It’s been a pleasure to read it through from the beginning… watching it change and grow in so many ways.

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