By Beth Mack
April 15, 2021
100 Gardens kicks off its fourth annual Homegrown Tomato Festival this coming Saturday, April 17. The Homegrown Tomato Festival is an annual fundraising event benefitting Charlotte-based nonprofit, 100 Gardens, an organization that implements aquaponic farming systems in schools, institutions, and communities of need, providing hands-on learning in science, math, technology, engineering, and math (STEM). While the online event will obviously highlight tomatoes, 100 Gardens Executive Director, Sam Fleming, has visions beyond that.
“We want to harness people’s excitement for that perfect, juicy tomato and use it as a vehicle to get people more connected to their food while also spotlighting issues that we face not just here in Charlotte, but nationally such as food equity, health disparities, and climate change,” said Fleming.
What better way to accomplish that than to put together a knowledgeable list of presenters, many of whom have received national accolades in their line of work.
If you want to try your hand at growing your own tomatoes, they have brought in experts from around the country. Feel free to ask New York Times best-selling author of Epic Tomatoes, Craig “Tomato Man” LeHoullier, for his tips and tricks on growing the best tomatoes in a live Q&A session. If you are looking to build a home gardening space, be sure to tune in to a talk from Charlotte’s own, The Patio Farmer, Erin Hostetler for insight on how to make the most of your space. For out-of-the-box yet practical gardening ideas, the event has you covered with a session with horticulturist and author of Foodscape Revolution, Brie Arthur, to re-envision your landscape.
Attendees can also get a sneak peek at the future of agriculture with virtual tours of aquaponics labs, one of which is operating right here in Charlotte at Garinger High School. If that isn’t futuristic enough, tune in for a virtual tour of AppHarvest’s astonishing flagship 60-acre indoor tomato farm that combines technology and natural resources to generate 30 times more yield per acre than traditional farming, all while not employing a single chemical pesticide.
Best of all, learn how to cook tomatoes like a pro with a live cooking demo from James Beard-nominated chef, Greg Collier, and his wife Sabrina. You can also learn how to make a cocktail using tomatoes with a demo from Leah and Louise’s liquid alchemist, Justin Hazleton.
Part one of this two-part virtual festival, concludes with a live performance from none other than TikTok sensation Funky Geezer and a virtual cocktail after party. All proceeds from the festival go towards supporting 100 Gardens’ mission of teaching aquaponic farming to today’s youth.
You can see the full schedule and buy tickets on the Homegrown Tomato Festival website. Also check out the details for the second part of this festival scheduled for July 17.