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Quest for a better tomato under way near Plato

The Tomato Project, an experimental tomato garden in Plato, strives to answer one question: How much nutrition should be in a tomato in order for it to be called nutrient dense?
Directed by Luke Lemmers of Fix My Soil, LLC, in partnership with Jon Frank of International Ag Labs, the Tomato Project began in 2016. It was inspired by Lemmers’ own experimental cherry tomato plant that he planted in his garden two years ago.
“We put in all the fertility things that we normally do for everybody else because why not? Fix My Soil helps everyone else grow good food, so let’s do it here,” said Lemmers. “And it was amazing. People were saying that they had never seen a tomato plant like that before. It yielded over 4,000 tomatoes and the tomatoes were sweet, like candy. So the next year people suggested, ‘Why don’t you do something bigger with bigger tomatoes and different fertility combinations?’ We did, and now it’s really grown into trying to understand what nutrient dense tomatoes should look like. ‘Nutrient dense’ has become a buzzword — people talk about it, but what does it really mean? At the Tomato Project we analyze the tomatoes and break it down for nutritional content,” says Lemmers.
The Tomato Project, which is scheduled to be a multi-year project, grows tomatoes using both organic and biological methods of custom fertility. The first and last rows are grown organically and the six rows in between are treated with one of three different biological fertility methods that are put together by International Ag Labs.  
Lemmers chose to use horizontal trellising for the tomato plants, which allows for more produce to grow in less space by training the tomato stems to grow in certain directions. This year, the Tomato Project is growing 51 total varieties of tomatoes, 38 of which are Heirloom.
While the Tomato Project is an experimental project, Lemmers does look for opportunities to share the produce they grow.
“We’re debating on where to put up a stand,” said Lemmers.

For more about the project, see the July 26 print edition of The Chronicle.