Married to a Tomato Farmer

by : Beth R. on Sep 29, 2015
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It’s here! My favorite time of the year…harvest time. Growing up on a family farm in Central Illinois, there’s not many childhood memories that don’t tie back to the farm. Some of my fondest memories include preparing meals with both my grandmother and mother to bring out to the guys working in the field. As soon as I would walk into my grandmother’s kitchen she said I would ask with excitement “What are we cooking today grandma?”. We’d spend all afternoon preparing the meal then loading it up and hauling it out to the field. Once we arrived at the field, we’d pop the tailgate and setup our buffet line. I used to even bring along an old laundry basket to flip over and use as my own personal table. After the meal (and dessert!) was finished, I’d hop in the combine with my dad or grandpa and ride a few rounds. I loved every minute of it and those are the memories that come back to me each year when harvest rolls around.

Now, 31 years later, I am married to a farmer and have a daughter of my own. So it’s really important to me to help create special memories for her during this time of year. This harvest sea-son is a bit unique for our family. My husband, Drew, is a 3rd generation tomato grower with Miller Farms. His grandfather Eldon Miller, started raising tomatoes for Red Gold back when the company first originated. And my father-in-law, Phil Miller, continued the tradition growing tomatoes alongside his dad Eldon since the age of 13. Sadly, we lost both Grandpa Eldon and my father-in-law Phil. So this year is the very first year my husband, alongside his brother Taylor, are carrying on the family legacy as tomato growers on their own. Inevitably, as generations change, you hope to make those who paved the way before you proud.

Naturally, with this tomato harvest being a memorable one for our family, it has given me great pride as a farm wife to be able to prepare meals in the very same kitchen that my husband’s grandmother Millie Miller did. Some of my favorite dishes to prepare during harvest time include spaghetti, BBQ, beef stew, stuffed peppers and chili. All of these dishes are prepared with delicious Red Gold products (including my favorite Red Gold salsa!) and the recipes can be found here. I love preparing meals for harvest that are first and foremost easy to make, especially being a mommy to a very busy 1 year old little girl. I also love cooking meals that are great to re-heat for leftovers. Sometimes when the crew is working late in the tomato field the night before, its handy to have a meal on hand that you can quickly reheat for lunch the next day. I’ve haven't had a complaint yet from a hungry worker about eating spaghetti two days in a row and that’s OK by me!

I didn’t grow up on a tomato farm, my family primarily raised corn and soybeans. So being a part of the tomato harvest has been a new experience for me. I’ve learned to better plan when I should bring food out to the field because a tomato harvester moves at a lot SLOWER pace than a combine does. If you catch the harvester going the opposite direction, you may being sitting with food for quite some time before they make the round back to you. Let’s just say I learned this lesson the hard way and served some less-than-warm meals once or twice in my rookie tomato harvesting career. Thankfully, the workers (including my husband) were more than understanding. But I will say this, one plus side to the harvester moving at a slower pace, is that you can grab a tasty snack to pass the time while riding along. There’s truly nothing like a homegrown tomato straight out of the field!

Last week, I had the exciting opportunity to be a part of Red Gold’s Farm to Table event with bloggers from across the country. Throughout this event, I was able to meet some wonderful new people who also have a strong passion for food and agriculture. Perhaps the most interesting part of the trip for me was the Red Gold plant tours. I got to see firsthand how our tomatoes go from farm to table. And WOW, what an incredible process! Walking through the plants, I couldn’t help but feel proud knowing that some of those tomatoes came straight from our own farm. Seeing the amazing process of canning the tomatoes really gave me a whole new level of excitement to take back to our farm. Growing tomatoes has always been a labor of love for our family but when you see the sense of pride that Red Gold puts into each of their products and each of their employees; it makes you want to strive for an even higher level of excellence on your own farm. I left Red Gold having a better understanding of where our tomatoes go once they are unloaded off our trucks. I also left Red Gold knowing our tomatoes are in great hands and that consumers really are getting the freshest, best tasting tomato products in the world. As a farmer, there’s no better feeling than that.

From our family to yours, here’s to a productive, memorable and safe 2015 harvest season for all!

Ashlie Miller

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