A giant tomato serves as the tourist information booth for the city of Leamington Ontario where my husband Dave grew up. Dave was raised on a vegetable farm so he spent plenty of hours working in the tomato field when he was a kid. In those days all the tomatoes were picked by hand and each field was picked many times during the tomato season. Now the tomatoes are engineered to ripen more uniformly and are picked by machines.
(This painting of tomato picking in the 1950’s was done by Dave’s very talented cousin Ruth Driedger. You can see more of her work on her website.)
The first few years we were married we came home during tomato picking season and I had the opportunity to work out in the field with Dave’s family. I remember being impressed how everyone aunts, uncles and cousins worked together to help with the harvesting of one another’s crops. Even the youngest children were out in the field with their parents. Dave’s petite aunt Marion was by far the fastest picker and out distanced us all. I was impressed by how strong my husband was lifting those heavy baskets of tomatoes to load them onto wagons. I also remember the fun everyone had working together and I witnessed at least one rotten tomato fight.
The biggest producer of tomato products in Leamington is the Heinz Factory. It takes up several square blocks in the heart of the city. The next time you have Heinz Ketchup look on the label near the bottom and you will probably see that it was bottled in Leamington.