Guest Ranter Ralph Haas, and his Kailua Farm partners, had a goal of winning a ribbon at the Kentucky State Fair last week. They had one problem. They couldn’t pull together five red tomatoes between them. Ralph wrote a letter of explanation that was submitted with their fair entry.
To: Honorable Commissioners Ryan Quarles, Dean Nancy Cox and Superintendent Josh Linda—Vegetables and Melons Division, Kentucky State Fair.
From: Kailua Farm, Louisville / Salvisa KY. Shareholders: Ralph Haas, Christopher Haas and Allen Bush.
RE: Entry: Division 2401 (Vegetables and Melons) Class 83 (Tomatoes): Five (5) red round slicers
Date: August 12, 2017
Enclosed with this note, please find five tomatoes.
We grew them.
Ok, “Kailua Farm” is, at best, an affectation. My son Chris and I don’t have farms. We just have back yards. Allen does have a farm, out in Salvisa KY, but let’s not get ahead of ourselves.
There are three of us in this tomato grower’s alliance, but I fear I’m the one to blame for all this. What happened is that when I got married in 1985 (I know what you’re thinking. We should have entered the Senior Division – Class 190), I put out my first single tomato plant in the back yard. And I got bit by the bug. Heirlooms, hybrids, Big Boys, Better Boys… 2 plants, 4 plants…
And while all of us in the tomato growing community have our own demons, mine have been squirrels. I’ve built fences, I’ve hung mesh, I’ve hung the plants upside down, I’ve spread human hair from the barbershop, I’ve sprayed deer repellant around the edges… If you were willing to sit still for even a minute in my backyard, in the summer time, and let me pour you a cool libation, I could tell you more.
Well, the one fellow, and the second member of our merry band, who couldn’t ever really avoid sitting with me in the back yard—because, of course, it was his back yard too—is my eldest son Chris. At 30, he is now a homeowner with a back yard of his own. He has witnessed the joy that living the tomato life has given his father. So, he put in a few plants of his own this year.
Then there’s Allen. He grows some tomatoes, too. But, more importantly, Allen is the kind of guy who will absolutely sit in the back yard with you, and if you want to talk about your tomatoes and your squirrels, your fences and your nets, your general consternation over those teeth marks in your bright red and otherwise absolutely perfect tomatoes? Well, Allen is just kind of guy who’ll sit with you. And he’ll just show up one April day with a small tray of tomato seedlings grown by his friend, Judge Thomas Fulton, on the windowsill at the Federal Courthouse. Allen can weave a story, is what I’m saying.
So, here’s what happened of an early summer evening not too long ago, Allen said, “We should enter some tomatoes in the Fair this year.”
And here we are.
But before you open the bag, Honorable Commissioners, know this: Although they’re multi-colored, scuffed and cracked (I know they won’t be much to look at), we sure did have a good time growing them. Since May, we’ve shared seedlings with one another; we’ve sent each other photos as they grew; we’ve visited each other’s tomato patches and we’ve made some pretty darn good tomato sandwiches. And though we’ll each take one more optimistic stroll out to our respective patches this weekend, don’t be surprised if there are not 5 in there that qualify, given our abiding respect for page 181, item 2 of the rules: “The superintendent shall have the right to remove from exhibition at any time, any exhibit, or part thereof, which does not make a good appearance…”
But Judges, we sure did have a lot of fun growing our tomatoes this year. We really did. Do y’all give out any ribbons for that?
Editor’s Note: We are proud tomato growers. Kailua Farm lost, but we think we know why. A conspiracy theory is unfolding. My wife, Rose Cooper, blamed the loss on the overwhelming number of “red supremacist” tomato entries. My Salvisa, KY neighbor, Walter Monroe, took a look at a photograph of our entry and said: “Now, those look like good maters.” Damn right. See you next year.