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edible Monterey Bay Summer 2016

EDIBLE NOTABLES TOMATO LOVERS Meet the folks trying to change the world one tomato at a time BY DEBORAH LUHRMAN PHOTOGRAPHY BY DEBORAH LUHRMAN AND CAROLE TOPALIAN Farmer Cynthia Sandberg barely noticed the first time realtor Helen Pastorino came to one of her gardening classes at Love Apple Farms in the Santa Cruz Mountains and offered to sit down and talk business. “Sometimes you’ve got to hit me over the head with a two-by-four to get me to pay attention,” she admits. But then Pastorino took another class and persisted. “I realized that this was a really high-powered businesswoman, and we entered into a relationship where she became my mentor,” says Sandberg. “She’s just vastly more experienced in business than I am and a lot more successful.” So the teacher became the student, with Pastorino—who founded the Los Gatos-based Alain Pinel and Pertria real estate groups—guiding Sandberg toward her dream of creating a community of tomato lovers in the World Tomato Society. WTS was actually launched two years ago, but Sandberg was busy growing gourmet vegetables for David Kinch’s Michelin-starred Manresa restaurant, and the project needed a reboot. In January, tech entrepreneur Bud Michael was brought on board as the society’s CEO and in March Sandberg ended her partnership with Manresa to devote more time to the tomato society. She and Michael have also joined forces with Gary Ibsen and his wife Dagma 12 edible monterey bay summer 2016 e World Tomato Society’s Cynthia Sandberg and Bud Michael Lacey, who run the TomatoFest seed company and from 1990 to 2008 organized the popular Carmel TomatoFest. “I did a bunch of research and found tomatoes are a huge industry,” says Michael, who at first was apprehensive about the business potential. “It’s a $21 billion-a-year industry and millions of people are passionate about tomatoes, but nobody’s really organized the world of tomatoes. “I thought about how Etsy and Craftsy and even Pinterest when they began were all affinity groups, started around a particular theme of interest,” he says. Cooking and gardening are the top two hobbies in the United States and tomatoes, although technically a fruit, are considered the most widely grown vegetable. So the ingredients are there for a successful society that brings together growers, gardeners, nutritionists, chefs, home cooks and eaters from around the globe. “e tomato crosses all boundaries and cuisines and all socioeconomic boundaries as well,” says Sandberg, who has been growing tomatoes “passionately” for the past 20 years and holds an annual tomato plant sale every spring in Scotts Valley. “When home gardeners start a vegetable patch, tomatoes are their number one most desired thing to grow, because the difference in fla- Photo at left by Carole Topalian, photo at right by Deborah Luhrman


edible Monterey Bay Summer 2016
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