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NatureSweet announces return of Homegrown Tomato & Chef’s Challenge

NatureSweet Tomatoes announced the return of the Glorys Homegrown Tomato & Chef’s Challenge tour for 2014 on July 28. The contests will put green thumbs and cooking skills to the test with four events beginning Aug. 9 and concluding Sept. 6.

This year, the tour kicks off in Indianapolis, marking the 53rd challenge conducted to date. Since 2003, NatureSweet has run the Homegrown Tomato Challenge in cities nationwide, meeting garden-grown tomatoes of all shapes, sizes and varieties along the way. In 2010, the Chef’s Challenge was added, opening up the contest to foodies who enjoy cooking with tomatoes.

“We are very excited for another Homegrown Tomato and Chef’s Challenge Tour,” said Michael Joergensen, marketing director of NatureSweet. “It’s a pleasure to partner with grocers to bring communities together for great food and great fun. We are thrilled to see the stellar produce and delicious dishes that our fans will bring to the table. It gives us great joy to see others who share our love of top-notch tomatoes!”

For the Glorys Homegrown Tomato Challenge, participants will bring small, medium or large tomatoes of the same variety to one of the event locations listed below. Tomatoes will be judged by a panel consisting of local celebrities and dignitaries. Each category holds a grand prize of $2,000 for the best homegrown tomato and $200 grocery store gift cards for runners-up. Tomato entries not awarded a prize will be donated to a local food bank.

To enter the Glorys Chef’s Challenge, participants will declare their love of cooking with tomatoes in 200 words or less. Three finalists will be chosen from all entries based on creativity and originality of content submitted. One grand-prize winner will be selected in every city, and each will be awarded $2,000 for the best dish. Runners-up will receive $200 grocery store gift cards.

For a full list of contest rules for the Glorys Homegrown Tomato & Chef’s Challenge, visit

The 2014 Glorys Homegrown Tomato & Chef’s Challenge will kick off its four-city tour in Indiana and end in Colorado.

Specific locations and dates below:

Indianapolis, IN

Date & Time: Aug.9, 8 a.m. – 1 p.m.

Location: Kroger, 8850 S. Emerson Ave., Indianapolis, IN

Chef’s Challenge Deadline: Must enter by 11:59 p.m. on July 31

South Burlington, VT

Date & Time: Aug.16, 8 a.m. – 1 p.m.

Location: Price Chopper, 595 Shelburne Rd., South Burlington, VT

Chef’s Challenge Deadline: Must enter by 11:59 p.m. on Aug. 7

Chicago, IL

Date & Time: Aug. 23, 8 a.m. – 1 p.m.

Location: Jewel, 1151 S. Roselle Rd., Schaumburg, IL

Chef’s Challenge Deadline: Must enter by 11:59 p.m. on Aug.14

Denver, CO

Date & Time: Sept. 6, 8 a.m. – 1 p.m.

Location: King Soopers, 15051 E. 104th Ave., Commerce City, CO

Chef’s Challenge Deadline: Must enter by 11:59 p.m. on Aug. 21


T&A introduces George T's Special Colossal Romaine Heart

Tanimura & Antle introduced a new lettuce variety, George T's Special Colossal Romaine Heart, in honor of company co-founder George Tanimura, who is celebrating his 100th year in 2014.

GeorgeT.RH.ColossalCompositThis new seed variety combines two of George Tanimura's favorite lettuces — Iceberg and Romaine Hearts — and offers superior flavor, improved sustainable value and impressive per-head yield. It is packaged in a 40-pound 24-count retro-designed carton that features the original red-and-blue "T&A" label.

George T's Special Colossal Romaine Heart has been bred to be a true heart lettuce variety, requiring far fewer leaves to be trimmed at harvest, leaving less waste in the field.

Tanimura pioneered drip tape in row crop agriculture years ago, and this lettuce variety continues his dedication to sustainable farming methods. "George Tanimura is a true and tireless leader, whose contributions to the produce industry will never be matched," Mike Antle, senior vice president and partner, said in a press release.

This new lettuce seed variety has been developed to blend the finest characteristics of two popular lettuce varieties: the superior crunch and mouth appeal of Iceberg lettuce and the deep color and sweet flavor of a Romaine Heart. Each head yields seven three-ounce servings, a significant value for foodservice operators.

Driscoll's-Wegmans partnership sponsors Strawberry Days fundraiser

Driscoll's once again partnered with Wegmans Food Markets to sponsor the eighth annual Strawberry Days fundraiser to benefit The Children's Home Society of New Jersey. The three-day fundraising event aims to promote a healthy summer snack while raising awareness and critical funds for the at-risk babies, children and families of New Jersey.

For each carton of Driscoll's strawberries purchased at a New Jersey Wegmans location July 18-20, Driscoll's pledged $0.50 to CHSofNJ. On Sunday, July 27 at Wegmans' Princeton location, Driscoll's presented a check for $20,000 to CHSofNJ, bringing its cumulative Strawberry Days total donation to $135,000. Funds raised from this event will directly support the 54 programs and services CHSofNJ provides to the community, including foster care and adoption services, counseling services, school-based services, and a variety of health and educational programs.

"We are so grateful to Driscoll's and Wegmans for always caring about our children and making a difference in meaningful ways," Donna C. Pressma, CHSofNJ president and chief executive officer, said in a press release. "Strawberry Days raises awareness of the needs of our at-risk children and supports the critical programs our agency provides to help them grow into happy, healthy, successful adults. These companies are shining examples of how large corporations can improve the quality of life for our community's children."
"Helping young people succeed is one of our main giving priorities," Joe Sofia, Wegmans senior vice president and New Jersey division manager, said in the release. "It's our pleasure to be involved, partnering with Driscoll's once again to support CHSofNJ and the incredible work they do to enrich our community."
CHSofNJ thanked Driscoll's and Wegmans for sponsoring Strawberry Days, and also those in the community who supported this fundraiser.

Lantao opens new fruit import distribution facility

Lantao, which imports premium fruit from around the world into China, has opened its seventh fresh fruit import distribution facility in Qingdao, Shandong Province.

Jim Provost of I Love Produce LLC and John Wang, chief executive officer of Lantao, were on-hand to help kick off the celebration. Shandong is one of the top farm export provinces in China, and Provost and Wang are partners in exporting organic vegetables, ginger and garlic from Shandong to North America.

qingdao-lantao-geninssHou Min, manager of Qingdao Lantao; Jim Provost, president of I Love Produce; Lin Zhi Wei, vice president of Qingdao CPPCC Committees; John Wang, CEO of Lantao; and Liu Yin Xiang President of the Qingdao International Agricultural Products Market.“Qingdao is the port and gateway for all of the produce we ship from China to North America,” Provost said in a press release. “So, it is only fitting that we have now opened a Qingdao distribution facility that will allow us to bring premium fruit from the United Stated and the world to the people of Shandong.”

Lantao’s new office in Qingdao is located in the Qingdao International Agricultural Products Market, which has a total planned area of 1,700 acres, and a total investment of 5.6 billion Yuan (about $9 million U.S.). Phase I officially began operations Dec. 7, 2013, and by 2014 the annual volume of fresh produce has reached 500 million tons.

“Qingdao is an attractive market for us for a number of reasons,” Wang said in the release. “With nearly 100 million population, Shandong is one of China’s most populated provinces as well as one of the most affluent. In addition, as a port city, we can import fruit from North American, South America, South Africa and Australia directly to Qingdao, reducing our transit time and cost as compared to the normal channel through South China and trucking it north.”

“Having an established importer like Lantao will draw business to the market not only from Qingdao but from other areas in Shandong including the capital city, Jinan,” Liu Yin Xiang, president of the Qingdao International Agricultural Products Market, said in the press release.

Southwest Michigan peach deal begins

Peach harvest in southwest Michigan is under way. “A few are in now,” said Barry Winkel, the partner and general manager of Benton Harbor, MI-based Greg Orchards & Produce Inc. The volume will grow in the last days of July.

Red Haven peach harvest will begin from this area in the first week of August, Winkel said. Southwest Michigan’s peach trees were hurt by bitterly cold weather last winter. Winkel expected about two-thirds to three-fourths of a full peach crop.

Over the winter, a couple of times temperatures in those orchards bounced as low as -17 degrees Fahrenheit. “Usually if you get to -10 it really gets iffy," he said. "I’m surprised we got through with what we did.”

Growers around Benton Harbor have experienced a cool, wet summer. “Today the highs will be in the mid- to high 70s, and the low tonight will be in the 50s,” he said. The rain helps the size “but sometimes it affects the flavor. If it stays warm now, we will be fine.”

Winkel said local demand “will gobble up all the peaches we have.” Buyers in Michigan and surrounding states — certainly including Illinois and particularly Chicago — create very strong markets.

“We are within 500 miles of a lot of people," he said. "We have more requests from buyers for pictures and the backgrounds of our growers, as they tout locally grown.’”

In southwest Michigan, the apple harvest will begin with Paula Reds in the third week of August.