Homegrown Tomato Festival brings a big party -- and cocktails -- to Plaza Midwood this weekend

Tomatoes have long been the theme for summer festivals in many areas across the country. This year, on July 29, the Homegrown Tomato Festival will make its debut at Midwood Country Club on Central Avenue.

Sam Fleming is the festival’s coordinator and co-founder of 100 Gardens, a non-profit organization that provides learning opportunities through aquaponics and urban farming programs in schools, institutions and communities.

“A lot of non-profits will have galas, but that’s not really our style,” he said. “We thought, let’s throw some type of festival around gardening.”

When Fleming proposed a tomato festival, Midwood Country Club owners, Warren and Ashley Stiles, offered their venue for the event.

“It’s called the Homegrown Tomato Festival to celebrate people who garden on a small scale at their house,” Fleming said.

The festival is a fundraiser for 100 Gardens, and donations will support aquaponic programs at Garinger High School, Myers Park High School, Stonewall Jackson Youth Development Center and South Iredell High School. This summer, Hickory Grove Christian School, Webb Street School in Gastonia and the Governor Morehead School for The Blind in Raleigh are adding programs with the help of the organization.

Aquaponics system
100 Gardens aquaponic systems

Here’s what you can expect at the festival:

Get a history lesson on tomatoes

Raleigh-based tomato expert and author, Craig LeHoullier, will speak at the festival about the history of tomatoes, how he helped make heirloom tomatoes popular and how he got to name the Cherokee Purple Tomato.

Vote for the best tomato

Fifteen backyard growers will each bring ten pounds of their best tomatoes to the festival. Vote for the tomato you love by donating money to that tomato grower. The “People’s Choice” award will be based on which local tomato grower collects the most money in their donation jar.

Bartenders from Krazy Fish, Letty’s on Shamrock, Midwood Country Club, Dogwood Southern Table and Bar and Heist Brewery will be competing for the best tomato themed cocktail. Cocktails will be available for purchase.

The “Critic’s Choice” tomato and the best tomato-themed cocktail will be chosen by Heidi Billotto, local food blogger; Stefan Huebner, owner of Myers Park speakeasy Dot Dot Dot, and LeHoullier.


Music, drinks and vendors

Look for southern-style tomato sandwiches with a vegan mayo option and a pig being smoked on-site for BBQ sandwiches. Expect an outdoor stage for live music. Midwood Country Club’s full bar with craft beer will also be open during the festival.

Local businesses such as Viva Raw, Beverly’s Gourmet Foods, Greeneman Farms, Nourish, Two Moon Family Farms and Lenny Boy Brewing Co. will be there to share information and sell their products.

Fleming said, “A whole lot of people believe in what we do and this is just a big-time party that we are going to throw and hope that everyone feels good about spending their money there.”


Saturday, July 29

1 p.m.

Midwood Country Club: 2123 Central Ave.

Free parking and admission

Photos: Drea Photo Artistry, Sam Fleming