Verdier House lecture to focus on tomato farming

2 mins read

The History of Tomato Farming in Beaufort County is the first in the Fall Dinner & a Lecture Series sponsored by Historic Beaufort Foundation at the Verdier House, 801 Bay Street. Scheduled for Monday, Sept. 17, from 5:30-7 p.m., the program will feature historic photos and a lecture about farming traditions by Melba Thomas, longtime Beaufortonian.

Tomato farming still supports Beaufort County’s economy today just as it did in the early 20th century, when the Gus Sanders family first began growing tomatoes and other truck crops on St. Helena Island and were later joined by other farm families — the Trasks, the Lipmans, the Dempseys and others. St. Helena Island has a history rich in agriculture since the climate borders on temperate to tropical. Crops that have been grown on St. Helena include citrus, figs, pomegranates, peaches, strawberries, corn, apples, wheat, sugarcane, flax, potatoes, watermelons, tomatoes, cucumbers, and other vegetables. This unique geographic zone provides weather that is very conducive to growing high-quality tomatoes during two distinct seasons. Our farms are near sea level and enjoy late first frosts, early spring warming, and cooler summer temperatures than inland growing areas.

Thomas, who works with the Sanders family at its MacDonald Marketplace in Frogmore, will share stories about and agricultural customs that enabled the Sanders family to now successfully produce between 15 and 20 million pounds of tomatoes a year.

Other programs in the fall series are “Charleston Architect Albert Simons: A Lowcounty Visionary,” on Oct. 22 and “A New Plantation World: Sporting Estates in the South Carolina Lowcountry from 1900-1940” on Nov. 12.

Dinner & A Lecture is a monthly educational series held from September through May and sponsored by Historic Beaufort Foundation. Reservations are necessary as seating is limited. A wine and hors d’oeuvre reception begins at 5:30 and the program is from 6-7 p.m. Admission for members is $15/$25 per member/couple. Non-member admission is$20/$30 per person/couple. Call 843-379-3331 to make reservations. Reservations for Saltus River Grill’s special for lecture ticket-holders may be made by calling Saltus at 843-379-3474.

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