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Carmel Tomato Festival

Gary Ibsen has taken his love of heritage tomatoes a step further than most and started an annual event, the Carmel TomatoFest. Heirloom Tomatoes

Allen: I remember the first TomatoFest I came to, it was way out in the middle of a cornfield in Carmel Valley and it was an absolutely wonderful happening!

Gary Ibsen, Carmel TomatoFest, Carmel, California: Well, I think we had about 250 people at that event and that was large for us at that time. We now have 2000 people and they are coming from all over the country.

Allen: In the tomato tasting tent, how many varieties do you have?

Gary: Today I think we have about 300 varieties. We were not counting this morning, but I imagine that it's somewhere right around that range of 300 varieties.

Allen: Now you're continuing to grow heirloom varieties yourself?

Gary: Yes.

Allen: How many have you grown this year?

Gary: This year I've got 340 growing, all heirloom varieties, from all over the world. My complete selection is on the Internet at www.tomatofest.com. The primary reason that I like to support heirloom seeds is to protect these precious varieties from disappearing.

Hybrids have some very good tomatoes, but you're not going to be able to carry on that hybrid by yourself. So when people come to my tomato tasting and they fall in love with a tomato, they can take it home and it can be in their family for generations.

I encourage people to experiment and pass on seeds, this precious tradition.

Allen: Yes, because once that genetic material is lost, it's gone forever.

Gary: Gone. And I think in the last 30 years we've lost almost 30 percent of our heirloom varieties. So, I'm here to protect those as much as possible and to encourage people to get into seed saving. It's a great family venture.