“The Tomato Barn”
65 Penn Street
Washington Boro, Pa 17582
Testimony Of Owner/Founder Of The Tomato Barn:
This is the story of how the Tomato Barn came about and
the journey I traveled to get where I am today.
From 1976 – 1986, all my tomatoes were sold wholesale. I grew 20,000 tomato plants most of which were tasteful Jet Stars. Newer varieties were being developed for looks and firmness which in turn lacked flavor.
Also, at that time Leola Produce Action was established, so my buyers started buying produce there due to the fact they were getting a good looking product that had a great shelf life. I started selling my good tasting tomatoes, Jet Stars, to local grocery stores. I was selling to about 15 stores throughout Lancaster and York areas.
Well, there’s something you need to know about Jet Stars; that is, on a wet year Jet Stars do not perform well. Wet weather makes them look ugly, cracked and makes them soft. The year 1987 was a very wet year. In fact, that year the Tomato Festival was rained out. The Tomato Festival is held every year on the 2nd and 3rd Saturdays in July at Washington Boro Park, located at the intersection of Routes 999/441, ½ mile down the road from the Tomato Barn. In 1987 the Tomato Festival had a rain date, but both Saturdays ended up being a complete wash out.
Remember now that Jet Stars do not perform well in wet conditions. It was a Friday afternoon, at around 4:00 PM when I received a call from the main office of the grocery stores I was supplying; they said that due to the quality of my product, I was being shut down. My tomatoes would no longer be allowed in their stores.
So what do you do with 20,000 plants full of tomatoes with no place to sell them? Well, I decided to try the
Leola Produce Auction, but due to the softness of my tomato, they brought about 70% less than the perfect looking tomatoes that were hard as a rock. So I prayed to God, “If you want me in the tomato business, you’re going to have to figure it out because it’s not looking good.”
God gave me the idea to put a stand out in front of my barn. It started out about 8 feet long and I was selling about $50.00 worth of tomatoes a day and maybe on a Friday & Saturday, I would get up to a $100.00 a day. Well, that was not going to pay for the help I had to hire.
It was a Friday morning around 11:00 AM and down the road came News 8. Joe Calhoun asked if he could do the “Noon Day Report” from here. I was all for it! He got everything set up. At about 11:45 AM my phone rang. It was Lester Eckman and Leroy Funk from down at the Tomato Festival. They were to be meeting News 8 to go live from the Festival for publicity since they had been rained out. I had no knowledge about their arrangements but said I would put Joe Calhoun on the phone. Joe had thought he was at the place he was supposed to be when he pulled in at my tomato stand. He said that there was no way he could tear down and be able to set up again in 15 minutes, so he told Lester and Leroy that they were going to have to come up here.
They did come up and do their publicity for the Festival at my tomato stand. I also got about 20 seconds on TV. In my 20 seconds, I tried to let people know that I have the best tasting tomato anywhere to be found and that taste was more important than looks. Would you believe it, that next day, my sales went to over $800.00 and it put my stand on the map. Sales have increased every year since that. So, remember what I prayed? ”If you want me in the tomato business, God, you better figure it out.” Well, God did figure it out, and He has continued to bless this business.
I would like to thank God publicly for what He has done here at the Tomato Barn, but most of all I would like to
thank God for providing a way for me to have everlasting life through His Son, Jesus. If you have never considered the everlasting, I pray that you would. God does not want anyone to perish. If God can use somebody like me with all my faults, He can use you as well. If you would like to talk further about this please stop by the Tomato Barn or call (717)684-2597 and ask for Steve.
A. Steven Funk