Hanover Tomato Festival supplier working overtime

Numerous boxes and cartons of fresh produce fill the floors of the packaging plant. Flies buzz around the vicinity while workers quietly tend to their daily work.

Robert Dodd, of Dodd's Acres Farm in Eastern Hanover, sits near freshly packed produce in the packing plant.

Robert Dodd, of Dodd’s Acres Farm in Eastern Hanover, sits near freshly packed produce in the packing plant.

Some at Dodd’s Acres Farm in Eastern Hanover dump peppers and cherry tomatoes into a machine to be washed while others load the clean veggies into boxes. Others prepare and open boxes for vegetables to be packaged. Everyone is calm, collected and in business mode even though they are actually two weeks behind schedule due to this season’s unpredictable weather.

“Older farmers said they’ve never seen the weather the way it’s been [the past week],” said Jane Dodd co-owner of Dodd’s Acres Farm.

Before summer officially began, the area was hit with a streak of unusually cold weather. Now that it’s summer, the rain has not stopped pouring down since warm weather started.

The weather hasn’t treated the Dodd family well. Jane Dodd said she and her husband Robert have had a hard time at the farm trying to get their signature Hanover tomatoes to ripen. Earlier in the season, many seeds were stunted in growth because of the cold. As a result, two batches of crops sprouted at the same time.

This is not the first year the Dodds’ crops have suffered from the weather. Last year they lost 28 acres because of hail, Jane said.

As the Hanover Tomato Festival nears, farm employees are working hard from 7 a.m. until 8 p.m. each day. They will prepare roughly 1,200 boxes of tomatoes or more for the festival. However, Jane said, last year Tomato Festival workers ran out of Dodd’s tomatoes and needed more.

A few years ago the Dodds weren’t the only suppliers for the Tomato Festival, but now there are less farmers.

“Many have gotten old and died, then their kids don’t want to farm,” Jane said.

For the past five or six years, Jane said, it’s just been her and her husband supplying vegetables to the county and surrounding areas. Part of the reason, she said, is because of how labor-intensive vegetable farming is.

But the Dodds don’t plan on throwing in the plows just yet. Robert Dodd is 82 years old and still plays a fairly big role in the farming. Jane does not plant and package anymore but instead pays the bills and does work around the house. Robert still does some planting and manages the staff.

“He’s gonna do this until he can’t any longer,” Jane said.




Posted on Tuesday, July 9, 2013 at 10:28 am