Agri-Pulse is pleased to announce that California Assemblymember Reggie Jones-Sawyer is the winner of the Great Tomato Challenge with a tomato plant his staff affectionately named Stanley. The media company is making a $1,000 donation to the Avalon-Carver Community Center in honor of his winning plant. The center runs a food distribution program serving households in his south Los Angeles district. 

“Our participants were very competitive and used a variety of methods to not only keep their tomato plant alive but thriving,” said Agri-Pulse Publisher Sara Wyant, who is also an avid gardener.  

For example, the winner transplanted his plant from the starter cup to a bigger pot using Miracle Grow Organic Choice potting mix with compost and applied Dr. Earth Home Grown Tomato, Vegetable & Herb Fertilizer. Stanley was moved out of the lawmaker’s office into natural outdoor light and given plenty of water. 

"I am grateful to Agri-Pulse for the recognition and encourage everyone to become green-thumbed by planting sustainable food sources," said Jones-Sawyer.

"One thing the pandemic taught me about growing your own fruits and vegetables is that not only does it provide great tasting food and needed nutrients, it's educational and fun for families and individuals to learn more about the foods they consume."

The competition, which launched on Earth Day in Sacramento, involved 26 California state lawmakers who selected an "Early Girl" tomato provided by Bayer Vegetable Seeds. Only two participants reported an untimely demise to their plant before the competition ended. 

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“I can’t thank Senate Agriculture Committee Chair Melissa Hurtado enough for helping us launch this fun and educational competition and Jenny Maloney with Bayer Vegetable Seeds for all of her support,” Wyant said. 

Sen. Anna Caballero came in second place in the competition, followed by Assemblymember Joe Patterson, Sen. Josh Becker and Hurtado.  

Participants were asked to submit a photo or video of their plant to be assessed from a scoring protocol that was distributed at the start of the competition. Regular updates on the plant’s progression were tracked and circulated, as well as featured on and social channels. 

The judges were California Secretary of Agriculture Karen Ross; Patrick Mulvaney, head chef and owner of Mulvaney’s B&L in Sacramento; and Chad Jorgensen, tomato breeder at Bayer Crop Science. 

This fun and impactful challenge brewed from Wyant’s desire to inspire folks who have never worked in a garden to raise a tomato plant while learning something new about food production and helping those most in need of fresh, local food. In the early 1900’s,

Sacramento was the heart of the state’s canning industry and nicknamed “The Big Tomato.” Tomatoes are grown in 20 California counties and growers produce an average of 50,800 tons, creating a big economic impact across the state. 

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