Local News

Local Farmer is Tomato Grower of Year

(Elwood, IN) - His love for raising hogs while growing up has blossomed into raising blue ribbon tomatoes in La Porte County for a major commercial brand.  Galen Birky is this year’s winner of the E.A. Reichart Quality Achievement Award, the highest honor presented by Red Gold, Inc. based in Elwood, Indiana.


The award recognizes Birky as Red Gold’s Tomato Grower of the Year based, in part, on the volume and quality of his 2020 crop.  He was also deemed one of six master growers by Red Gold, the largest privately owned tomato processor in the nation from 42 contracted growers in Indiana, Michigan and Ohio.


Birky said he knew his 40 ton per acre crop was excellent but his selection came as a total surprise.  “I was extremely happy.  Extremely happy and very honored,” he said.


Red Gold brand products like ketchup and varieties of canned tomatoes are offered in all 50 states and over 55 other countries.


Birky Farms raises about 200 acres of tomatoes in the northwest part of the state near Wanatah, LaCrosse and Kouts.  Last year, production at Birky Farms equaled close to 13 million cans of whole, diced, stewed and other specialty tomato products, Red Gold officials said.  The other 1,800 acres at Birky Farms are used for producing commercial corn, soybeans and seed corn.


Birky, 49, said there’s nothing in his bag of tricks for raising high quality tomatoes aside from the usual hard work, paying attention to detail and staying on top of the crop until harvest.  He also crosses his fingers for cooperation from Mother Nature, the most important factor in all of farming.  “There are no secrets.  It’s a lot of luck,” Birky said.


Birky said he started growing tomatoes in 2001 to expand the farm and diversify the operation after given the opportunity to become a contract supplier for Red Gold.

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