Bill Yoder knows tomatoes
For a food lover, what could be more satisfying than a tomato plant growing in your yard? Try 500 tomato plants. That’s how Bill Yoder sees it, anyway. He sells a stunning variety of heirloom tomatoes each summer, all grown in his Canton yard. Slices of zebra tomatoes in green, orange, yellow, red, black, and pink (Yoder’s favorite) make a gorgeous presentation—olive oil, basil, and a drizzle of balsamic vinegar are strictly optional. He grows the zebras along with about 250 others that would be lost to the pressures of commercial distribution were it not for Yoder and his seed-saving kind.
An IT guy by day, Yoder taps into his professional knack for detail to catalog 500 varieties of seeds, which he exchanges with aficionados worldwide. He discovered the woeful state of commercially grown tomatoes in college while working as a grocery produce manager. After graduation he planted his first heirlooms. He’s been hooked ever since. “I want to get these varieties into people’s hands—not just to eat them, but to grow them,” he says. This spring he sold 10,000 tomato plants—raised in his living room—to nurseries, at farmers markets, and out of his home; in the fall he’s launching a website, yoderheirloomtomatoes.com. Look for his heirlooms in August during the ten-day Tomatofest at Virginia-Highland’s La Tavola, and on Saturdays throughout the summer at the Marietta Square and Peachtree Road farmers markets.