Farmer Bob shares tomatoes with needy residents |

Farmer Bob shares tomatoes with needy residents

With commercially grown tomatoes running 99 cents a pound on sale at local grocery stores, it might be a stretch for some to afford ripe heirloom varieties at $2 or more a pound. But thanks to the generosity of Farmer Bob – aka Penn Valley farmer Robert Keyser – many of the poorest residents of Nevada County got as many dead-ripe Brandywine, Cherokee Purple and Marbelle tomatoes as they could eat Friday.

Keyser set up shop on top of his truck Friday morning in the parking lot of Interfaith Food Ministry’s food bank on Whiting Street in Grass Valley, and handed out 80 12-pound boxes of heirloom tomatoes.

“There are a lot of people out there that need to eat some good stuff – and these tomatoes are excellent,” he said. “If we don’t start doing things for everybody else, we’ll all be hurting. We could be in the food line ourselves some day.”

Keyser has been farming “more years than I’d like to say – many moons,” he said. He currently has a produce stand at the end of Olympia Park Circle (behind The Union), selling melons, nectarines, plums, watermelons and yes, tomatoes, from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday. He also runs a pumpkin patch in the fall and a Christmas tree farm in the winter.

Most of his tomatoes come from a farm in Gridley, he said.

“They’ve got the ground to grow them,” he explained, adding it’s just not hot enough here to get that superior flavor.

And the beneficiaries of his largesse Friday probably would agree.

“They were just happy to get them,” he said. “Most of those people would never eat a tomato that good.”

To contact Staff Writer Liz Kellar, e-mail or call 477-4229.

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