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Mass. Tomato Contest Yields Winners, Despite Tough Season

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Stephen Verrill won prizes in both the "heirloom" and "heaviest" tomato categories at the 20th annual Massachusetts Tomato Contest. (Alexandra Dukakis/WBUR Intern)
Stephen Verrill won prizes in both the "heirloom" and "heaviest" tomato categories at the 20th annual Massachusetts Tomato Contest. (Alexandra Dukakis/WBUR Intern)

Despite a rainy summer and a fungus that swept New England's tomato crops, the 20th Annual Massachusetts Tomato Contest went on as planned Monday.

Concord farmer Steven Verrill was a winner in the "heaviest" and "heirloom" categories. He said the weather this year posed a challenge to a good tomato yield. "Both June and July, there was very little sunshine and colder than normal temperatures," Verrill said, "so it was just the last couple days that we had a good supply of ripe tomatoes."

The contest marks the beginning of Massachusetts' Farmers' Market Week. Seventy farms competed.

In late July, 400 farms in New England were devastated by late blight, the same fungus that caused the Irish Potato famine in the 1840s. Late blight, which emerges periodically in New England, typically occurs in September. Farmers blame the cool, rainy weather for this year's early outbreak.

Susan Macone, of Macone Farm in Concord, Mass., was the biggest winner, earning two first-place prizes. Macone says her award-winning heirloom tomato came from a seed she saved for many years.

"My dad saved it from, I bet, the age of 25, and he passed away in 2007, at age 87, and I continued to save the seed," Macone said.

Alexandra Dukakis is a WBUR intern.

This program aired on August 17, 2009. The audio for this program is not available.

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