Tomatomania! is the world's largest heirloom tomato seedling sale! It's also the most fun (they insisted on letting you know that, too). We sat down with Scott Daigre, the leader of the tomatomaniac team, to discuss their legendary & ever-growing tomato event!
Tell us about your business, what is it and what inspired you to start it.
We’re a tomato seedling sale, a pop up that travels across the state during the spring. We offer a huge variety of classic, rare and hybrid seedlings as well as soils, pots, fertilizers and everything a good gardener needs for the summer season. A good friend and nurseryman started the event in 1992. I worked with him and then bought the trademark and assets in 2006.
Do you grow Heirloom and Hybrid tomatoes exclusively?
We do offer herbs and interesting peppers and other summer veggies.
What is your point of view on GMO seeds and how does it impact your business?
GMO seed causes many more problems than it solves. It doesn’t have a place in my business, as GMO seed is not represented in the consumer (home garden) marketplace. Some people think hybrids are genetically modified. We educate them.
Tell us about your growth over the last few years.
We offered one sale in 2001 and last year we had 16. Our schedule takes us all the way through the spring and early planting time. We’ve experimented outside of CA (we’ve held events in 5 states and 25 cities) but have now devoted our energies only to the Golden State. Rather than expanding into new events, at this point we are adding programming. A fundraising model for school kids and retail lines at nurseries have been launched over the past two years.
How long have you been coming to Copymat Hollywood and how has Bob Gerholdt and Copymat Hollywood helped or why do you continue to use them.
We depend on our Tomatomania friends at Copymat for artwork, posters, handouts and receipts. They are always friendly, helpful and so quick to produce our orders.
When did you first get the idea for Tomatomania? How did you pull it off the first year?
My friend Gary Jones started the event at his popular nursery called Hortus, in Pasadena, in 1992. He grew out heirloom seedlings of some rare varieties, which had never been done on any scale before. He created a firestorm of enthusiasm that we still see today. I worked for Gary and helped build the event over four years on his staff.
How would you explain Tomatomania to someone thinking about going?
We’re a temporary tomato megastore! Tomatomania provides all the information and materials you’ll need to select and grow perfect tomatoes in your garden during the summer season.
You've probably eaten a lot of tomatoes. Rank your top three favorite!
Not a fair question when I grow so many! But in truth there are a few that MUST be in my garden every season. Jaune Flamme, Gold Medal and Orange Paruche are a few of those. And since I can never stop at three ALL the “black" tomatoes make me very happy each summer.
What has Tomatomania grown into? How many events are you holding & where?
We will host 11 events this year from San Diego to Sonoma. Our largest is in Encino, March 17-19.
Who are some of your favorite tomatomaniacs?
We have a customer and friend in Corona del Mar who grows over 90 every year and a friend here in Ojai only grows multiples of one variety but swears by that one variety each year! CEOs and soccer moms, young and old, men and women - our friends run the gamut.
What is something your friends & tomatomaniacs don't know about you?
I traveled with Up With People as an advance team member in the mid 80s.
What are some restaurants that you've found use the freshest tomatoes?
Look for gorgeous heirloom tomato salads on the menu — you know you’re being hosted by a chef that takes pride in freshness and taste. In Los Angeles, BLD, Marino’s, Providence and other higher end restaurants will always be your best bet.
What's your favorite food? (besides tomatoes, of course)
Chips and sals are my favorite food group! (Of course I have to include tomatoes.)
Anything else you'd like to add?
Tomatomania works so well because of our enthusiastic customers but also because of the awesome people who staff and plan these events with me each year. All dedicated Tomatomaniacs like me, they teach, inspire and motivate new and old gardeners alike. I’m indebted to each and every one of them.
Stay up to date with the tomatomaniacs right here!