(WXIN/WTTV) — Indiana is known for its farms and fields. In fact, the Hoosier State ranks in the top 10 in agricultural production, per the USDA.
Indiana is also one of the country’s 10 top producers of recognizable crops like corn and soybeans, according to World Population Review. Despite its agriculture-centric reputation, one of the Hoosier State’s top exports is often overlooked.
Grown en masse and measured in thousand centum weight (CWT), the tomato is arguably one of Indiana’s most reputable agricultural products. The state ranked third in the nation in terms of tomato production in 2019, churning out 4,940 thousand centum weight-worth of the vegetable, according to World Atlas.
Indiana only trails No. 1 California and No. 2 Florida in the standings. The Golden State produced 217,306 thousand centum weight-worth of tomatoes in 2022, according to Statista. Second-ranked Florida generated 7,560 thousand centum weight worth last year.
In 2012, Indiana grew 11.2 million pounds and 259,650 tons of fresh market and processing tomatoes, respectively. The combined value of the fresh market and processed tomatoes grown that year was worth about 38.2 million. The total, however, pails in comparison to the value of Indiana’s corn and soybeans, which created more than $3 billion each in sales in 2018, per the Indiana State Department of Agriculture.
Indiana produces a great deal of tomatoes because its weather and soil make for favorable growing conditions. According to Florida Yards, the best time to plant tomatoes in Indiana is typically between the end of April and the beginning of August.
Another reason the Hoosier State has become a hub for tomatoes is because the canning, ketchup and preservative brand Red Gold is headquartered in Elwood, Indiana. The company was originally founded in Trafalgar, Indiana, in 1941. Red Gold is still family-owned today.
A Farm Progress story indicates that Red Gold had 43 contracted growers that oversaw 11,000 acres of tomato plants in 2019. The same article reported that, at the time, Red Gold processed 2,800 cans of tomatoes per minute at its facility in Orestes, Indiana, sending its products to 48 different states.
The Hoosier State even has a type of tomato named after it — the Indiana Red Tomato. According to Michigan Heirlooms, a business that sells plant seeds in the Midwest and beyond, the Indiana Red Tomato burst onto the scene in 2007 when Horace “Big Red” Boynton Jr. of Bethelridge, Kentucky, brought four plants to a nursery near his hometown which were labeled “Indiana Red.”
Per Great Lakes Staple Seeds, Indiana Red Tomatoes are “exceptional for fresh eating or saucing.”
Many different varieties of tomatoes are grown in Indiana, including Roma, Grape, Beefsteak, Heirloom, Cherry and Sun Gold. More information about which tomatoes grow best in the state can be found here.