Sales were high this weekend at the annual Tomato Mania, a Cal Poly student project held at the Environmental Horticulture Unit on campus.
The event was part of an enterprise project put on by three Cal Poly students: Audrey Chaney, Kevin Sullivan and Patrick Wiley.
They planted and cared for over 50 varieties of tomatoes that they sold Friday, April 28 and Saturday, April 29 from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. One gallon of plants were $5.50 or four for $20.
“The public has really been anticipating (Tomato Mania),” said Chaney, a senior environmental horticulture science major. “It was extremely busy.”
The sale was postponed from its original April 14 and 15 dates because of a passion-vine mealybug scare that shut down the greenhouses and the Environmental Horticulture Unit.
“The tomatoes didn’t have mealybugs, it was just a precautionary measure,” Chaney said. “We’re very lucky that the community stuck by us and we were able to sell.”
More than half of the varieties were sold out after the first day of the sale. The most popular varieties include the Cherokee Purple, Early Goliath and Super Sweet 100. There were also heirlooms, hybrids, miniatures and hanging tomato plants.
“We were afraid that people would lose interest or go somewhere else,” said Sullivan, a senior environmental horticulture science major.
The sale began with over 2,000 tomato plants that the students planted from seeds in January. They spent four days planting and then over 80 hours each of watering and caring for the plants.
“We had a whole greenhouse full of them,” Chaney said. “It was like a jungle in there.”
The sale also included lilies, orchids, geraniums and callas from other student enterprise projects. Prices ranged from $3 to $15.
“You can’t buy the fruits in the stores and unless you’re an adventurous gardener, you can’t grow the plants from seeds,” said David Hannings, the adviser for the enterprise project and an environmental horticulture science professor.
The enterprise projects are guaranteed losses by the Cal Poly Corporation, and if the project makes it to sale, the corporation takes one-third of the profits while the remaining two-thirds are split between the students involved with the project.
Hannings, who has been involved with Tomato Mania for eight years, speculated that sales would total over $12,000. He estimated that the students could make close to $2,000 for the project.
“It was a circus,” Hannings said. “It gets more exciting every year and people just love it.”
One of the varieties of tomatoes sold was the Murray Smith, a plant engineered by Cal Poly professor Howard Brown. It grows especially well in San Luis Obispo and can only be obtained from Cal Poly.
“Murray Smith is always very popular and we always make sure to grow a lot of it,” Chaney said.
Students can get up to four credits for the enterprise project in the environmental horticulture science major.
“It went better than I expected,” said Wiley, a junior environmental horticulture science major. “We’ll probably sell out.”
Any leftover tomato plants will continue to be available for purchase at the Environment Horticulture Unit located on Via Carta.