Bay Produce experimenting with basil and grafting tomato plants

By KBJR News 1

February 21, 2014 Updated Feb 21, 2014 at 11:20 AM CDT

Bay Produce in Superior is keeping its greenhouses growing this winter... continuing to provide tomatoes for many local grocery stores, but this winter, they're experimenting with some new crops and even new methods.

Outside, there's plenty of snow covering everything, but inside the greenhouses at the Challenge Center in Superior, you'll find a taste of another climate.
Bay Produce is growing tomatoes and peppers for the regional economy.
Adults with disabilities, who work there, are able to learn on the job.

"The people are able to see the product coming from seed up to the final tomato. They take a lot of pride in what they're doing. It's a major gain for them to be able to work in this kind of environment." Said Executive Director of the Challenge Center, Gene Chuzles.

The tomatoes are grown in a hydroponics system and are vine ripened. It's a big difference between the tomatoes picked green in Mexico and California that are sprayed to ripen in transit.
The company produces about 400 thousand pounds of produce annually, and now, they've started growing basil.

"It's a very sensitive plant. So it's very hard to ship nationwide and so if we control it locally and sell it locally so we have fresh basil and that is ideal if you can get that." Said Bay Produce Grower, Hank Vanvenbrink.
Bay Produce is also grafting tomato plants to increase yields.
Because these plants have a stronger root base, Bay Producer is able to consistently grow bigger and tastier tomatoes.

"We're normally running into about 98 percent take. So that is awesome." Said Vanvenbrink.

The basil produced at Bay Produce will go to Twin Ports restaurants when it's time to harvest, giving Northlanders an unexpected taste of local produce in the wintertime.

You can find tomatoes from Bay Produce in most local grocery stores in Superior, Duluth, Two Harbors, Grand Rapids, and Cloquet.

Bryce Henry