Table of Contents

This is one of a
series of paintings
by Robert Butler
that depict
turn-of-the-century scenes from twelve
of Florida's major
agricultural industries.
Tomato Garden
Tomatoes are native to the Americas, probably originating in the Andes mountain region of South America. The earliest written record of the tomato dates back to 1554. Florida farmers grow practically 100 percent of the U.S. field-produced fresh tomatoes from January to April each year. Florida growers typically harvest more than 40,000 acres of tomatoes annually, with the crop valued at more than $450 million. Tomato production is concentrated in Manatee and Collier counties.

All narratives accompanying the paintings were written by Robert Butler.
All rights reserved by the artist.

bullet.gif (943 bytes) Cracker Cowman
bullet.gif (943 bytes) Golden Grove
bullet.gif (943 bytes) Equine Splendor
bullet.gif (943 bytes) Farmers' Harvest
bullet.gif (943 bytes) Fern Garden
bullet.gif (943 bytes) Timber Shadows
bullet.gif (943 bytes) Shipping Cotton
bullet.gif (943 bytes) Ocean Farming
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Strawberry Patch
bullet.gif (943 bytes) Sugar Harvest
bullet.gif (943 bytes) Tomato Garden
bullet.gif (943 bytes) Beekeeping in the Pines
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Tomato Garden

The tomato harvest was not a place for the lax, the days work was always fierce. The skill and diligence of the farmer had produced a bountiful crop; now many could reap the rewards.

Upon arrival, the workers soon scattered into the field of red. Myriad colors and shapes blended to bring animation to the endless rows of ripened fruit. One could get the sense of being part of something important. But more realistic was the anticipation of the days wages.

In the late 1950s, tomato farming was big business in my hometown of Okeechobee, Fla. Canning operations were centered in my town, and provided employment for many neighbors and citizens. Making a living was the business of the day and not much thought was given to the origin of the fruit bearing our good fortune.

I remember the long bus rides before daylight with a busload of migrant workers. I remember stopping at our special store to purchase RC Cola and Moon Pies. It was all so routine.

"Life was good in the tomato fields of my youth!"
. . . Migrant worker and son of a sharecropper, Robert Butler.

Robert Butler 1999