Quincy man grows 600 tomato plants

Tomato from Grandpa Bob's Tomatoes

It's not uncommon to find a tomato garden and many of them here in the Tri-States.

But it's not as common to find one with 600 tomato plants.

"We have 13 rows about 75 feet long, and we get about 400 pounds every other day," Bob Koenig said. "It takes a lot of picking."

82-year-old Bob Koenig of Quincy has spent the past 25 years growing tomatoes.

"I needed a hobby," he said. "When you retire, you gotta have something to do, and instead of sitting in a chair all day long, I started this."

What started out as a hobby has now become "Grandpa Bob's Tomatoes." It sells tomatoes to area restaurants and residents and gives them away free to churches and charities. Koenig planted a couple thousand tomato seeds right after Christmas in his basement. Once the plants got about a foot high, he moved them into a greenhouse before planting them in this garden this past March.

"I learned this from my dad," Koenig said. "He was always interested in plants from a long time ago. I kind of took after him."

What is the secret to growing tomatoes?

"Picking out the right variety," Koenig answered. "We've got 10 varieties. You pick out the disease free. A lot of seeds are different. You have to do your homework."

And that he does. He uses the internet to find answers to his questions. For example, if one plant shows signs of being calcium deficient, he puts TUMS in the soil next to the plant.

"This is just a hobby for my family," he said. "We started out small but grew by leaps and bounds."

But at 82-years-old, his family has set some rules.

"I'm not allowed to do any picking," he said. "They want me to stay out of the heat, so we built that shelter, and it's a nice place to sit. It took me a little while to get used to that, but I kinda go along with it now."

And this year's drought has kept his family busy.

"We had to start hauling in water quite a while ago," Koenig said. "If we didn't do that, they would just dry up. There would not be any tomatoes."

And Koenig does not have a tough sell for his goods.

"It's a good food. It's nutritious, good for you and tastes good!"

You can find Grandpa Bob's Tomatoes at 2810 Elm Street in Quincy for $1 per pound.

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