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McAnally’s tomatoes arrive ‘unseasonably early’ thanks to greenhouses

Visitors to Gordon McAnally’s stand at the Jonesborough Farmers Market often remark on how unseasonably early his tomatoes are available.
Some may even remark that his tomatoes can’t possibly be local, but McAnally has a way to bring local tomatoes to the table weeks before others can harvest.
His secret: “They’re not in the field — they’re in the greenhouses.”
McAnally specializes in growing “Empire” variety tomatoes. Using greenhouses enables him to plant his tomato seeds in December and begin to harvest in May.
McAnally Farm is in Grainger County, a locale well-known for its tomatoes, so it only made sense to McAnally to raise them himself.
“Lots of farms in Grainger County have hothouses, so I decided to give it a try,” he said. “I built one and then two greenhouses, at first, and now I’ve got four.”
While many farms in that area are quite large, McAnally Farm is a smaller, family-centered operation.
“While I’ve got my four greenhouses, my neighbor on one hill has 20, and my other neighbor, he has 20. I’m just a little farm,” said Mc Anally.
With both in-ground and greenhouse produce growing, McAnally can certainly be considered a professional farmer even though he also works full-time in manufacturing at Clayton Homes.
“I’ve got a full-time job, and other guys do [farming] for a living,” McAnally said. “I get up and go to work, and they get up and go farm. Mine is more of a sideline, I guess. I’ve just always liked farming.”
McAnally got started in farming several years ago.
“When I was about 20 years old, there was a friend of mine who I would help. I’d grow some tomatoes with him, and then I’d sell mine with his,” he said. “I just liked doing it.”
After the greenhouse tomatoes are finished, McAnally’s field produce will be coming in.
“I’ve got tomatoes, cucumbers, broccoli and squash. I have corn that’s tassling, and I’ll have okra later on in the season,” said McAnally. “A lot of people have gardens, so my demand goes down once the greenhouse tomatoes are gone. But, farming is about like anything. You can have a good or a bad year. With the season we’ve had, a lot of people may not have bothered with a garden.”
McAnally takes pride in offering the Jonesborough area some of the freshest produce around, often picked just hours before arriving to his stand at the market.
“I try to pick the squash and broccoli Friday night,” said McAnally. “It’s just picked—it’s fresh when it’s there. You want to sell good produce. That way you keep people coming back.”
Still days and miles fresher than many supermarket foods, McAnally’s produce does travel a bit to get to the Jonesborough Farmers Market.
“It’s about 76 miles from my driveway up to Jonesborough,” McAnally said.
Every week, Gordon makes the trip to the courthouse square to sell his tomatoes and other produce from the tailgate of his truck, because, he said, the Jonesborough Farmers Market provides a welcoming atmosphere for vendors and consumers alike.
“I just wanted a place to sell, and it’s been nice. A lot of people I get to know and recognize,” he said. “There’s a lot of good people who come to the market.”