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Weather Outside Is Frightful … Indoor Farmers Market Is Delightful!

Inside Tomato Tomato
Published on January 7, 2010 : 3 comments

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It’s January, and there’s approximately 17 feet of snow on the ground. My garden is gently blanketed (i.e. viciously buried) in white; I am longing for fresh, local foods; Farmers markets don’t open for another four months. Or do they?

Omaha’s Indoor, Year-Round Farmers Market

I recently visited the most glorious place for local food lovers in the Omaha area–an indoor, year-round farmers market!! I know, I know–it sounds too good to be true! But I have the pictures to prove it…

Tomāto Tomäto is located at 2634 S. 156th Circle (Omaha, NE), and they are open 9:00 am - 6:00 pm, Monday-Saturday…all year long!

Even in the dead of winter, this place is stacked full of local goodies (believe me, I was just there last week!). Need farm-fresh eggs? Check. Locally-raised meat? You got it! Apples or local greenhouse veggies more your style? Not a problem. How about cheese? Yep, there’s a variety of farm-fresh cheeses, too! And this is just the beginning: click here for a full listing of items currently in stock. Or better yet, visit Tomāto Tomäto in person to see for yourself!! With 30 local vendors selling goodies, you’re sure to find something you need.

It All Started with Tomatoes (surprise, surprise!)

I was intrigued to learn just how Tomāto Tomäto came to be, so I sat down for a chat with the market’s manager, Jody Fritz.

Believe it or not, it all started with…tomatoes!

Garden Fresh Vegetables, started by Marv Fritz, has owned and operated a 10-acre greenhouse in O’Neil, Nebraska since 2004. They grow hydroponic tomatoes and English cucumbers.

(If you’re as clueless as I was about this “hydroponics” stuff, click here for an overview!)

Ten acres worth of veggies is no backyard garden, so of course they have plenty to sell! Originally they sold their produce primarily through a distributing company. Unfortunately, this meant that most of their veggies ended up way out on the East coast.

In 2007, the company reorganized and started selling directly to people, keeping the veggies a bit closer to “home.” Now, much of the produce is sold in Omaha to places like Hy-Vee, Wal-Mart, Pegler Sysco, etc. They also sell directly to some restaurants.

Street view of Tomāto Tomäto, Omaha's only year-round, indoor farmers marketStreet view of Tomāto Tomäto, Omaha’s only year-round, indoor farmers marketBefore long, Garden Fresh Vegetables decided to secure a distribution center (i.e. warehouse space) here in Omaha because it was expensive for their trucks to run constantly from O’Neil to Omaha. This allowed their truck to run down here just once per week to fill the warehouse with ton of veggies that could then be distributed throughout the Omaha area as needed.

Jody Fritz manages Omaha operations for Garden Fresh Vegetables. She and her husband started selling the tomatoes and cucumbers at the Village Pointe Farmers Market and got to know other local vendors. Soon, they came to realize that many vendors still had product left to sell when the market ended. Since Garden Fresh Vegetables had space in the front part of their warehouse, they thought it’d be a great place to house an indoor farmers market that could run year-round.

And so it began!

Garden Fresh TomatosJuicy tomato samples from Garden Fresh VegetablesTomāto Tomäto isn’t a “money maker” for Garden Fresh Vegetables. It’s just something they have a passion for – connecting farmers and customers so people know exactly where their food comes from! The warehouse pays for the “overhead” costs of using the space, and the farmers market, through 20% consignment fees from the vendors, brings in enough money to cover its staffing and advertising.

Vendors are responsible for providing their own shelving and/or fridge or freezer, for setting their own prices, and for delivering their products to the market. Tomāto Tomäto manages their inventory and sends them a check at the end of each month for everything that they sold. It’s a pretty grand idea!

Locally-raised beef (Hollenbeck Farms)Locally-raised beef (Hollenbeck Farms)Sound like everything just came together “lickety split”? Don’t be fooled - as with the start up of just about any business, perseverance and dedication definitely came into play…

Tomāto Tomäto opened its doors in May 2008, selling just cucumbers and tomatoes from Garden Fresh Vegetables. Yes, this “market” that you see today started out as a mostly empty space with just a white table full of tomatoes and an old fridge from Jody’s basement that housed the cucumbers!

Soon they were joined by Jisa’s Farmstead Cheese and Hollenbeck Meats. So that added cheese to the fridge and meat to the freezer! Before you knew it, Jisa’s customers were coming there to get her cheese, so she brought in a commercial fridge for her product. Hollenbeck Farms decided to invest in the store, as well, and brought in a commercial freezer for their meat.

Instantly, sales went through the roof–a farmers market was born! The next vendor to join was It’s All About Bees with their local honey products. By June 2008, there were 6 vendors involved!

Future Looks Bright (and delicious!)

Tomāto Tomäto currently has 30 vendors and no space for any more. Success! But don’t you worry, Jody has a plan for expansion. She’s currently working with local businesses to start a multi-farm CSA (“subscription farming”) program. This program will bring farm-fresh and local foods straight to customers at their place of employment on a weekly basis. Jody hopes this will increase product demand enough that Tomāto Tomäto will be able to take on more vendors in the near future and, if all goes well, justify additional store locations and/or a larger space for the current market.

  • Cheese from Branched Oak Farm in Raymond and Jisa's Farmstead in Brainard
  • Fresh breads arrive daily from the Bread Oven in Omaha
  • Locally-raised ostrich (CeBerg's Farm) and pork (Beulahland Farm)
  • Heartland Nuts 'n More sells nuts grown in Nebraska Iowa Kansas and Missouri
  • Hulless popcorn grown by Hilger in Nebraska
  • Fresh greens grown by Honey Creek Farms
  • Oils spices and dips by Iowa Natura
  • Local honey and other products from It's All About Bees

What Are You Waiting For?

Why are you still sitting there reading this?!?!

Throw on your boots, scrape your windshield, grab your re-usable shopping bag (if that’s your style), and get yourself out to Tomāto Tomäto for some fresh, local food!! When you get home, meet me back here and leave a comment below to let me know what you purchased and what you liked the most.

Are you already a Tomāto Tomäto customer? Comment below to let us know your “must haves” from the market. We’d love to hear from you!

Delivery van at Tomāto TomätoDelivery van at Tomāto Tomäto

cpooschkeChristy authors the "What's Fresh?" column on Omaha.net. She is a local "foodie" and owner/operator of GroceryGeek.com - Check out her natural cookbook, grocery shopping guide, diet make-over services, and personal chef services on her site! She also oper

Comments

jordy says:

January 18, 2010 : 6 years 36 weeks ago

jordy's picture

Oh Tomāto Tomäto! Just the thought of your delicious vegetables has ruined other groceries for me. Nice article Christy, you totally sold me, and I can’t wait to get out there.

Like anyone else, though, I’m sometimes a creature of convenience. No Frills is just down the street from me, so if I need some quick dinner food, that’s where I turn.

Yesterday, I stopped by and came out with some decent looking vegetables. However, this eggplant sort of confused me. As you can see, it’s a perfectly good, healthy, purple eggplant. Why does it need to be completely wrapped in plastic? I’m not even trying to be a punk.

Seriously, what does the plastic do? Does it prevent bruising? Does it ward off parasites and make the veggie last longer? I’m sure there is some reason behind it, but it’s just one more thing keeping me from feeling any connection with my food. And it’s more waste.

Another day oh Tomāto Tomäto, your beautiful vegatables will be mine! Until then, I’m eating plastic eggplant.

jrandall01 says:

January 25, 2010 : 6 years 35 weeks ago

jrandall01's picture

Great article! I’ve always wondered what that place was, but now I know. I stopped in today and bought tomatoes, honey, salsa and ostrich burgers. I don’t eat beef so I’m definitely excited to try the ostrich burgers as a new alternative. The ostrich eggs were HUGE, but I’m not sure I’m ready to tackle preparing those yet. They are getting a new shipment of vegetables soon they said so I will have to stop back in a week to see what they have.

morgan says:

January 25, 2010 : 6 years 35 weeks ago

morgan's picture

Christy, I think you should teach Jeff how to cook Ostrich eggs.. that’s an article I’d like to see! I think Omaha.net could provide video coverage :)