Brad Gates from Wild Boar Farms is known as “the tomato guy” by many of his customers. Gates, who lives in Napa, has a farm and wholesale tomato business that supplies Bay Area restaurants and businesses, including Whole Foods, Fume Bistro, Silverado Brewing Company and the Villagio Inn and Spa.
The farmer said he especially likes growing his own tomato variations.
“There is always a different shape, color and size” to create, Gates said.
“It takes years and years” to get just the right mix, but “there’s a lot of satisfaction” in the result, he said.
What’s something people always assume about growing tomatoes
If you grow them in your backyard, they will taste good no matter what.
Where do you grow your tomatoes?
On 4 certified-organic acres in Suisun Valley. The Napa Valley climate is not ideal for tomatoes. The hotter temperatures of Solano County make it the Napa Valley of tomatoes.
What makes a good-tasting tomato?
It’s the terroir, genetics and the way you grow it. Also, knowing how to back off on the water a bit toward harvest time.
What is your favorite tomato?
It’s probably the Berkeley Tie-Dye (created by Gates). It’s three different colors with three different flavors. It’s hard to beat.
What’s a common misconception about your work?
That I have a lot of time off in the off-season. By the time I get things cleaned up, it’s November or December and I start planting seeds in January. It’s a year-round thing.
What’s your most popular tomato?
The Large Barred Boar. It has almost a salty flavor and great looks. It’s super-meaty.
What’s your most underrated tomato?
Maybe the Sweet Carneros Pink. It’s pretty and tasty.
Do you have any tips or tricks to share with growers at home?
Use lots of compost in your soil, and try and grow several varieties to find some that you like and that like your location.
Which three people would you most like to have dinner with?
Author Michael Pollan, Theodore Roosevelt, and agriculturalist Luther Burbank.
What other business person(s) would you like to see featured in “10 Questions for…”
Lynn Brown, Forni Brown Vegetables.
Michael Fradelizio, Silverado Brewing Company.
More from Gates
Where does the Wild Boar name come from?
The wild boar is my favorite animal. They are so cool.
If you had to write the story of your life, what would you name the book?
“Brad and the Tomato Stalk.”
What job would you like to try/not like to try?
Try: Fishing guide.
Not try: Chef.
What was your first job?
Busboy at a restaurant.
What’s the worst job you ever had?
Petroleum transfer technician (gas pumper).
How did you get into this business?
Worked Saturdays for a summer selling at farmers markets for a friend.
What is the biggest challenge your business has faced?
Changing weather and cheap competition. Growing the best and the cheapest are not possible.
I can’t live without:
What’s on your to-do list?
Increase my sustainability, promote local eating, set up a farm stand, “you-pick” and garden events.
Whom do you most admire in the business world?
Michael Pollan. I have a tomato variety named after him.
What is one thing you hope to accomplish in your lifetime that you haven’t yet?
To do more traveling.
If you could change one thing about your business, what would it be?
The fact that I don’t own a tractor.
What’s your favorite gift to give?
Tomatoes, seeds and plants.
What’s something people might be surprised to know about you?
I feel I was born in the wrong century.
What is your favorite charity?
Giving tomato plants to schools.
What was your childhood ambition?
To be a fishing guide.
If you could be anywhere right now, where would you be?
In Alaska on an outdoor adventure.
What’s one thing Napa could do to help local business?
Eat locally from small farm-grown food.
What’s the most significant project you’ve been involved with in your career?
Creating tomato varieties that will be appreciated for years to come.