Cosentino's Food Stores in the Kansas City, Mo., area have started to offer tomatoes grown by Powell Gardens, an area botanical garden.
Cosentino's Food Stores in the Kansas City, Mo., area have started to offer tomatoes grown by Powell Gardens, an area botanical garden.

A retailer in the Kansas City, Mo., area has begun offering tomatoes grown by a nearby botanical garden.

Powell Gardens is supplying tomatoes to stores owned by Kansas City-based Cosentino’s Food Stores. Powell Gardens tomatoes began showing up in stores in early July.

Cosentino’s Food Stores has 25 stores in the Kansas City area under the Price Chopper, Sunfresh, Apple Market, and Cosentino’s Market banners.
According to The Shelby Report for July, Consentino’s Food Stores had 6.4% of the Kansas City market.

Tracy Nelson, director of floral and produce for Cosentino’s Food Stores, said the partnership with Powell Gardens has been a couple of years in the making.

“We’re 100% behind the local program, and anytime we can partner up with an organization like Powell Gardens, it’s a great thing,” Nelson said.

Powell Gardens brought some regional notoriety to the partnership, he said, and that made it more valuable to the retailer.

He also commended the botanic garden on its knowledge and growing acumen.

The Powell Gardens has erected seven high tunnels and hired dedicated staff to produce the tomatoes. Eric Tschanz, executive director of Powell Gardens, which is just east of Kansas City, said they have 4,200 plants in the ground. The tomatoes are being grown organically, and the botanic garden plans to get production certified organic, he said.

Tschanz said they expect to supply four to six Cosentino’s Price Choppers.

John Cosentino, executive vice president of Cosentino’s Food Stores, and his wife have been members of the Friends of Powell Gardens for 18 years, Tschanz said. The chain not only showed interest in the project but stayed interested and guided Powell Gardens in developing the program, Tschanz said.

Powell Gardens went into tomato production to diversify its revenue stream and to build upon the reputation that Powell Gardens has built up over its 26 years of existence, Tschanz said.

“The goal is to put our brand on a tomatoes so folks can take a part of Powell Gardens home with them,” Tschanz said.

Two tomato varieties are being grown, cherokee purple and BHN 589, which is a proven variety for high tunnel production. All of the heirloom cherokee purple and some of the BHN 589 tomatoes were grafted onto hybrid root stocks to improve disease resistance and increase production.

Organic compost was tilled into the soil to prepare it for the crop. Drip irrigation and plastic mulch also are being used. There is about an acre of land being cultivated for tomatoes.