We’d like to introduce you to John Bryant at Old Tavern Farm in Quinton, VA, a local farmer whose hard work and fantastic tomatoes help make Back Pocket Bloody Marys possible.
John started farming as a small child, and he loved accompanying his grandfather and great uncle and learning how to grow row crops, produce, and hogs. He farmed full time after graduating college, but then worked a corporate job for many years before his “escape!”
When he finally returned to farming, John decided to focus on vegetables, flowers, and herbs. These days, he also grows berries and raises a special breed of pig called Red Wattle along with free-range hens - his “egg-laying machines!” Old Tavern Farm even offers plant starters and fresh-cut flowers in springtime, and pick your own blackberries and sunflowers in the summer.
Old Tavern Farm is operated using sustainable and regenerative practices. They supplement their crops with compost, organic fertilizers, worm tea, and fish and seaweed emulsion. Crop rotation helps ease pressure from pests and disease. They also use year-round cover crops, which as John explains provide green manure (from plant materials), organic matter, and natural weed suppression and erosion protection. Row cover can also help protect the plants beneath it from low temperatures, like that late frost we had this spring. Agriculture is awesome!
But let’s talk tomatoes, the stuff that dreams (at least, our dreams) are made of. John grows many varieties, including his personal favorites Cherokee Purple and hearty Mortgage Lifter (so-called because it developed during the Great Depression to give small farmers and plant nurseries a financial boost). He also grows Brandywine, Grandma’s Pick, Big Beef, Primo Red, Mountain Glory, Mountain Fresh Plus, Red Bounty, Red Deuce, and Carolina Gold. That’s a tomaTON of goodness!
This year, John's been growing a new tomato variety, Caiman, just for us at Back Pocket. A modern hybrid, it was chosen for its hardiness and high water content, which translates to superb juicing qualities. The plants began small (but gorgeous) and were nestled under row cover, where they grew up into big plants laden with fruit destined for Back Pocket cocktails.
John says his favorite part of being a farmer is "Being outside, working with my hands, and seeing the fruition of hard labor." He loves interacting with customers and learning all about how they’re utilizing the food produced at Old Tavern Farm. This brings us to the subject of BPP mixes starring Old Tavern tomatoes, and of course John’s favorite Bloody Mary: Bloody Bangkok with vodka and his homemade pickled veggies (like dilly beans) and lime. When he’s not farming, John enjoys spending time with his wife, Jeannie - and running, boating, reading, and learning new things.
You can shop at Old Tavern Farm's farm store from 9am-6pm, Monday-Saturday for farm-fresh produce, eggs, and locally-made artisan products - especially those made with food grown on the farm itself.