This journey to save the Ivan has been dynamic and makes you understand the power of Karma. I knew I had a passion for this incredible tomato because of how resistant it was to disease, how prolific the harvest and how wonderful the taste. I connected with the story of the father of the family and the struggle he had with PTSD after military service in Vietnam. I knew I had to try to save this tomato and had to try to help others heal with the soothing power of nature and gardening.
The Ivan Tomato was grown by the Schuerenberg family down in the river bottoms near Ashland Missouri. Their family grew the tomato for generations. It was a true Missouri Heritage Heirloom. They had a business that raised plants, Heartland Family Nursery.
If you were one of the many people that flocked to the Columbia Missouri Farmers Market, you probably would remember Jerry Scheurenberg. He always had a smile and often cut you a deal, he would give you a free plant that you secretly longed for, or a gardening tip that was always helpful.
I met Jerry many years ago when I was buying plant starts for the spring planting. I was always amazed at the strength of his plants. They had good strong stocks and had great color. He had the widest variety of herbs and peppers I had ever seen. He also had an aura to him that kind of radiated gentle giant. Jerry had the bearing of a military man, and like many men his age. he had served in Vietnam. He often wore a baseball cap that proudly showed his military origins.I got to know Jerry a little more each years.
One Spring, during a conversation over plants, we discussed the subject of his service and he told me that he had been stationed in Norfolk, Virginia. That year I happened to go to a work conference in Norfolk. Remembering that haunting look that took over Jerry’s face when he mentioned his service, and I decided to get him a keep sake. I brought back a Norfolk Magnet that depicted a military base. The following spring, when the farmers market was in full swing, I brought the magnet and gave it to Jerry. He was so appreciative. He couldn’t believe that I had remembered and made that small effort on his behalf. Jerry and I became friends with that simple act.
Jerry went on with his kind ways and sold the best plants available. Yet as the years went by you, could see the toll they were taking. Then one spring Jerry was not at the farmers market but his family was there to say he was OK but not strong enough to come to market. Within a couple of years he was not there and neither was the Heartland Family Nursery’s booth.
I never connected Jerry with the Ivan. The first time I got an Ivan plant was from a booth down by Coopers Landing. So I did not connect it with Heartland. The second time I purchased an Ivan it was at the farmers market but it was after Jerry had stopped coming to the market. I never made the connection between this heirloom and the kind family from the past.
Even after I had started saving seeds, and had begun The Ivan Tomato Rescue Project. I did not make the connection. Even while I worked with his Daughter, Becky, to learn about her family and their healing farm, I did not realize the connection. I knew the Ivan was well adapted to Missouri and that I wanted to save it. I knew that it was a local heirloom. I dove into this project for all the right reasons and knew that I had to do my best to save this tomato and spread word about Agricultural Therapy.
Then on October 31st Becky put a picture on facebook of her parents standing in front of a sign for the family business. I took one look at the post and my jaw dropped. I realized that all this time Becky’s Dad was Jerry. The story had gone full circle and I knew without a doubt that every moment of work I have dedicated to this cause over the last year was worth it. I had done the right thing for the right reason and Karma was making it even better. Jerry frankly would love this, he would love the project and what it represents.
So as I work to build the Buzz about the Ivan and help get this plant back into the market I know I am doing what Jerry would have wanted. I know that I can only attempt to grow plants as strong and healthy as he did. I know that I will try, and with the help and guidance of his daughter Becky, hopefully we will make the difference and help to sustain his legacy and memory.
Help us Save the Ivan today. Check out our indiegogo campaign and help us save the food chain, one tomato at at time. http://igg.me/at/ivantomatorescueproject/x/1912433 If you don’t grow tomatoes from seed get a T-shirt or an Apron or just share our project out there with your friends. Thanks for reading and watch out for Karma she is a powerful maiden.