UACES Facebook Bradley County All-Tomato Luncheon celebrates Arkansas tomatoes
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June 17, 2022

Bradley County All-Tomato Luncheon celebrates Arkansas tomatoes

By Rebekah Hall
U of A System Division of Agriculture 

Fast Facts:

  • All-Tomato Luncheon is part of the Bradley County Pink Tomato Festival
  • Luncheon has history as major event on campaign trail of Arkansas politicians
  • Bradley County Extension Homemakers Council decorated, prepared food

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WARREN, Ark. — In Bradley County, the Pink Tomato is more than just Arkansas’ state fruit and vegetable: it’s a cause for celebration. On Saturday, June 11, more than 200 guests gathered at the 63rd annual All-Tomato Luncheon at First Baptist Church in Warren to celebrate the tomato in its many forms and recognize the local families who grow them.

EXTENSION IN ARKANSAS — From left to right, Rayvin Callaway, Cleveland County Extension summer intern; Rhonda Best, Dallas County family and consumer science agent; Carla Due, extension Ouachita District director; Laura Hendrix, extension assistant professor of family and consumer economics; Michelle Carter, Bradley County extension family and consumer science agent; Les Walz, extension Agriculture and Natural Resources educator in livestock and forages; John Gavin, Bradley County extension staff chair; and Chuck Culver, Division of Agriculture interim vice president. 

Attendees were excited for the luncheon’s return as a part of the 66th annual Bradley County Pink Tomato Festival after a two-year hiatus. Volunteers from the Bradley County Extension Homemakers Council decorated the church’s Family Life Center and prepared the tomato-forward menu, which featured bacon, lettuce and Bradley County tomato sandwiches, pickled green tomatoes, and “heavenly tomato cake” made with tomato juice in the batter and icing. Local 4-H club members waited on attendees.

Several local and state officials spoke during the luncheon, including Denisa Pennington, mayor of Warren, State Representative Jeff Wardlaw, U.S. Representative Bruce Westerman and Tommy Land, Commissioner of State Lands. Republican gubernatorial candidate Sarah Huckabee Sanders was also in attendance.

John Gavin, Bradley County extension staff chair, said the All-Tomato Luncheon has served as an important stop on politicians’ campaign trails.

“It was always promoted – not by us, but by the politicians – as one of the biggest non-political political events in the state,” Gavin said. “Everybody that was running or going to run always came here. It’s got a really unique history to it.”

Michelle Carter, Bradley County extension family and consumer science agent, said the first All-Tomato Luncheon was organized in 1957 by the late Jean Frisby, a native of Warren and longtime extension agent and home economist. Carter said Frisby originally started the luncheon as a way to get the judges of the Miss Pink Tomato pageant out of the summer heat.

During the luncheon, a box of tomatoes was auctioned off for $2,700, and a cake was auctioned for $1,700, which was then donated back to the cause and re-auctioned again for $1,000. The proceeds of both will go to the Bradley County Extension Homemakers Council and its community service projects.

Carter addressed attendees and described the statewide impact of Extension Homemakers Council.

“In the state of Arkansas, we have over 3,000 members,” Carter said. “This year, our statewide community service has been geared toward food insecurity. We have raised more than 2 million meals for Arkansas food banks and food pantries, so what you did today in the auction, that will go to help support those types of programs.

“87 percent of people who are involved with Extension Homemakers say they are active in their communities because of Extension Homemakers,” she said. “We awarded 27 college scholarships throughout the state of Arkansas. Last year, we had over 290,000 volunteer hours, which is valued at a little over $8 million.”

Chuck Culver, University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture interim vice president, also spoke to attendees about the work of the Cooperative Extension Service and the Agricultural Experiment Station in the state.

“We only serve those who produce food and those who eat it, and nobody else,” Culver said, “Every country on the planet has an agricultural experiment station, but the genius of the American system is that we have the cooperative extension service that takes the discoveries and brings them down to the folks who use it, then takes their information back to those who are making the discoveries.

“I particularly wanted to be here today to honor the Cooperative Extension Service, and all the work they do, and I wanted to be here to honor y’all,” he said. “Because this is truly one of the iconic festivals of the South.”

To learn about extension programs in Arkansas, contact your local Cooperative Extension Service agent or visit Follow us on Twitter and Instagram at @AR_Extension. To learn more about Division of Agriculture research, visit the Arkansas Agricultural Experiment Station website: Follow on Twitter at @ArkAgResearch. To learn more about the Division of Agriculture, visit Follow us on Twitter at @AgInArk.


About the Division of Agriculture

The University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture’s mission is to strengthen agriculture, communities, and families by connecting trusted research to the adoption of best practices. Through the Agricultural Experiment Station and the Cooperative Extension Service, the Division of Agriculture conducts research and extension work within the nation’s historic land grant education system. 

The Division of Agriculture is one of 20 entities within the University of Arkansas System. It has offices in all 75 counties in Arkansas and faculty on five system campuses.  

The University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture offers all its Extension and Research programs to all eligible persons without regard to race, color, sex, gender identity, sexual orientation, national origin, religion, age, disability, marital or veteran status, genetic information, or any other legally protected status, and is an Affirmative Action/Equal Opportunity Employer.

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Media Contact: Rebekah Hall