crates for tomatoes

veggiebellJune 15, 2011

Just wondering what field crate everyone is using to bring tomatoes to the market?

In the past few years I have bought 20-25# tom boxes from the supply room at the local amish produce auctions.

I guess I'm tired of throwing away soggy boxes after a few uses.

Is there a plastic alternative? I love my big green crates that stack and nest with leafy greens.



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I used to use bread racks-the plastic racks they use to deliver loaves of bread. These days I use the nesting stacking gray crates I use for everything else to harvest and to sell I put all maters into either pint or quart pulp tills and can get 15 pints and 9 quarts in a crate.

    Bookmark   June 16, 2011 at 8:45AM
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I use the tomato boxes, but I don't buy NEW ones especially to pick in. Soggy boxes dry fine most of the time. Just don't let them get totally soaked.

I haven't found any plastic that works as well. The cardboard cushions better than anything I've found.

Lucy, I can't lift the bread trays that I have when full, plus don't the holes cut into the tomatoes? I don't sell tomatoes in pints or quarts, I sell by the pound. I sell too many for the pts and qts routine, except for cherry sized. I also don't do a final sort until at market, just in case I find more imperfect produce. It takes alittle longer at market, but the customers are willing to wait to be sure to get quality produce.

I learned my way of doing things from a produce farmer years and years ago. I strongly believe that things should be reused at least 2-3 times before they are thrown away.


    Bookmark   June 16, 2011 at 9:41AM
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little_minnie(zone 4a)

I just use the banana boxes from produce dept and the foam apple nesting things for some cushion.

    Bookmark   June 19, 2011 at 3:33PM
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The banana boxes sounds great if I could lift that much. That's why I stay with the 25# tomato boxes. I do line the bottom with either newspaper or paper towel in case I get a 'leaker'.


    Bookmark   June 19, 2011 at 4:53PM
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the problem with banana boxes is they are soaked with pesticides so if you are selling as organic at all you want to stay away from them as you may find some of your customers are very sensitive to those chemicals that do come off onto your fruits.

I lined the bread flats with towels to keep them from damaging the maters. but now I use the stacking/nesting crates I got from Buckhorn years and years ago.

I never have been comfortable with selling my maters by the pound. the customers would over handle them and I would go home with up to 50% ruined by them (but still good for making juice and the chickens would eat them). Putting everything into boxes stopped most of the damage and no problem loading boxes at market (which is when I check for bad fruit). For people who want just 1 mater I will sell by the pound as well.

    Bookmark   June 20, 2011 at 5:43AM
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Lucy, do you have an average weight that you place in a qt or pt? On cherry sized, we put about 1# per box.

I haven't had much damage from customers in my area, but if they are squeezing too much, I explain that a ripe tomato is very fragile. Not hard like the grocery stores.


    Bookmark   June 20, 2011 at 7:38AM
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little_minnie(zone 4a)

I have tried selling tomatoes out of cute big baskets and people would rather choose a quart basket than pick through all the tomatoes at an each cost. And yes they squeeze and drop them. When they drop them I sample them out. The down side to the individual quarts are more time to pack them and more space used on the table. I found I had to sell all peps and toms this way last year and it took almost one whole table and plenty of time in the AM.

I have the produce dept save organic boxes for me. I suppose I have used regular ones for squash and pumpkins.

Man I am chatty tonight.

    Bookmark   June 21, 2011 at 9:11PM
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thanks for the input. I have been known to bring 200 - 400# to market in one day + $200 worth of cherry toms.
So I think bread racks are a bit under my scale.

I wish I could sell by the qt.s People just don't get it at my market. I've even tried selling cukes in a box for pickles and no takers.

I think people sometimes get confused when at the same market the same product is priced by the 1. #, 2. pint / quart, 3. price per each.

thanks again

    Bookmark   June 21, 2011 at 9:36PM
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jrslick (North Central Kansas, Zone 5B)

I use 28 quart Sterlite storage containers. I put newspaper in the bottom. If you get a bad tomato, the newspaper catches the leak and you can see it really fast. You can put a single layer in each tub or get about 20 pounds in each one if you stack them two high. What I like best is you can put the lid on each one and I stack them 4 to 5 high on the way to market.

I also pick straight into these tubs too.

Here is a picture of getting ready for market.

I also put 15 pint baskets of cherry tomatoes in these tubs too.

One day harvest two years ago.

Here is a link that might be useful: Sterlite Containers

    Bookmark   June 22, 2011 at 12:51AM
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Marla, quarts weight about 1.5 to 2 pounds (depending on tomato size). Pints are a pound. I put cherry toms and smaller regular toms in the pints and the beefsteak and other slicers in the quarts.

I generally pack around 24 containers of quarts and 15 of pints the night before market so I do not have to put together boxes first thing at market and can get tomato boxes on the tables ASAP.

    Bookmark   June 22, 2011 at 5:11AM
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veggiebell, I was normally bringing 400# as a minimum to my former market. One week, we sold 3000#. The only thing that I had found that worked for those volumes were the 25# tomato boxes. You can stack them 4-5 high without crushing. Now I'll be dividing my produce between 5 different markets, so it will be totally different.

I have offered the cherry sized in both pints and by the pound. The pints usually are about 1#, and mixed varieties. They sell well being mixed. The pints and poundage both sell about the same.


    Bookmark   June 22, 2011 at 1:20PM
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Have any of you every seen the boxes that Eliot Coleman delivers produce in? I think they are awesome. He makes them out of Cedar that grows on his property, and then has a branding iron that brands "Fresh Produce" or something like that on them. They are really cool. I think I'm going to do something like that soon. I have a whole stack of rough sawn walnut that I just need to plane and edge. But I'm going to put my farm name on them. I think they will be a nice display and catch peoples' attention.

    Bookmark   June 26, 2011 at 12:09AM
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I've seen some farms use something similar, they used a router to put their name on the box.

They were always too small for me at my former market.


    Bookmark   June 26, 2011 at 2:48PM
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