The Family Vine
A garden near Rocheport emerged from a "Quicker Picker Upper." Some might call Bob and Bea Gordon's tomato garden a paper towel plantation. On their vines, hang the fruit of the Gordon family tree.
"There's not a person I know who doesn't get a tomato from us," Bob's son, Don Gordon, said.
Their lineage is saved on a paper towel. Regardless of the brand, it's a "Bounty" this family's shared for decades.
"We don't sell them. We're not in the business of selling them," Bob Gordon said.
Bob and Bea Gordon grow tomatoes that are more than two and a half pounds and 16 inches around.
"Good color...And good flavor and so far, they're bug resistant. I don't know why," Bea Gordon said.
The success of the Gordon vines goes back about a hundred years to Bob's Aunt Leta. For decades, she saved the seeds of the best tomatoes to plant the next year.
"Very few people can say they have a tomato plant that's been growing for a hundred years that's been passed down for generations to generation," Don Gordon said.
When Aunt Leta passed, the Gordon's continued to save her seeds on a paper towel.
"This is the holder for the seeds when we eat a tomato and think it tastes real good, we just slide it over the edge of the plate. And it dries here like this and you keep it up on your bulletin board so you don't lose it and then next year you can pull them off there or dampen the cloth and pull them off," Bob Gordon explained.
Like their napkin, Bea and Bob's story has several layers. After 53 years of marriage, they know a lot about cultivating close relationships. Bob and Bea don't have a lot of acreage or fancy equipment, just eggshell fertilizer and a garden hose. Yet, their select seeds have been feeding families for a hundred years.
Many of the tomatos are passed along to people who've fallen off the vine.
"It gives pleasure to those. Like I gave one to a man at my church who had cancer. He enjoyed them," Bob Gordon said.
"They do it without asking. It's like they have a knowing," daughter-in-law Barbie Gordon said.
This year alone, the Gordon's have given away about a thousand pounds of tomatoes. Without fancy fertiziler or intricate irrigation, Bob and Bea are the vine that feeds a community by sharing their "bounty" with family and friends.
Bob Gordon is also a former Columbia police officer. Back in his day, he was one of the first ones with a college degree.