HEATHER and Hugh Armstrong have spent more than two decades planting, tending, picking and selling tomatoes, and their years of hard work have seen Coopers Shoot Tomatoes develop into one of the region’s best known and loved farms. Their full-flavoured tomatoes are always in demand at the local farmers markets and feature regularly on the menus of some of the regions’ best restaurants and cafes.
The couple – who are fifth generation on the property at Coopers Shoot – have a real passion for what they have created, which is why they are thrilled that their eldest son Tom, 31, and his wife Sarah have decided to take the reins and keep Coopers Shoot Tomatoes in full production when they take a step back next year.
Under Hugh’s guidance, Tom and Sarah took over for a ‘trial run’ for six months this year and produced a bumper crop.
“Tom’s done a fantastic job of taking it over. He’s grown a mountain of heirlooms,” said Heather.
“He said ‘mum can you please seed up 3000 heirlooms’, which is much more than I’ve ever done – we usually do about 1500 – so he’s had more at each market which is fantastic.”
Coopers Shoot Tomatoes’ farmers market customers will attest to that fact. The stall has been overflowing with colourful and flavour-packed heirlooms in recent months, including the pink Bulgarian Beefsteak, Red Beefsteak, yellow Sweet Pineapple, Black Russian and Green Spanish.
Other varieties are plentiful too, including Coopers Shoot’s signature gourmet truss, Roma and cherry tomatoes. Ripened on the vine, they’re picked fresh for the market and kept out of cold storage to maximise their flavour.
Heather says this time of the year is peak tomato season and the dry conditions have actually been favourable for their crop. She expects the current abundance to continue until around January.
With so many tomatoes, the Coopers Shoot stall has regular weekly specials on seconds, which are ideal for making big batch passatas and sauces you can store to enjoy later in the year.
If you’re buying fresh, Heather’s top tip is to keep your tomatoes out of the fridge, as this can sap their flavour.
Find Coopers Shoot Tomatoes at the New Brighton Farmers Markets.