Well, we have all heard the saying when life hands you lemons, but what do you do when your tomato crop fails and you are left with undersized tomatoes that are under a marketable standard?
In my case, I had to think fast and find a way to salvage at least a fraction of my initial investment. All the tomatoes were ripening sporadically, which meant that I did not have enough at any given stage to make the factory trip worthwhile. They were also too small to send to the market or sell locally. The lack of water really screwed me over. And while I am going through all of this, a very large portion of South Africa is flooding - Damn you Murphy!
So I thought long and hard and eventually decided to sundry the tomatoes. It was a long shot and something that I have never done before, but at the end of the day, I couldn't just watch everything I had put so much time, energy, and money into going for naught.
After some research and asking around, I managed to map out the process in my head and got my hands on 50 drying trays. So we built makeshift drying tables in the backyard, which consisted of old metal frames and wire mesh placed over them.
The tomatoes were halved and lightly salted before being placed on the trays. Once the trays were full, they were stacked on the drying table. We placed fans around the table to help keep insects away and also to speed up the drying process. With the harsh African sun, each drying rack was dried and ready within three days of packing.
I will admit that this process was a lot more labor-intensive than I initially thought it would be.
Once the sundried tomatoes were ready to be packed, they were all hand selected to make sure that there were no blemishes on the fruit and that all fruit was the right consistency.
At this stage, I realized I had not thought much about the packaging. I mean, I had the label designed, but that was about it.
I packaged the sundried tomatoes in various types of packaging, from gusset bags to 1kg buckets, but eventually, I decided to go with the self-sealing cellophane bags.
This attempt to generate some form of income from an otherwise lost crop worked out pretty well in the end, and I was able to generate an additional 33% of the initial investment. It is a very far stretch from breaking even, but it is still a great deal more than what I would have generated if I had just given up hope completely.
At this stage, every little bit helps.