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Man grows tallest tomato plants in Oxford
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It's funny how tomatoes sometimes look like hearts.

Those who grow them often have a passion for nurturing them to ripe perfection.

Raymond Townsend certainly must have a place in his heart for his tomato plants, as he has to climb a ladder to tend the fruit at the top of the enormous plants in his garden.

"The tallest one is 11 feet and 9 inches," Townsend said.

Several of the plant's sisters hover above Townsend's head too.

After planting a mix of hybrid seeds, Townsend said the Better Boys strain produces the largest tomatoes while the Early Girl variety grows the tallest. His garden has yielded tomatoes up to one-and-a-half pounds.

Townsend achieves such massive stalks and fruit with nothing more than Miracle Grow potting soil and Vigaro All-Purpose Fertilizer. He does not use pesticides and waters them using the well on his property.

"It's not much work," Townsend said.

When the tomato vines he planted in May began to grow over the approximately 3-foot cages he originally encased them in, he started stacking the circular enclosures to keep the rising stalks from leaning.

"We started kidding him that the one was so tall that lightning would hit it and we'd have fried green tomatoes," said Townsend's wife Virginia.

Townsend has grown tomatoes for around 20 years on a portion of the 100 acres of the old Branham Farm, which Virginia's parents bought a piece of in the late 30s. Two of her brothers are their neighbors as well as a niece and a great-niece.

The Townsends' tomatoes never go bad with so much family around

"When we get too many we just give them to whoever wants them," Virginia said.

More people than usual were clamoring for Townsend's tomatoes this summer with the recent salmonella scare pointing fingers at the fruit grown in other states.

Townsend-who also grows squash, bell peppers and gourds in his garden-said he just takes pleasure from the outdoors and the fruits of his labor.

"That's his hobby," Virginia said. "I'll miss him and he's out here."

"I just enjoy it," he said.