North Carolina’s Tom Elmore had a very precise plan to start his second career as a farmer in western North Carolina, but he didn’t count on late blight taking out his tomato crop on a regular basis or correcting the problem by grafting all his greenhouse tomato plants.

Elmore has a graduate degree in environmental engineering and worked a long and prosperous career with a regional council and other government agencies doing soil and water quality work.

In the mid-1980s Elmore and his wife, Karen, began planning second careers, he as a farmer and she was an attorney. They were living in the High Country of Colorado at the time and recognized early on they would need a longer growing season to accomplish their goals in farming.

After a nationwide search, they settled on western North Carolina, and established Thatchmore Farm, near Leicester, just a few miles from Ashville, N.C. and a stone’s throw from major Interstate highways that criss-cross the Great Smoky Mountains.

They now grow 30 or so vegetable and fruit crops annually, but tomatoes are their biggest crop.

After starting out selling to wholesale marketers, they expanded the number of crops they grow and have targeted Tailgate Markets, which predominantly want a small quantity of products, but a wide range of choices.

The Tailgate Market is different from Farmers Markets in that growers sell directly to consumers who buy vegetables from vendors along the I-40 and I-26 corridors in western North Carolina. “We like it because we can sell virtually everything we grow, and we can sell our products for retail prices,” Elmore says.