Farmer Andrea Bushre of NanBop Farm shares the scoop on hard-to-find seeds for growing life-changing tomatoes. Here are 5 must-try tomatoes, our favorite seed vendors, how to start seeds and small space gardening tips

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Few things in life are more dispiriting than biting into an off-season, pulpy and flavorless tomato—and few are sweeter than the flavorful pop of a cherry tomato fresh off the vine.

And sure, you can get great vines at your local nursery or farmers market—there’s no wrong way to grow your own food. But for variety and heirloom goodness, you may need to start your own seedlings.

Why now? March is the time to order your supplies; you’ll want to begin planting seedlings in April indoors, to harden off and plant outside after the threat of frost.

Where to start? Not to worry. Our resident farmer, Andrea, is the director for NanBop Farm in Cadillac—a new farming project springing to life as part of our parent company, Heritage Broadcasting, right on the acreage surrounding the 9&10 News station. Andrea cracked open the garden shed doors to share some of her favorite seeds and sources.

Nanbop Farm Director Andrea Bushre.

5 Must-Try Cherry Tomatoes

1. Sungold: “This is the sweetest cherry tomato you will find. Hardest part of harvesting them is trying to not eat them all! If someone says they do not like tomatoes, this is often the one tomato they will eat due to its sweet flavor and its instant juicy bursts of flavor.”

2. Sakura: “A traditional red cherry but bred to have extreme disease resistance. I like this variety because it is a heavy producer and tastes wonderful!”

3. Black Cherry: “Unique flavor compared to traditional cherry tomato varieties. Yields great but tricky to harvest. Due to the natural coloration of black cherry tomatoes, it can be hard to tell when they’re ripe, so you have to keep a close eye on them.”

4. Sunrise Bumble Bee: (as featured in our story header photo) “Similar to a Sungold tomato but with really beautiful coloration that almost looks tie-dyed.”

5. Dancing with Smurfs: “Just for fun! A black and red cherry tomato that looks incredible.”

Photo by Adaptive Seeds

Black Cherry Tomatoes from Adaptive Seeds.

Photo by Adaptive Seeds

Dancing with Smurfs tomatoes from Adaptive Farms.

Where to Source Your Seeds for Northern Michigan Gardening

Most farmers source their seeds directly from seed companies because they often require much more seed than a store can provide, and stores often don’t have as many varieties of vegetables. Seed companies spend a lot of time breeding plants for specific traits that farmers desire such as disease resistance, flavor, vigor, etc. In addition, seeds that have spent time in the store are exposed to the intense store lights for long periods of time and that can affect their germination (sprouting) rate.

The good news is that for most backyard gardeners, the varieties and seeds found at local nurseries and garden centers do just fine, and are often the most tried-and-true varieties that grow well.

For online heirloom shopping, Farmer Andrea recommends,, and

Four seed packs for 2023 planting at Nanbop.

Photo by Nanbop Farms

Four tomato seed varieties from Johnny’s Selected Seeds that will be planted at Nanbop Farm this year.

How to Start Tomato Seeds

If you are growing seeds outside, the best time to start your seeds will be one month before the last hard frost. In Northern Michigan, that usually looks like end of April/early May. So, if the last frost is in May, start your seeds in April. Or if the last frost is in April, start your seeds in March. Each year is different.

  • Place your seeds in an area where they will get plenty of sunlight during the day.
  • Depending on the side of pot/tray you seeded in, you may not need to “pot up” (transfer to larger pots) your seedling plants. For example: If planting a tomato seed, choose a 2-inch pot, then pot it up to a 4-inch pot, and then transplant it. Pot up when the plant looks like it is taller than the depth of the container it is in.
  • Once your plant has either three levels of leaves, or its stem is tall and thick, it can handle being out in the garden.
  • Harden your plants off before transplanting. Set them outside for a couple hours a day for a couple days and then leave them outside all day but bring them in at night for three days, and then they will be ready to go. This helps the plants get used to the elements instead of their perfect cozy home they had before being planted.

Growing Tips for Small Spaces

Starting seeds: Use an old egg carton as a seed tray, fill with potting soil, add seeds and grow in a south-facing window.

Patio pals: Plant a single tomato plant in a pot; you will yield enough tomatoes to make all of your favorite sauces.

Quick and dirty: No garden? Buy a bag of potting soil, lay it flat on the ground, cut along the perimeter of the top of the bag, and grow directly out of the bag.

Low-commitment garden: Grab a shovel and a hoe and dedicate a small section of your yard to grow a few veggies.

Upcycled bed: Fill an old tire with potting soil and make it a planter; perfect for a handful of plants (low-growing plants such as mixed greens, carrots and beets grow excellent with tomatoes).

Photo(s) by Adaptive Seeds