Indiana’s Processing Tomato Industry in 1928 and 2013. – Vegetable Crops Hotline

Indiana’s Processing Tomato Industry in 1928 and 2013.

While visiting my son in Lincoln, Nebraska this past summer, I had the chance to browse in a second hand store.I felt myself drawn to the book section where I found a green hard cover book titled, “Yearbook of Agriculture, 1928”.

From 1894 until 1992, the Department of Agriculture published a Yearbook of Agriculture annually. These books provided updates, features and statistics for the year. The reports actually go all the way back to 1862, when the head of the agriculture department, Isaac Newton, submitted a report to the Commissioner of Patents. (It turns out most of these books have been scanned and are on-line-I could have saved myself $1.50 had I known!)

It is my plan to report on parts of the 1928 book that I think might interest vegetable growers in Indiana. The first subject which caught my eye were the statistics for processing tomato production.

Below I have constructed a table of comparison of processing tomato production in 1928 and in 2013, the latest year for which there are statistics. To be honest, the table from which the 1928 data comes from is titled, ‘Tomatoes for manufacture….”. I assume that is the same as the 2013 category of “Tomatoes for Processing” in the Vegetables 2013 Summary, USDA, National Agricultural Statistics Service.

The first thing I noticed was the decline in acres of processing tomato production between 1928 and 2013-a factor of more than 5! But, don’t despair…..although acres of tomatoes went down, production went way up. The reason is obvious-yield per acre of processing tomatoes went up 10X. I suspect tomato varieties in 1928 were open pollenated vs. the hybrids of today. The use of transplants for tomato production probably started after 1928. No doubt there are other reasons for this success story.

Prices for a ton of processing tomatoes have gone up considerably as well. For comparison, field corn prices went from $0.82 in 1928 to $6.22 in 2013 (Iowa State Extension figures). Corn prices increased a factor of about 7X, vs the almost 10X price increase for processing tomatoes.

One more item not shown in this table: the ranking of the tomato processing industry in Indiana nationally. California today leads the nation in processing tomato production with Indiana second. In 1928, California was a distant second to Indiana in acres of processing tomatoes with only 25,790 acres. However, California produced 201,200 tons, out producing Indiana (see below). It may be that in 1928, California had advanced technology that Indiana had not yet adopted. Today, Indiana’s processing tomato industry is well versed in the best methods of production. California’s lead in tomato production today is primarily in total acres.

As I find more interesting tidbits of information about agriculture in 1928, I will discuss those concepts here.

Comparison of processing tomato production in Indiana in 1928 and in 2013.


Production (Tons)

Yield Per acre (Tons)

Price/ton ($)










Tomato, processing

49, 870








*Source: Yearbook of Agriculture, 1928.

**Source: Vegetable 2013 Summary, USDA, National Agricultural Statistics service.


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