WV ’63 Heirloom Tomato

What is the West Virginia ’63 Heirloom Tomato?

So, next year the state of West Virginia will be 150 years old! In celebration of WV’s 100th birthday in 1963, the Agriculture Experiment Station released the Centennial Tomato (also known as the West Virginia ’63 tomato). The tomato was popular across the state and is still grown in many home gardens. The WV ‘63 tomato was bred at WVU by Dr. Mannon Gallegly who is an emeritus professor of plant pathology. Dr. Gallegly recently told us that it took 13 years for him and his associates to create this rare and special tomato breed. He started his WV ’63 tomato journey in 1950 and finally finished in 1963, then was published for his work in 1964. The tomato was cross-bred with several other tomatoes before it was created and discovered. The reason that this WV tomato is so very special is because is maintains a “blight resistance”. Blight is the natural reaction that tomatoes have from fungus. Visually, it looks as though the tomato has physical flaws on the surface. Our WV ’63 tomato has a resistance to this reaction therefore, doesn’t have physical imperfections. So, you could say it’s perfectly made in the state of West Virginia!!

Dean Robison, of Davis College, heard the story of the WV ‘63 tomato. He has asked if we could do something next year, 2013, in recognition of what happened 50 years ago and which could also bring recognition to WVU and what Davis College does for the state. Our main goal is to not only highlight this heirloom tomato of WV’s but, also incorporate Davis College into the promotion of it because we were the first college at WVU.

So, we want to promote “our” tomato not only across our entire campus but, also state-wide. So, as part of a campus-sponsored event we thought of an idea to incorporate different parts of Davis College into the brainstorming process. My advisor, Megan Govindan MPH, MS, RD, LD, asked Dr. Debbie Christel Ph.D., ABD, who is new to WVU from Oregon State University, to collaborate on a “WV ’63 Heirloom Tomato” T-shirt idea. Dr. Cristel is a faculty member with Textile Apparel and Merchandise in the Davis College and is experienced in the area of athletic apparel and exercise motivation. She is also familiar with the founder and company of “Sustain-U”, a sustainable t-shirt company in Morgantown.  Ironically, tonight is also the Davis College picnic, where the “T-shirt challenge” can be introduced as well. So, Dr. Christel Ph.D., ABD thought it would be a great idea to promote the t-shirt competition with a template that she created (attached) and set up drawing materials at the Apparel Design student club booth. Then, the students and faculty can vote on the best designed logo and use that design for the merchandise.

Template for our “WV ’63 Tomato T-shirt Challenge”

Other ideas that are currently in the works or could be in the works in the near future are:

  • Ketchup packets
    • Made from ’63 Heirloom tomatoes
    • Davis College logo on packets
    • Design of packet from Davis College
    • Food Science component
  • Davis College Heirloom salsa sales
    • Hot/medium/mild
    • Branded same way as ketchup packets
    • Food culture component
  • Heirloom Deer Marinades
    • Deer season is approaching quickly- would sell fast!
    • WVU Woodsmen team could help promote?
    • Alpha Gamma Rho could help advertise?
    • Sigma Alpha could help sales?
  • ’63 tomato t-shirts
    • Textile Apparel and Merchandise- Dr. Christel
  • ’63 seed packs sent to alumni
    • Seed packets with attached recipe booklet will be sent to alumni all over the world
      • This give alumni the feeling that WVU and Davis College is with them wherever they go
  • ’63 Heirloom chili cook-off
    • Different colleges across the campus can compete for “The Best ’63 Chili” bragging rights
    • Sales can be raised for a non-profit organization
  • Heirloom pasta sauce
    • This idea has me especially excited. I was thinking that a pasta sauce could be made from ’63 Heirloom tomatoes and sold during the holiday season. Or we can even have a recipe for ’63 pasta sauce for alumni to have over the holiday season. My family, personally, uses pasta sauces specifically during the holiday months so, this could even be a Christmas present ideas for families that have sent their children to WVU.
    • The Italian American Organization (IAO) could potentially promote, advertise, and help Davis College sell the products. This would mean cross-college team work towards the WV ’63 Heirloom tomato!!
  • Fried Heirloom tomato sale
    • On all 3 campuses during the birthday celebration.
  • Heirloom sandwich sale
    • Davis College could sell WV ’63 Heirloom tomato sandwiches at WVU football game tailgates or basketball games and a portion of the sales could go towards the Ronald McDonald House.
    • This idea will have a higher service learning component as well as promoting how awesome Davis College is!
    • It can be called the “Heinz Davis College ’63 Tomato Sandwich” – major sponsorship could have a huge impact on the university and college nationwide…

I can honestly say, as a Pennsylvania-born girl and West Virginia resident, I am beyond excited to start working on this project. It is seriously bringing the whole Davis College together to work on such a special agriculture heirloom to the state. Its things like this that makes me proud to say that I’m 2 very special and important things…… A Mountaineer and a Davis College graduate student.





’63 tomatoes straight from the field!

Dr. Gallegly seed saving some ’63 tomato seeds for us in the HNF department 🙂

More seed saving over in the South Ag Science building Plant Pathology lab with Dr. Gallegly

The 13 year process it took to make the ’63 tomato. This picture includes all of the cross-bred hurdles it took to create “our” tomato!

More ’63 tomatoes that Dr. Gallegly gave us for inspiration… and dinner of course! haha

The ’63 tomato published article