Milwaukee All-Star: "The tomato guy" Derek Crabbe
Every week in 2015, OnMilwaukee.com and local design company Too Much Metal will join forces to introduce the latest member of the Milwaukee All-Stars – a team of unfamiliar winners living in the city who consistently and diligently make it shine. Each week, a new member will join the team – based on your recommendations – and at the end of the year all will come together in a Rally of the Raddest Milwaukeeans. We're not sure what that means quite yet, so for now, meet …
Derek Crabbe grew up on Milwaukee's North Side with his parents and three siblings. Every summer, his mother planted a garden.
"We didn't have much of a back yard on 53rd and Villard, but my mom planted what she could. She enjoyed doing it and it helped cut costs which was helpful with four kids," says Crabbe. "I give my mom a lot of props for giving me a green thumb."
Crabbe planted his first garden as an adult in 1999. His wife at the time took some of his tomatoes to Ristorante Bartolotta, where she worked. The chef was extremely impressed and asked to buy all of his tomatoes.
Today, Crabbe operates a small produce company called dceeds that specializes in heirloom tomatoes. He sells his vegetables to AP Bar & Kitchen, Pizza Man, Blue Jacket, La Merenda, Lake Park Bistro, Mr. B's and more.
"I'm known as the Tomato Guy," says Crabbe.
Growing fresh, natural food is important to Crabbe. "I'm trying to bring real food to people's plates," he says. "And I love what I do."
OnMilwaukee.com / Too Much Metal: How long have you been doing your thing?
Derek Crabbe: I started gardening with my parents as a kid. As far as my produce company (dceeds) goes, I'm going into my fifth season.
OMC / TMM: What time of the year / season is your favorite in Milwaukee and why?
DC: I love spring to get out of the house and say goodbye to winter, but summer in Milwaukee has got to be the best. Milwaukee really comes alive in the summer with all the festivals, it's what we're known for. I can't grow vegetables when the ground's frozen either so … sorry winter.
OMC / TMM: What's your favorite or least favorite smell in Milwaukee?
DC: I hate to hate, but that smell coming off the lake down at Bradford Beach is sometimes unbearable. Unless you're into dead fish. That being said Bradford has come a long way and is awesome now.
OMC / TMM: What's your hope for Milwaukee?
DC: To build this city as a place we all can be proud of. We have to end all the senseless violence. The drug epidemic has also become very evident and extremely scary. I think the "do unto others as you would have them do unto you" should be our motto.
OMC / TMM: When and how did you fall in love with Milwaukee.
DC: I moved to Salt Lake City for three years in 2005. I would occasionally hear a Harley roar down the street and then knew I loved Milwaukee more than I thought. This city sticks to your bones. It's easy to see by friends and family who come here on vacation and are blown away by Summerfest and they always seem to say 'people are so friendly here!' It feels good to make other people feel good just by being in Milwaukee.
OMC / TMM: How did you start doing what you do?
DC: It all started so I could eat fresh, untouched fruits and vegetables and share them with friends and family. A local chef Juan Urbieta at Ristorante Bartolotta asked me to grow heirloom tomatoes for him and here I am falling in love with growing produce for all to share. Everyone wants to love what they do and I truly love growing food and that is why I do it.
OMC / TMM: What's one of your guilty pleasures?
DC: Eating out! I do like cooking, but meeting so many great chefs in Milwaukee tempts me to try all their restaurants. Makes it so my foodie budget is sometimes running on fumes.
OMC / TMM: Name one Milwaukeean you would like to high five.
DC: How about Eric Benét? I mean this guy was with Halle Berry, man!
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