Sybil Gorby, a 92-year-old resident of Tyler County, West Virginia, has been growing heirloom tomatoes from the same family of seeds since 1965.
Editor's note: This article was originally published on March 24, 2023. It has since been updated.
Sybil Gorby, a 92-year-old resident of Tyler County, West Virginia, has been planting seeds from the same heirloom tomato lineage since 1965. Every spring, she cultivates the seeds in her garden and by mid-August, she is rewarded with plump, shiny and delicious tomatoes. Gorby believes there is something exceptional about these seeds and the tomatoes they yield year after year. Gorby still lives on the same farm where she and her late husband built a home 60 years ago. She has had a green thumb since she was a teenager and her love for gardening began while helping to look after her neighbor's garden. Seeing a seed bloom and then blossom into edible deliciousness gives her a feeling of pride.
Once she and her husband moved to the farm, Gorby was eager to have a garden of her own. At its peak, it was 40 by 40 yards and brimming with fresh fruits and vegetables as well as flowers and plants. She grew potatoes, green beans, corn and squash, among other crops and flowers. Gorby always had enough food and vegetables to feed the whole community and she never accepted money for her produce, preferring to give it away.
Gorby's daughter, Sandy Marody, grew up eating the heirloom tomatoes and believes there is something magical about them. The seeds just grow into wonderful tomato plants. According to The Washington Post, sometimes the seeds turn into giant heirloom tomatoes, including one from last year's harvest. Marody shared a photo of her mother holding the large fruit on Facebook, with people being impressed by the size of the tomato.
Gorby has become well-known around Tyler County for sharing her bounty of fresh produce every year. In addition to offering fresh fruits and vegetables, she would also make homemade sauces, soups, jams and jellies, which she distributed around town. The only thing she enjoys more than eating her harvest is sharing it with others, especially her family, including her eight grandchildren. Gorby likes to be sure everybody has something to eat.
Over the years, the community has been grateful for any gift from Gorby's garden, though the heirloom tomatoes are the most coveted crop. Gorby's love for gardening has brought her endless satisfaction and her green thumb has helped her create a wonderful life for herself and her family.
For the past 58 years, Betty Gorby has been growing her own heirloom tomatoes from seeds she saved from the biggest and best tomatoes in her garden. Although she can't remember the exact variety of tomatoes she started with, the seeds have been producing juicy, delicious tomatoes everyone loves.
Betty's tomato-growing journey began when her friend Gay Soles, also an avid gardener, offered her some tomato plants. Betty saved the seeds from the end of the season and planted them in her garden. The resulting tomatoes were so large and delicious that she decided to save the seeds to replant them the following season. Betty has been following the same cycle ever since.
Over the years, Betty's garden has grown to be so robust that her late husband had to use a step ladder to harvest the tomatoes. These days, Betty's garden has shrunk to a more manageable size, but she still checks on her tomato plants every day to water them and shoo away insects. Betty's daughter, who also has a garden of her own, is glad that Betty passed on her love of gardening to her.
Betty believes that gardening is the secret to her long and happy life. She feels that it keeps her moving and helps her use all her muscles to pull and dig. Betty's favorite way to eat her heirloom tomatoes is in a bacon, egg and tomato sandwich made with homemade bread.
Recently, Betty's daughter Marody shared a photo of her mother and her giant tomato on Facebook. The photo generated a lot of interest, with strangers reaching out to buy the seeds. Betty is superstitious about selling anything from her garden, so Marody mailed out envelopes of seeds to those who requested them. Betty hopes that others will be able to enjoy growing and eating her heirloom tomatoes as much as she does.
Betty Gorby's love of gardening has led her to grow her own heirloom tomatoes for the past 58 years. Her dedication to saving the seeds of the biggest and best tomatoes has resulted in juicy, delicious tomatoes that everyone loves. Betty believes that gardening is the secret to her long and happy life and she hopes that others will be able to enjoy the same joy she gets from growing and eating her heirloom tomatoes.