Awful smell as thousands of tomatoes rot in field

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COLUMBIA, Ill. — In a field about 15 miles south of St. Louis, tomatoes that have ripened too quickly in the sudden summer heat, are causing a rotting stench.

“It smelled just like swamp,” said Michelle Forthaus who walked by the field with her daughter on their 3-5 mile fitness walk. “Once we turned the corner (the smell) definitely took us over,” she said.

There were likely hundreds of thousands of pounds of tomatoes rotting in the 18-20 acre field, now a big attraction for flies.

The field belongs to Mel Stuckmeyer, whose family produce stand has been a landmark in the area for generations. The tomatoes are sold each year to local grocery stores.

A field that size can yield well beyond 700,000 lbs of tomatoes. When the heat wave hit, the tomatoes ripened and scorched faster than workers could pick them, Stuckmeyer said.

“We’ll put the mower in them, mow them down, get the fields cleaned up, get the plastic picked up…I don’t think the odor is that bad.  It’s better than cabbage, put it that way,” Stuckmeyer laughed.

The odor should be gone in a week or two, he said.

State officials said, despite the complaints, there is no law on the books that would apply to this situation.


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