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Business Beat: 05/01/2020

Business Beat – It’s all about tomatoes for Oakmont author

Tomato expert Steve Albert

Steve Albert of Oakmont has a long gardening resume. He’s been a Master Gardener, a University of California instructor, a prolific author, and he’s spoken to hundreds of groups at libraries, farms, private gatherings, and lecture halls.

And, he’s the talent behind the extremely popular website,, which he started in 2008 and which now enjoys between 300,000-400,000 unique visitors a day.

Over the years, Albert has gotten lots and lots of inquiries about tomatoes.

“Tomatoes are the most widely grown and popular vegetable. I think that’s why there are so many questions,” said Albert.

So Albert has put together Tomato Grower’s Answer Book, with 400 questions and answers, broken into 28 sections, covering chronologically the whole gamut of the tomato-growing season.

What tomato variety do I plant? How do I plant it? How do I care for it? How do I solve pest problems? The book, which you can find on Amazon, will answer all your questions.

Albert said he always encourages new gardeners not be frustrated if something doesn’t go as planned.

“Any problem you have with a plant can be easily solved,” said Albert. “Experience is the best teacher. I always want to tell people not to give up. It’s a hobby! Most people just need a helping hand.”

Popular tomatoes people like to grow locally include Early Girl, Ace 55, and Big Boy.

Albert likes to grow Celebrity tomatoes. “Taste great and grow anywhere.”

For something different, he encourages gardeners to try darker colored tomatoes, which have more intense flavor, such as Black Krim and Cherokee Purple.

The most memorable tomato he’s ever had?

“Japanese Black Trifele,” said Albert. “You taste that tomato and you’ll never forget it.”

What’s Albert’s next project? A new website he’s developing,, which will focus on landscaping plants, shrubs, annuals, perennials, etc. Look for it later this summer.

Glass blower coming to Glen Ellen

Michael Dickinson
Glass artist Michael Dickinson plans to move to a studio in Jack London Village.
While temporarily delayed by COVID-19 shelter in place orders, Michael Dickinson of Dickinson Glass is eager to open his glass-blowing studio in Jack London Village sooner rather than later.

Now working out of a private studio in San Rafael, Dickinson began looking for a bigger space to show his work to the public and give classes.

The kind of glasswork done by Dickinson, 26, is known as lampworking, or flameworking, where a torch is primarily used to melt the glass. Once in a molten state, the glass is formed by blowing and shaping with tools and hand movements.

Dickinson said he wasn’t really an artist growing up. His parents owned a commercial glass company, where he could see how glass could be manipulated into different shapes.

“Once I tried it, I was hooked,” said Dickinson, who has been creating glasswork for five years.

Elegant goblets, champagne flutes, vases, unique glass shapes – Dickinson honors traditional Venetian techniques while incorporating contemporary scientific approaches.

When not in his studio, Dickinson is also a teacher, leading many workshops in the Bay Area. He is a faculty member at The Crucible in Oakland, the Bay Area Glass Institute, and elsewhere. His work has been exhibited nationally, showcased in galleries and curated stores, and is included in a number of private collections.

When finally open at Jack London Village, Dickinson will be offering classes to the community. He plans small introductory classes where he can share the process he uses to make items like marbles and vases. Later on, Dickinson will incorporate more advanced classes.

Check Dickinson’s website to get a look at his work and to see when he might be able to open,

Business Beat Note

Most of the local eateries are open for take-out, wineries for wine pickup, grocery stores, auto repair businesses, body shops, places like Swede’s Feeds, Wildwood Nursery, Oak Hill Farm, Flatbed Farms and more. Just call and/or go to their websites for the days and hours.

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