When I started Simple Gifts Farm in 1999 at the New England Small Farm Institute in Belchertown, heirloom tomatoes were still a new and exciting thing. We had to write things on our farmer’s market signs like “Heirloom tomatoes are older varieties that were bred for flavor rather than uniformity and shipping quality.” There were plenty of people who knew that, but there were also plenty who didn’t. At the first farm I worked for, in 1990, the exciting varieties were Lemon Boy and Big Beef, so the 90’s were the decade heirlooms became a thing that people knew about. Then in the 2000’s, they became somewhat mainstream. For a few years, we were the supplier for heirlooms for the Hadley Whole Foods store, but then other larger farms started catching on to the trend, and now we are one of 4 local farms that bring in heirlooms to that store. These days, looking at our tomato storage, it sometimes seems like they are just a nicely colored commodity. We packed up a 1000-pound order for the Whole Foods warehouse this week (taking a quick pause to look at the eclipse through welding glasses), and I sure wasn’t appreciating the beauty of every one of those. One we we do keep it fresh is by always trying out some new varieties. This year I went a little nuts on seeds from Wild Boar Farm. Brad Gates is the owner there, and he breeds “newlooms,” or new open-pollinated varieties from heirloom patch. He is responsible for Berkeley Tie-dye, which has recently made it in to our list of all stars, and this year we are trying out a bunch of his other varieties with names like Brad’s Black Heart, tAtomic Grape, Indigo Kumquat, Lucid Gem, and Summer of Love. There are a bunch of cool tomatoes coming in; now we have to dig out the planting log and figure out what they all are. We’ll save seed from the good ones, and probably have some available s plants for you next spring!
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- Another small step in the effort to turn our climate ship around (Or, what, are we crazy?)
- One More Small Step in the Effort to turn the Climate Change Ship