Top of the tomato to ya! My name is Leanne Chase and welcome to my blog about my life as a young organic farmer! I’m proud to have that title, to have dirty hands and sun kissed skin, because in this day and age, farming isn’t an occupation that younger adults seek to be involved in, however, it is gaining momentum! I believe in being the change I want to see in the world, leading by example and connecting with other human beings to promote a collective consciousness. Here on my blog, I will share what activities I am partaking in my life, be it, organic gardening and permaculture, foraging wild edibles, concocting fantastic food, repurposing found items for art, or making jewelry, to help inspire you to do the same, and live lightly on the land.
This summer, as every summer since I graduated university from Trent in Peterborough, I am working on a farm to help promote healthy food options for people and to rebel against the industrial food companies that are ruling our grocery stores, plates, bodies and hospitals. The farm I have been graciously invited to work at is called Wicklow Way, owned and operated by a fantastic couple Elaina Asselin and Gregory Hill! The farm is located along Lake Ontario, a tomato throw away from Cobourg, south of hwy 2, along the bicycle route. Wicklow Way Farm is certified organic with 5 acres under cultivation and growing! The tremendous list of products they supply comes from heirloom vegetables, herbs, flowers, pigs, chickens, ducks, goats and bees.
Greg and Elaina started their farm years ago, only growing tomatoes. Lots and lots of tomatoes! The first year they grew 1,200 heirloom tomato plants. Holy tomato sauce, that’s a lot. Over the years they cut back on the juicy plump fruit and added other vegetables to their list. Their main focus is still on the tomatoes, as they celebrate the beginning of the year with a tomato plant sale, and have a tomato festival in the summer, where people come from all around to taste test the delicious heirloom tomatoes! I could go on and on about the farm, oh and I will over the course of the summer, but let’s first focus on a very important word…HEIRLOOM! and secondly TOMATO! Heirlooms: are standard, open pollinated (OP) varieties that breed true from seed and can be passed down to the next generation (like your grandmother’s emerald ring!) It is important for these unique varieties to be transmitted and used for breeding, as many are rare and endangered, because of the popularity of the F1 hybrids found in grocery stores. Tomatoes are tremendously diverse in size, shape and colour; ranging from gigantic beefsteaks to cherry tomatoes, from round, square, wrinkly, ugly, and growing noses, to every colour of the rainbow: red, yellow, orange, pink, purple, green, black and white. Tomatoes get funky enough to have a splash of every colour, like the Berkeley Tie Die, bred and created by Wild Boar farms in Napa Valley. Some famous heirlooms have been sold and passed down in families and communities for hundreds of years, and others were recently bred by cross pollinating one heirloom variety with another; again like the Berkeley Tie Die (which is Green Zebra and Cherokee Purple). The characteristics of heirloom tomatoes have been highly prized by gardeners for their beauty, flavour, fragrance and/or productivity. The comparison of heirloom tomatoes and grocery store tomatoes is not a competition because the factory red, perfectly round, tasteless, goopy, mealy tomatoes available out of season for purchase, are picked before they are ripe, polished to be shiny, bounced around on a truck for 1,500 miles from Mexico, to end up on your plate with no love injected at all, only possibly a fish hormone to keep the skin firm and prevent it from rotting. Yummy, right? So wrong! Heirloom fruits are often not suited to large scale production because many types don’t ripen all at once, so they cant be harvested mechanically. They often don’t keep well during shipping and storage, and many of them don’t have consistent appearance. Heirloom tomatoes may even look a little odd, like the Purple Calabash, which has the reputation of being one of the ugliest tomatoes with a great taste! However, heirloom tomatoes are ideal because they have a more pleasing taste and texture than hybrids. In nature’s true ability to adapt to it’s environment, heirlooms will produce better fruit, and become pest and disease resistant when grown in the same climate and soil conditions year after year. In addition, heirloom tomatoes are also a tangible connection with the past, such as old furniture, the plants of earlier generations draw us closer to those who have grown them before us. Some varieties have fascinating histories like Radiator Charley’s Mortgage Lifter, a huge meaty tomato that helped its cultivar, an unemployed mechanic who cross-bred his best fruits for 6 years, until he was happy with this one. Charley had people driving up to 200 miles for his plants, which he sold for $1 each during the Depression. Another great tomato history is the Sandia Gem, which was found in a pouch on top of a mountain in Peru, and only 3 seeds germinated.
The list of these fabulous fruits continues on the Wicklow Way website at http://www.wicklowway.ca/2014%20tomatoes%20page.htm
Please take a gander, read all the varieties, sign up for the newsletter, so you can be reminded to come join us for the TASTING OF THE TOMATO FESTIVAL in the summer time.
Thanks for reading my first blog entry, and check back often, as I will be writing multiple times a week!