I love tomatoes. They are one of my most favorite foods in the world. I have an emotional connection with a tomato – perhaps it is memories of my parents canning sauce as I (mostly) watched. Maybe it has something to do with my adoration of the toasted tomato. I am not sure what the root cause is but I do know that the connection is real – so real that a tomato dish at Alinea actually drew a tear from my eye and across my cheek.
Jessie Sosnicki makes me look like a tomato hater. Jessie, along with her husband Ben, operate a fantastic organic farm in Waterford, Ontario (south west of Hamilton on the map). They run a diverse farms with many crops and offer many treats you simply cannot find around the city – orange beets and purple carrots were in their booth yesterday at the Brickworks Farmers Market.
The farm planted 2 acres of tomatoes this year. To put that in perspective, that is more than 87,000 square feet. There were 100 different types of heirloom tomatoes – this is their specialty and it was their produce that filled our salads through the late summer last year.
I approached the booth at the market yesterday after missing the last few weeks for vacation. I noticed that the heirlooms were back, though the selection appeared less than normal (a typical market day would have up to 600 pounds of heirloom, there were less than 100 pounds yesterday). We spoke for a few minutes and nothing seemed out of the ordinary.
My mood was about to change. “We won‘t have any field-grown heirlooms this year.“
I don‘t know if I didn’t‘t understand or simply was refusing to accept what I had just heard. I found the words tough to accept and found a great sadness creeping over me. And Jessie, a passionate farmer whom Dana and I have traded a few warm conversations with, was standing there, somehow smiling, somehow braving this storm.
Tomato blight is a from of protist (which is a group of organism). It occurs in cold, wet environments. According to the BC Government, blight is getting worse by the year and new strands are developing. Some home gardeners can accidentally contribute to this problem as well as some leave diseased leaves and produce in their gardens and others compost the diseased leave (organisms survive this process). Our unusually cool and rainy summer is perfect for it. It was this organism and a gang of potato beetles that ruined this years harvest for the family.
I must once again emphasize how much I respect people who farm for what they do.
Ben took the tractor out this week and flattened the field. I would have been in tears.
The loss of the crop goes beyond financial – the hours of lost work, the emotional peaks and valleys of hope that they would make it and fear that they wouldn’t all add up. And, of course, there is the emotional attachment.
They are confident that they will weather this storm just as they have endured others. The diversity of their farm will be a great strength. The farm still has other offerings; onions, spelt, celery, celeriac, cabbage, broccoli, brussel sprouts, beets, carrots and peppers are here or coming soon. And, for the early birds, a selection of greenhouse heirlooms will populate their market stalls as well.
I challenge you to visit one of the 5 markets they work (getting up as early as 3AM to make it to market) across Toronto:
Tuesday 3-7 Riverdale Farmers Market
Thursdays 2.30-7 Dufferin Grove Organic Farmers Market
Saturdays Green Barn Market (Bathurst and St Clair) 7-12
Saturdays Brickworks Farmers Market 8-1
Saturdays Withrow Park Farmers Market 9-12
When choosing produce imported from 2,000 miles away, we must remember that we are choosing more than just a cheaper price – we are choosing who we are supporting.
Check out their blog for photos and the story here.