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Heirloom: Notes from an Accidental Tomato Farmerby Tim Stark
Synopses & Reviews
Situated beautifully at the intersection of Michael Pollan, Ruth Reichl, and Barbara Kingsolver, Heirloom is an inspiring, elegiac, and gorgeously written memoir about rediscovering an older and still vital way of life.
Fourteen years ago, Tim Stark was living in Brooklyn, working days as a management consultant, and writing unpublished short stories by night. One evening, chancing upon a Dumpster full of discarded lumber, he carried the lumber home and built a germination rack for thousands of heirloom tomato seedlings. His crop soon outgrew the brownstone in which it had sprouted, forcing him to cart the seedlings to his familys farm in Pennsylvania, where they were transplanted into the ground by hand. When favorable weather brought in a bumper crop, Tim hauled his unusual tomatoes to New York Citys Union Square Greenmarket, at a time when the tomato was unanimously red. The rest is history. Today, Eckerton Hill Farm does a booming trade in heirloom tomatoes and obscure chile peppers. Tims tomatoes are featured on the menus of New York Citys most demanding chefs and have even made the cover of Gourmet magazine.
"In a 'back-to-nature' move more than a decade ago, Stark uprooted a handful of heirloom tomato seedlings from his Brooklyn brownstone and returned to Eckerton Hill, his Pennsylvanian boyhood home, to harvest two acres of multicolored oddities. From Mennonite country to New York City, using a rusted Toyota pickup, he transported his first auspicious crop of Hill Billies, Tiger Toms and Radiator Charlie's Mortgage Lifters to the Union Square Greenmarket, becoming the unlikely purveyor of apples to heirloom aficionados and Michelin-starred chefs. An amateur farmer with finite experience in organic farming and a rotating cast of weed-pulling hands, Stark takes on hornworms, groundhogs, cantankerous neighbors and route I-78, producing cover-worthy tomatoes for Gourmet, Brooklyn-bound sugar snaps and chocolate habaneros for discriminating farmers' market cognoscenti. With his produce and dogged perseverance, Stark bridges the gap between New York's posh kitchens and the sun-drenched fields of the rural countryside, commenting along the way on buzzwords like organic, the effects of urban sprawl, and farming's changing landscape. His recounting of fly-by-night agricultural tactics, stomach-turning worries and relief-inducing bumper crops paints a poignant picture of a dwindling form of American life. Through his urbane relationships with the Bouleys and Bouluds and pastoral friendships with the likes of fellow berry, pea shoot and haricot vert producers, he illustrates the unlikely bond between the tomato-laden farm and the urban table. (July)" Publishers Weekly (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
An amateur farmer with finite experience in organic farming, Stark takes on hornworms, groundhogs, cantankerous neighbors--and in the process produces cover-worthy tomatoes. With his produce and dogged perseverance, he bridges the gap between New York's posh kitchens and the sun-drenched fields of farming's changing landscape.
Some years ago Tim Stark was living in Brooklyn, working days as a government consultant and writing unpublished short stories by night. One day he walked past a Dumpster full of discarded lumber and decided to build germination racks for heirloom tomatoes, which he could then cart back to his family's inactive farm in rural Pennsylvania. The weather and soil were so tomato-friendly that summer that he had a huge bumper crop to sell at the new farmers’ market at New York City’s Union Square. Fifteen years later, his completely organic Eckerton Hill Farm does hundreds of thousands of dollars of business a year—raising killer habañero chilies and fancy microgreens as well—and his tomatoes grace the menus of New York's most demanding chefs and even the cover of Gourmet magazine.
Situated beautifully at the intersection of Michael Pollan, Ruth Reichl, and Barbara Kingsolver, Heirloom is an inspiring, elegiac, and gorgeously written memoir about rediscovering an older and still vital American way of life.
About the Author
TIM STARK is the owner and proprietor of Eckerton Hill Farm in Hamburg, Pennsylvania, an organic farm. His essays have appeared in Gourmet, Alimentum, and Organic Gardening, and he and his farm have been profiled on National Public Radio.
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