Heirloom Tomatoes at Better Farm

Say goodbye to your store-bought tomatoes. You haven't tasted anything like Better Farm's heirloom tomato plants.

In the last several decades, we've lost about 75 percent of the genetic diversity in our seeds. Through GMO programs by bigwhigs like Monsanto, smaller family farms that supported heirloom varieties have disappeared; and the multitude of heirlooms that had adapted to survive well for hundreds of years were lost or replaced by fewer hybrid tomatoes, bred for their commercially attractive characteristics. (Click here to learn all about how we sacrificed flavor for irrelevant, tasteless color.)

In the process, we have also lost much of the ownership of foods typically grown by family gardeners and small farms, and we are loosing the genetic diversity at an accelerating and alarming rate.
Every heirloom variety is genetically unique and inherent in this uniqueness is an evolved resistance to pests and diseases and an adaptation to specific growing conditions and climates. With the reduction in genetic diversity, food production is drastically at risk from plant epidemics and infestation by pests. Call this genetic erosion.

As genetic diversityerodes, our capacity to maintainand enhance crop forest andlivestock productivity decreasesalong with the ability to respond tochanging conditions. Geneticresources hold the key to increasingfood security and improving thehuman condition.

The late Jack Harlan, world-renowned plant collector who wrote the classic Crops and Man while Professor of Plant Genetics at University of Illinois at Urbana, wrote, "These resources stand between us and catastrophic starvation on a scale we cannot imagine. In a very real sense, the future of the human race rides on these materials. The line between abundance and disaster is becoming thinner and thinner, and the public is unaware and unconcerned. Must we wait for disaster to be real before we are heard? Will people listen only after it is too late."

It is up to us as gardeners and responsible stewards of the earth to assure that we sustain the diversity afforded us through heirloom varieties.

Here's a quick cheat sheet about heirloom plants:
  1. Commercial Heirlooms: Open-pollinated varieties introduced before 1940, or tomato varieties more than 50 years in circulation.
  2. Family Heirlooms: Seeds that have been passed down for several generations through a family.
  3. Created Heirlooms: Crossing two known parents (either two heirlooms or an heirloom and a hybrid) and dehybridizing the resulting seeds for how ever many years/generations it takes to eliminate the undesirable characteristics and stabilize the desired characteristics, perhaps as many as 8 years or more.
  4. Mystery Heirlooms: Varieties that are a product of natural cross-pollination of other heirloom varieties.
(Note: All heirloom varieties are open-pollinated but not all open-pollinated varieties are heirloom varieties.)

At Better Farm, we got a bunch of different heirloom tomato seeds this year from Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds. Here's some information about the varieties of striped, green, and red tomatoes we have for sale at our farm stand :
(Lycopersicon lycopersicum) This crop, native to the Americas, has become the most popular garden crop over the last 200 years. We offer an amazing selection of many of the finest old varieties in lots of delicious colors! A few heirloom varieties have plants that don't get quite so large. Called "determinate" varieties, these get to a certain size and then set all their fruit more or less at once. Determinates may be a better choice where tomatoes are grown in a very small garden, or in containers. All varieties are believed to be 'indeterminate' (long vines), unless specified 'determinate' (short vines). The best tasting varieties tend to be indeterminate, as most of ours are unless otherwise noted. 
Everyone at the farm attests to the fullness of flavor on these tomatoes; like your classic beefsteak or roma on steroids. The various sizes make them universally great for stews, sauces, or sandwiches.

Organic heirloom tomatoes available at farm stand, varying prices according to size. Special bulk orders can be called in: (315) 482-2536.

Nicole Caldwell

Nicole Caldwell is a self-taught environmentalist, green-living savant and sustainability educator with more than a decade of professional writing experience. She is also the co-founder of Better Farm and president of betterArts. Nicole’s work has been featured in Mother Earth News, Reader’s Digest, Time Out New York, and many other publications. Her first book, Better: The Everyday Art of Sustainable Living, is due out this July through New Society Publishers.