Plant Stories: Tomatoes

By Lucia Kearney

(Solanum lycopersicum)


What do you think of when you think a tomato? Maybe juicy slices in a perfectly toasted BLT, or freshly chopped into a Greek salad, or layered with mozzarella and drizzled with balsamic in a caprese sandwich. Maybe you think of cherry tomatoes eaten by the handful, a simmering red sauce on the stove destined for a big bowl of pasta, the smoky flavors in Lebanese maghmour, or just the feeling of being in the full swing of summer.

There’s a tendency, I think, to dismiss sustainable farming as something romantic or escapist, a pretty vision but out of step with reality. But food – growing and eating it – is essential to the human story.

There’s an important movement happening within organic farming, a move to understand sustainable agriculture beyond the white/Western lens through which it is often presented; to understand and acknowledge the afro-indigenous sources of many contemporary sustainable practices, and to learn the stories and histories of the crops we grow and the lands we live on. A part of this movement is acknowledging that farmers are not just old, straight, Christian white men (no offense to Wendell Berry) – that farmers come in all hues, creeds, sexualities, gender-orientations, class, what have you, and that all of society benefits when farming is accessible to all who feel called to it.

There are many threads woven into the story of peoples and their relationship through