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Heirloom: Notes from an Accidental Tomato Farmer [Kindle Edition]

Tim Stark
3.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (20 customer reviews)

Print List Price: $14.00
Kindle Price: $7.99
You Save: $6.01 (43%)
Sold by: Random House LLC

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Book Description

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Fourteen years ago, Tim Stark was living in Brooklyn, working days as a management consultant, and writing unpublished short stories by night.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 family’s 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 City’s 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. Tim’s tomatoes are featured on the menus of New York City’s most demanding chefs and have even made the cover of Gourmet magazine.


Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

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)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

Review

"Lovingly crafted memoir about the author’s days producing organic veggies on his small farm in Pennsylvania Dutch country. Stark’s Eckerton Hill Farm provides fruits and vegetables for a discerning retail clientele at New York’s Union Square Greenmarket. The author also delights the palates of sophisticated foodies via the kitchens of the great chefs at Gotham’s priciest eateries. Readers get an introduction to regular farmer’s market customers and sellers and a field guide to the practices of Stark’s affable Amish and Mennonite neighbors. Other aspects of the author’s cultivation surface in references to diverse literary sources from Cheever to Crèvecoeur. It all combines to make entertaining light fare. A fresh writer’s salad garnished with an colorful dressing for foodies with a yen for sensual comestibles." --Kirkus Reviews

"Fourteen years ago, with zero farming experience, Tim Stark started 3,000 heirloom tomato plants in his Brooklyn apartment then transferred them to the family acreage in Pennsylvania. The multi-colored fruit of his labor...were a hit, snapped up by amateur and pro chefs at NYC's greenmarket. With succulent wit, he conveys the poetry of a well-grown tomato." --Entertainment Weekly

"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. 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 d...

Product Details

  • File Size: 270 KB
  • Print Length: 242 pages
  • Page Numbers Source ISBN: 0767927060
  • Publisher: Clarkson Potter; 1st edition (July 15, 2008)
  • Sold by: Random House LLC
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B001BZRUQ0
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Lending: Not Enabled
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #514,606 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
28 of 28 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Eat Local, Read Global August 1, 2008
Format:Hardcover
Heirloom: Notes From an Accidental Tomato Farmer is the bestselling book at my local coffeehouse in Kutztown, Pennsylvania. It is the only book for sale at the Uptown. The author is a farmer who grows the vegetables they use in their savory soups and salads. Last week, along with the tomatoes and red beets, Tim Stark delivered a case of books. I picked up a copy of out of curiosity. I am not much of a gardener, no gourmet, never even pause on the food channel, but found this book to be quite extraordinary.

Did you see the YouTube video of the elephant painting a picture? The elephant holds a brush in his trunk and paints a self-portrait. It was one hell of a great painting for an elephant. I feared Heirloom would leave me thinking `great book for a farmer.' Well, my fears were groundless. Heirloom is a great book for any writer of English language prose.

Tim Stark writes with wit, economy, and remarkable style. I'm a big fan of John McPhee's nonfiction. Heirloom makes reference to McPhee's Giving Good Weight, which chronicled the early days of the Union Square Greenmarket where Stark sells his prize tomatoes. Among the farmers Stark talks to is Alvina Frey, the New Jersey bean grower McPhee described as the essence of that market.

But Heirloom reminds me more of McPhee's 1966 classic, Oranges. The back cover of Oranges quotes Roderick Cook's review from Harper's magazine, "This is a surprising book. You may come to the end of it and say to yourself, `But I can't have read a whole book about oranges!' But the chances are you will have done so... It's a delicious book... more absorbing than many a novel.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Exploits of crazy, for gardeners/foodies who need to know September 29, 2008
Format:Hardcover
Heirloom is perhaps best served in the hands of obsessed foodies who crave behind-the-scenes tours of small organic farms, beyond what Food & Wine magazine teases. For gardeners, Heirloom is welcome and amusing company of crazy.

Without pretense or rehearsed narrative, Stark recounts his humble initiations into organic farming (and supplying top chefs in NYC), knowing very little about it, other than what his obsessions demand. His misadventures amuse. It's not perfect writing, yet it is exactly those imperfections that endear this find.

Detours from the narrative will surprise and delight. Unexpected passages include how Mennonite neighbors coach Stark in farming, auction etiquette and small engine repair. (The last paragraph in that chapter is especially moving.) And vignettes give depth and color to an unlikely cast of characters who help Stark plant, pick, sell and save his crops. Best of all, Stark unearths a family history that gives context and perhaps motivation to his madness. While it is all true, it reads like fiction, a story that you'll surely recommend and remember.

A fantastic late-summer read and welcome winter remedy for gardening/foody obsessives that crave the first signs of Spring.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars An interesting slice of contemporary Americana August 27, 2008
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
Tim Stark was an aspiring author doing various makeweight jobs in New York City when he got preoccupied with trying to raise heirloom tomatoes in his Brooklyn apartment. When his landlord put his foot down, Stark relocated his tomatoes and himself to his boyhood home in Lenhartsville, in Berks County, Pennsylvania, which is within the farming region of the Pennsylvania Dutch and about a two-hour drive from NYC (assuming no traffic jams). HEIRLOOM recounts Stark's ten or so years raising organic produce -- principally, heirloom tomatoes, but also chile peppers and sugar snap peas among many others -- on a few acres in Pennsylvania and then selling his produce at the Union Square Greenmarket and to some of the best restaurants in New York City.

Stark confronts an endless succession of obstacles and problems -- ignorance, weather, inadequate and balky equipment, lack of ready cash, insufficient labor, an obstreperous jerk of a neighbor, and insects, deer, and gophers -- each of which he somehow overcomes, or circumvents, or, at a minimum, learns to live with. Thankfully (for me, at least), Stark does not dwell on tedious agricultural details. This is not a gardener's journal; if anything, it probably is of greater interest to the appreciative consumer of organic farming than the practitioner. Interesting subjects discussed at some length are the Amish and Mennonites of the area, the farmer/chef relationships that have developed and undergird some of the most noted restaurants in NYC, and the bleak future for similar agricultural operations catering to urban markets, due to shrinking affordable farmland.

Stark's writing is above average, occasionally quite good, but it is uneven and at times a little disjointed and unnecessarily confusing.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A Good Read September 28, 2008
Format:Hardcover
I enjoyed this book. It's a quick read, well-written, very personal. If you're interested in knowing more about the reasons a person might become an heirloom tomato farmer when the economic indicators for such a major life change are all negative, read this book. The perils of small-farming are apparent, but somehow, so are the joys. I read the book on a day when I should have been working my own tomatoes, but we've had a rough year and I needed a break. This was it, so I have to say "Thank you Tim!"
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
4.0 out of 5 stars Humorous and often true
I like Tim's style of writing, he is good to unwind with after a tense day. His humor comes through in the mundane affairs on the 'farm' as well as in the unexpected. Read more
Published 8 months ago by John
4.0 out of 5 stars Good read
Not what I expected but nevertheless an interesting subject. In lieu of a typical gardening compendium, this book is an account of one man's pursuit of a lifelong occupation. Read more
Published 18 months ago by Phillip L. Estep
5.0 out of 5 stars Loved this book
Found this book in the library by accident when I was looking for some gardening references, didn't realize it was more of a novel. But once I started reading it I was hooked. Read more
Published 24 months ago by ArtnSoul
1.0 out of 5 stars I did not enjoy this book at all
I did not enjoy this book at all. I do not recommend it. Toward the end there is a really disgusting story about the guy trapping a groundhog in a cage, he throws the cage into... Read more
Published on April 21, 2012 by sunny day
3.0 out of 5 stars I loved this book, at first...
I liked this book at first, then it turned into a less interesting story that gives the author the opportunity to name-drop chefs and restaurants most people out side of NYC never... Read more
Published on June 19, 2011 by A. Yates
2.0 out of 5 stars Heirloom Tomatos
I thought I'd learn about growing heirloom tomatoes from this book. Not so. It's just a journal for a guy who stops his writing day job to grow tomatoes, and doesn't share what... Read more
Published on June 9, 2011 by AL
5.0 out of 5 stars Such an engaging book!
I never wanted to put it down. I really enjoyed reading about the ups and downs of his tomato farming experience. As a farmer and student, it was a quick but enjoyable book. Read more
Published on April 9, 2011 by Anna
3.0 out of 5 stars ho-hum
I was quite disappointed in this book: it does not grip you, the narrative is not linear, and I quite missed what I was really looking for: the story of the making of a farm. Read more
Published on April 3, 2010 by rexclick
3.0 out of 5 stars New Yorkers should appreciate...Southerns not so much
I was interested to read this book after I heard about Mr. Stark on NPR. It was an easy read that I mostly enjoyed, but he goes into long stories about other farmers and how they... Read more
Published on April 25, 2009 by L. Taylor
4.0 out of 5 stars More than Tomatoes!
NOTHING beats a homegrown, in season tomato. If you agree, you will adore this book, but it is so much more. Lessons on perserverance and life. Read more
Published on February 25, 2009 by Aphrodite K. Konduros
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