It's a Long Road to a Tomato: Tales of an Organic Farmer Who Quit the Big City for the (Not So) Simple Life

Overview

Keith Stewart, already in his early forties and discontent with New York's corporate grind, moved upstate and started a one-man organic farm in 1986. Today, having surmounted the seemingly endless challenges to succeeding as an organic farmer, Keith employs seven to eight seasonal interns and provides 100 varieties of fresh produce to the shoppers and chefs who flock twice weekly, May to December, to his stand at Union Square Greenmarket in Manhattan-the only place where his produce is sold. It's a Long Road to a...

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It's a Long Road to a Tomato: Tales of an Organic Farmer Who Quit the Big City for the (Not So) Simple Life

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Overview

Keith Stewart, already in his early forties and discontent with New York's corporate grind, moved upstate and started a one-man organic farm in 1986. Today, having surmounted the seemingly endless challenges to succeeding as an organic farmer, Keith employs seven to eight seasonal interns and provides 100 varieties of fresh produce to the shoppers and chefs who flock twice weekly, May to December, to his stand at Union Square Greenmarket in Manhattan-the only place where his produce is sold. It's a Long Road to a Tomato opens a window into the world of Keith's Farm, with essays on Keith's development as a farmer, the nuts and bolts of organic farming for an urban market, farm animals domestic and wild, and the political, social, and environmental issues relevant to agriculture today-and their impact on all of us.

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Editorial Reviews

Library Journal
This is not another book of anecdotes encouraging city slickers to begin a pastoral life full of colorful characters. Instead, it is a thoughtful, candid account of one man's experience as an organic farmer. Stewart is no dilettante: he has farmed for almost 20 years and has commented on food issues and farming in the New York Times, Gourmet, and a regional magazine. His essays, written over the last eight years and sometimes recounting earlier stories, show the evolution of his farm and relate his experiences selling produce at New York City's farmers markets. Pieces on growing crops and the antics of animals intermingle with insights into political, social, and environmental issues. As in David Mas Masumoto's Four Seasons in Five Senses: Things Worth Savoring, each essay here works as a standalone; some of Stewart's comments also recall Michael Ableman's struggle to farm amid urban sprawl in California (On Good Land: The Autobiography of an Urban Farm). Nicely illustrated; recommended for all public libraries.-Bonnie Poquette, Boerner Botanical Gardens Lib., Milwaukee Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
Booklist
“[A] heartfelt chronicle, sobering and amusing by turn. Although focused on the particular, it transcends Keith’s Farm and illuminates exactly what it is that we are putting on our plates, whether we shop at Keith Stewart’s stand in the Union Square Greenmarket or at a farmers’ market elsewhere. It’s a delicious read—but what makes it an important one is that it has so enriched the ongoing conversation about food.”—from the new foreword by Deborah Madison

"Keith Stewart's essays afford a fine way 'in' to the compelling realities of life on a small organic farm in the twenty-first century. His writing is precise and evocative: immediacy bound with a strong meditative underpinning that is an enduring pleasure to read. Like all really good writing, it illuminates a great deal more than the subject at hand."
—Sally Schneider, syndicated columnist and author of A New Way to Cook"Beguiling and enlightening"—Booklist

From the Publisher
"Keith's writing reads with the force and love of nature's elements—strong, refreshing, beautiful, and true. It's as fresh as his delicious carrots, and as poignant as his incomparable garlic!"
—Leslie McEachern, owner of the Angelica Kitchen, New York City

"Keith Stewart has been providing New Yorkers with magnificent vegetables for two decades. Now, as if to prove he can do anything, he provides all Americans with a compelling story about his own approach to farming. And at precisely the right moment, just as millions of people across the country are rediscovering the pleasure, and the importance, of eating close to home."
—Bill McKibben, author of Wandering Home and The End of Nature

"Ever dreamed of living on a farm or growing your own food? Here's the clearest picture of what farm life really looks like. The romance of pastoral life isn't shattered by Stewart's depiction of the gritty reality of farm life. They coexist, side by side, mirroring Stewart's organic and integrated approach to farming. Stewart's book is a gift to cooks. Now, each time I cook with food from a farmer I know, I have a deeper and clearer idea of what really goes into growing healthy and delicious food and why our farmers are heroes."
—Peter Hoffman, chef/owner of Savoy Restaurant, New York City

"To combat urban crowding, copies of It's a Long Road to a Tomato should be airlifted into major cities. The captivating charm of organic farming, so deliciously described in Keith Stewart's essays, would surely have hordes of city dwellers packing their bags. Stewart's stories transport me into the precious and full life of an organic farmer. I more than appreciate it; I now feel part of it."
—Jeffrey M. Smith, author of Seeds of Deception

"Keith Stewart opens this engaging book by transforming himself abruptly from midlife executive into novice organic farmer. The twenty years that follow on an upstate New York farm are sampled here in true-life tales that—without denying the sometimes harsh realities of the small producer's life—leave the reader in no doubt of the joys that keep this small farmer on the land."
—Joan Dye Gussow, author of This Organic Life

"Beguiling and enlightening"
Booklist

"Keith Stewart’s essays afford a fine way ‘in’ to the compelling realities of life on a small organic farm in the twenty-first century. His writing is precise and evocative: immediacy bound with a strong meditative underpinning that is an enduring pleasure to read. Like all really good writing, it illuminates a great deal more than the subject at hand."
—Sally Schneider, syndicated columnist and author of A New Way to Cook

"Keith’s writing reads with the force and love of nature’s elements—strong, refreshing, beautiful, and true. It’s as fresh as his delicious carrots, and as poignant as his incomparable garlic!"
Leslie McEachern, owner of the Angelica Kitchen, New York City

"Keith Stewart has been providing New Yorkers with magnificent vegetables for two decades. Now, as if to prove he can do anything, he provides all Americans with a compelling story about his own approach to farming. And at precisely the right moment, just as millions of people across the country are rediscovering the pleasure, and the importance, of eating close to home."
Bill McKibben, author of Wandering Home and The End of Nature

"To combat urban crowding, copies of It’s a Long Road to a Tomato should be airlifted into major cities. The captivating charm of organic farming, so deliciously described in Keith Stewart’s essays, would surely have hordes of city dwellers packing their bags. Stewart’s stories transport me into the precious and full life of an organic farmer. I more than appreciate it; I now feel part of it."
Jeffrey M. Smith, author of Seeds of Deception

"Keith Stewart opens this engaging book by transforming himself abruptly from midlife executive into novice organic farmer. The twenty years that follow on an upstate New York farm are sampled here in true-life tales that—without denying the sometimes harsh realities of the small producer’s life—leave the reader in no doubt of the joys that keep this small farmer on the land."
Joan Dye Gussow, author of This Organic Life

"Ever dreamed of living on a farm or growing your own food? Here’s the clearest picture of what farm life really looks like. The romance of a pastoral life isn’t shattered by Stewart’s depiction of the gritty reality of farm life. They coexist, side by side, mirroring Stewart’s organic and integrated approach to farming. Stewart’s book is a gift to cooks. Now, each time I cook with food from a farmer I know, I have a deeper and clearer idea of what really goes into growing healthy and delicious food and why our farmers are heroes."
Peter Hoffman, chef/owner of Savoy Restaurant, New York City

“[A] heartfelt chronicle, sobering and amusing by turn. Although focused on the particular, it transcends Keith’s Farm and illuminates exactly what it is that we are putting on our plates, whether we shop at Keith Stewart’s stand in the Union Square Greenmarket or at a farmers’ market elsewhere. It’s a delicious read—but what makes it an important one is that it has so enriched the ongoing conversation about food.”
—from the new foreword by Deborah Madison

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781569243305
  • Publisher: Da Capo Press
  • Publication date: 2/28/2006
  • Pages: 276
  • Product dimensions: 7.04 (w) x 7.76 (h) x 0.84 (d)

Meet the Author

Keith Stewart has run Keith’s Farm in Orange County, New York, since 1986. Illustrator Flavia Bacarella, his wife, teaches painting and drawing at Lehman College of the City University of New York.

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Table of Contents

Foreword Deborah Madison xi

Preface to the Second Edition xv

A Change of Life: On Becoming a Farmer 1

Regarding Chickens and Their Eggs 7

Buy It at the Farmers' Market 15

An Apprentice Workforce 21

The Unpeaceable Kingdom 32

Thursday at the Farm 37

Wild Weather 43

Small-Farm Economics-Watching the Bottom Line 48

A Garlic Affair 53

Barn Swallows 61

Organic Certification and the United States Department of Agriculture 66

A Good Knife 71

In Praise of Herbs 76

Farm Dogs 86

Marriage of Body and Mind 93

It's a Long Road to a Tomato 97

The Price of Milk 103

The Hidden Cost of Farming 111

Winter Work 116

Growing Potatoes 123

Kuri Encounters a Porcupine 132

A Day at the Market 137

Brave New Vegetables 144

Putting it Back 151

The Driveway Rabbits 158

Sustainable vs. Organic-Who Loses? 164

Inner Sanctum-An Office with a View 170

A Reversal of Fortune 175

The Unweeded Garden 179

Farms on the Block 188

The Heart of Winter 195

On the Eve of War 203

A Man and His Tractor 205

The High Price of Milk 215

Working Man's Mesclun 222

Tiny Tim and His Bovine Harem 229

Farm Politic 237

Kuri-circa 1985 to 2003 246

Breakdown: Perils of the Truck-Farming Life 258

About Seeds 268

A Beaver before Breakfast 277

The Even Longer Road to a Tomato, or The Rain It Raineth Every Day (Midsummer 2009) 284

What Will Happen to the Land? 294

A Farm in Perpetuity 305

Epilogue 313

Appendix-Keith's Farm Bird List 317

Acknowledgments 319

About the Authors 323

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Sort by: Showing all of 2 Customer Reviews
  • Posted July 28, 2012

    must read

    I picked this book up and couldn't put it down until I was done with it. Even if you have no interest in farming or gardening I still recommend this book, because it gives such a great insight into his lifestyle. I also think this is a great book for a person who is looking to start his/her own business. It's really cool how he was able to turn his weekend hobby into a thriving business.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted December 27, 2007

    A reviewer

    The writing is very enjoyable and funny. The author is also someone that readers can easily like ... and laugh at.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
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