By Sara Klimek
Today I balanced two tomatoes in my hands. In my right palm, a bright-red, uniform, perfectly round Roma from the Shaw’s produce department, just screaming at me to dice it up and put it on top of a sandwich. In the other, a slightly oblong, heirloom variety grown at the local Intervale Community Farm.
I, like many other consumers, have a decision to make every time I hold a tomato in each hand. The Shaw’s variety, likely grown on a massive Florida farm, is just as much of a traveler as I am. I feel sympathy for this tomato, as it was displaced by factors beyond its own control. Some of its vine-mates will never see the dim, fluorescent lights of a grocery store and will instead be chucked into the bottom of a trash receptacle at a distribution hub in Milwaukee simply because they do not conform to what the “ideal tomato” looks like. This tomato is a survivor.
The heirloom is also a survivor, but of a different kind. While other shoppers pass it by, scared away by the expensive price tag hanging above, it is grateful that I take the time to stop and run my hands across its cracked, bumpy exterior. What it does not know is that I am paying homage to more than just this tomato, but to the people who took the time to sow its seed into the rich, Vermont soil. The roots of this tomato plant run deep into the furrows of the landscape just as I do, attempting to make sense of my world as a transplanted Flatlander.
I look at this tomato intently and see a reflection of my neighbors, my community, and my city. I do not see the price of stocks on Wall Street, but rather the children of local farmers going to school and finding careers they are passionate about. I see patrons asking where their food comes from, beyond the bright orange box on the back of the farm truck at the farmer’s market. I see the same sun this tomato saw as it watched the sun kiss the tops of the Adirondacks. With that, I have made my choice.
I take a bite. And by golly, it tastes like home.
–Sara Klimek is a junior environmental studies major with minors in food systems and nutrition and food science at UVM. Her passion for local food inspired her to write this reflection as part of the class CDAE 195: Local/Regional Food Systems.