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Heirloom: Notes from an Accidental Tomato Farmer
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Heirloom: Notes from an Accidental Tomato Farmer

3.51  ·  Rating Details  ·  397 Ratings  ·  80 Reviews
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Fourteen years ago, Tim Stark was living in Brooklyn, working days as a management consultant, and writing unpublished short stories by night.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,
ebook, 272 pages
Published July 15th 2008 by Clarkson Potter (first published January 1st 2008)
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(showing 1-30 of 1,082)
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Jennifer Miera
I skipped around reading bits and pieces. And though I liked how Stark became a farmer in a rather haphazard fashion, I couldn't stomach parts - like where he needlessly drowns a groundhog after catching it in a humane trap. Put the book down after that one. I know farm life can be harsh, but I guess I've maxed out on reading books on city slicker turned farmer...for now.
Genene Murphy
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 exa
Oct 13, 2008 Kris rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: everyone
This is a good book. Nice story, seems like a crafty and resourceful guy...

That was my partial review before the weekend. I finished the book over the weekend and it turned out to be an excellent read. The stories range from good to really good, but they are all seemingly tied together in the end when he really starts to get into the issue of farmland that seems to be disappearing by the day. i think the revelation of this book, is when he says that you don't see people "knocking down homes to b
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 came to be, which wasn't that engaging to me. I would often skip several pages to get back to the story of Mr. Stark and his farm. Also, if you are like me and don't know much about the culinary scene in New York City, it can get dry during those stories as well.
Sep 07, 2015 Ashley rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: own
Alright. Quick read.
Oct 15, 2008 Michelle rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
I heard a review of this book on NPR and, as someone who has sometimes daydreamed about becoming something like an "accidental tomato farmer" myself, decided it would be a good book for me to read. It had its moments, but overall was pretty disappointing.
Sep 07, 2008 Erika rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
my friend tim wrote this book...its amazing! if you've ever visited me, or even not, you've heard me talk about his tomatoes...its not just about farming, this is an amazing book.
May 04, 2009 Jen rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
I fell for the pretty cover, but the book itself was uninteresting and did not have a cohesive story.
Jul 05, 2012 J. rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Tim Stark is living my dream. For the last year, my husband and I have been throwing around the idea of getting a little farm- blueberries though because as much as I love, love, love tomatoes, my last few years of attempts have resulted in either A. Lots of green unripe tomatoes on frostbitten vines, or B. One nice tomato per vine that my baby picks and eats. Tim's success with tomatoes had me wishing I could be"the neighbor" (the real one hates the tomatoes and their messy, disorganized fields ...more
Feb 20, 2013 Christina rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I liked Heirloom a lot because I buy 95 percent organic food so I'm impressed with the dedication and hard work it takes to bring produce to a Greenmarket.

Along with Heirloom, I recommend It's a Long Road to a Tomato by Keith Stewart: also a veteran of the Union Square Greenmarket.

The book I'm set to read now is From Farm to Fork by Emeril Lagasse.

I wholeheartedly embrace the locavore's eating plan and I also embrace buying any kind of organic food even it's not always locally grown.

You have to
David MacTavish
Tim Stark is a wannabe writer, who ends up growing tomatoes when a career as a writer just isn't happening. Success at growing tomatoes, and the popularity of the heirloom movement puts Stark in the perfect position to tell us an insiders view of growing and selling heirlooms at farmers markets in NYC. And what do you know, he becomes an author as well. While the book is okay, I think he's probably better at selling heirloom tomatoes than he is at writing. Sure, there are some interesting storie ...more
Oct 03, 2011 Kate rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: memoir-biography
This book stirs my famished peasant heart!

"When the sun is burning holes through the afternoon, the tomato plants soak up light until they are limp with molten exhaustion. At night, all that suffering transfers to the fruit, turning the tomatoes every shade of the sun- off-white, pale yellow, dusky purple, blazing orange red. Come morning all those colors are hanging from the plants like gifts from some summertime Santa. By midday, the brightness and the weight of all the humidity leave you stan
Oct 07, 2011 Sarah rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Tim Stark is a crazy person, I think. But he has a beautiful writing style, and I have nothing but respect for the type of passionate madness that makes someone scratch out a living growing amazing tomatoes. The book is both touching and humorous.

Stark seems to choose his words with the same kind of intuition that lets him pick a ripe tomato at its ideal moment. His writing has a rich fullness that had me reading some passages out loud to myself in appreciation. This book will make you salivate
Some of the essays were definitely better than others, and overall, it was an easy, enjoyable read. I liked the author's voice, though I would lose interest when he would talk about his youth/the farmer who tended his land when he was a child, as I wanted to read about HIS tomato farm, not history from 50+ years ago (even though he grew up in my area of PA!).

I loved reading the stories of his farm, all of the insanity that they went through especially in the early years, and all of the history o
Linda Chrisman
It was enjoyable - and confirmed my strongly held belief that I would make a lousy farmer. However, inspired by this book and the cardboard taste of grocery store tomatos, I planted 3 different varieties of cherry tomatos. I am a farmer as I have 3 little green tomatos and all plants are flowering!
Sep 23, 2008 Mbarkle rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
This book is a series of essays mostly about tomato farming. I lost interest at the point he discusses the Amish/Mennonite version of baseball (the farm is in Pennsylvania Dutch country). It includes an essay published in Gourmet magazine about a woodchuck that keeps raiding his garden, which apparently caused some controversy. I had to laugh because my grandmother made my Dad shoot anything that threatened her garden, including beavers, possums, and snakes.

The author supplies very fancy restau
Jan 14, 2013 Laura rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: read-in-2013
I found this generally interesting, though I think the author is better suited to being a farmer than a writer. Not that he's a terrible writer, just not the best, in my opinion. Being passingly familiar with some of the chefs he mentions, I was suitaby impressed, though a little put off by the name dropping. I found his adventures within his own farm more interesting than his bragging about the chefs who rely on him for produce. Some of the back history was a little dry to me, but I can see it ...more
Essays by a mostly-tomato farmer who sells at Greenmarket in New York. I enjoyed the authors voice. Rather than speaking about farming as a noble and selfless occupation, he's very open about his missteps and frustrations, while also doing his best to explain why he keeps returning to it every spring despite vows to quit.

The quality of the essays varies a little one way or the other, the one about peppers was my favorite while the groundhog one made me cringe a little. Not as preachy as some of
Oct 13, 2008 Lisa rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I've always loved eating tomatoes, and reading this book brought back to me memories of picking tomatoes at the Ben Shemen Youth Village near Lod, Israel, too. Reading this book at the height of tomato season gave me new appreciation for this fruit and piqued my curiosity, too. Who knew that there were over 100 varieties of heirloom tomatoes?! Read this book if you: (a) love tomatoes, (b) have ever eaten in a NYC restaurant or any restaurant that emphasizes local food, (c) if you're in the mood ...more
Julie Duffy
Jul 12, 2012 Julie Duffy rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2012
More than the memoir of a writer-turned-farmer, this is a love letter to a harsh mistress. Stark writes about everything from the history of the land he farms to the history of the chili pepper; about growing up idle in a county of farmers, to dashing through Manhattan with a summer-time delivery of produce; of hobnobbing at the market with famous chefs and little ladies from Trinidad, each as demanding as the next. There is just enough navel-gazing for us to get to know Stark a little, but much ...more
This was great! Not just another book about getting back to the land, but a fantastic family story with history woven in, including a detailed examination of the historic origins of religious sects in the PA area ("what is the difference between Amish and Mennonites?" explained!) Enjoyable, informative and important reading for anyone interested in sustainability, locavorism, or, you know, the future of us and the planet. Also superbly-written; Stark refers to himself as a writer/farmer and then ...more
great collection of personal essays about the life of a real organic farmer (you know the difference between usda organic and actual organic, right?), life in dutch amish country pennsylvania (where my fam is from, too!), behind the scenes in NYC's top kitchens, and the story of the union square greenmarket in NYC.
some essays are better than others, but i liked them all, especially the time stark spent describing history in PA.
i finally learned why my cousins and i call my grandfather "pappap.
May 11, 2010 Carrie rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Entertaining read about a slightly crazy guy who grows several acres of bizarre heirloom tomatoes and chili peppers in Pennsylvania and then sells them all to high-end restaurants in NYC and at Greenmarket in Union Square Pk. He can't sell any of his weird tomatoes in backwoods PA b/c people don't even recognize them as tomatoes, but the NYC foodies snarf them up! Makes you want to grow and eat tomatoes with names like Aunt Ruby's German Green, Mortgage Lifter, and Yellow Brandywine...
Sep 05, 2008 Nancy rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: David and Tiffany
Interesting to see the close connection between the farmers and the chefs who buy their produce. I was surprised how much influence the chefs had on what was grown and foraged. Are we all addicted to heirloom tomatoes and mesclun because of Daniel Boulud and other powerful chefs?

My notion of a peaceful, calm farmer growing wonderful organic veggies was shattered. Tim might have less stress and more peace if he went back to consulting/writing in the City.
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I thought this might be a story but it was more a collection of essays and thoughts. So there are many things that are left unresolved, the narrative is not sequential in terms of time and the whole thing seemed a bit disjointed.

However, it was an interesting read and I recommend reading it both for the people and events he describes and what it takes to be a local, organic farmer growing heirloom varieties.
Jun 30, 2011 Elizabeth rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: bookclub, non-fiction

So I really didn't think I was going to like this at all, which is why it earned a bonus half a star : ) I ended up really, really liking it. I was fascinated by the side of farmers' markets I never gave much thought to, and I'm always interested in the debate about quality food in the U.S. All in all, an excellent summertime read that makes me extremely impatient for farmers' market season here...
Ellen Bell
This book disappointed me, partly because I was expecting a faster, funnier read. For me, this book read very slowly and was tedious, as the author discussed all kinds of things unrelated to tomatoes: New England farming history, New York city cuisine and culinary history, real estate values in New England... and the list goes on. I guess I was expecting more about, well, tomatoes.
A some what good book about a man who grows tomatoes, first in his NYC apartment and then on a property he really doesn't own.

My problem with this book is that he just went off on a subject that wasn't interesting or didn't relate to the story, a lot. Also his method of killing the groundhog. But it did give you a lot of heirloom plants to look up in the future.
Apr 01, 2009 Lydia rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I was surprised that I enjoyed this book. It's a man's real account of why he started farming heirloom tomatoes on his parents' property. He would sell them at a farmers stand in NYC. I thought it was interesting to hear the ups and downs of a small-time farmer. As well as all the other little tidbits about "semi-related" things he experienced in the process...
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