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It's a Long Road to a Tomato

Already in his early forties and not entirely content with his lot, Keith Stewart traded life in New York's corporate grind for an upstate farm. Starting as a one-man operation, short on experience and with modest expectations, Stewart soon found that the agrarian life, despite its numerous challenges, suited him well. His new business flourished. Today, he has a crew of six to eight seasonal workers and grows about one hundred varieties of vegetables and herbs. What began as a yearning - 'to live on a piece of land, closer to nature; to work outside with my body as well as my brain; to leave behind the world of briefcases, computers, corporate clients, and non-opening windows' - has become a life 'more full, more varied,' often 'more demanding and exhausting,' but 'always more real.' Stewart sells everything he grows directly to consumers and restaurateurs, and in doing so has developed loyal and growing ranks devoted to his Rocambole garlic, varied herbs, heirloom tomatoes, and other organic produce. Now, in "It's a Long Road to a Tomato", Stewart presents interlocking, complementary essays, addressing his mid-life development as a farmer; some of the nuts and bolts and how-tos of organic vegetable growing and selling in an urban market; humourous and philosophical stories about domestic and wild farm animals; and insights into the political, social, and environmental issues surrounding agriculture today and why they matter to all of us.
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About the Author

Keith Stewart has been the proprietor of Keith's Farm, in Orange County, New York, since 1986. He is one of the longest-standing purveyors at New York City's Union Square Greenmarket, where his stand has a devoted following. He writes regularly for US magazine Valley Table, the Hudson Valley's only magazine devoted to regional farms, food, and cuisine. Illustrator Flavia Bacarella, Stewart's wife, is an artist who teaches painting and drawing at Lehman College of the City University of New York.


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.

"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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