by Carissa Wolf
Some say "toe-may-toe," some say "toe-mah-toe," and some say "tyranny."
And the latter goes down quite tasteless, said local farmer Janie Burns.
“We’re chained to the idea of a tomato on our plate every day of the year, even if it tastes like cardboard,” said Burns, chair of the Treasure Valley Food Coalition.
Burns and the TVFC's aim is to put a little more flavor on local tables with the Tomato Independence Project, which kicks off today (Saturday, Jan. 12) at Edwards Greenhouse. The series of events will encourage the herbivore in all of us to reconsider the humble tomato.
The paradigm shift starts with rethinking the economic, health and environmental impacts of one of the world’s most popular fruits, Burns said.
“Eating locally is important, but where do you start?” said Burns. “Let’s focus on a food that almost everyone loves and lots of people grow already—tomatoes.”
The Tomato Independence Project includes a year of classes, lectures and seed swaps that dig into the eco-politics of commercial agriculture and empower tomato lovers to eat local from the ground up with gardening tips and community collaboration.
Nearly 90 percent of the tomatoes eaten in the Treasure Valley can’t call themselves Idaho natives. Most hail from California or Mexico. And the equivalent of three tractor-trailer loads deliver the salad staple from out of state on a daily basis—even in August, when local gardens burst with juicy, vine-ripened varieties. The imports cost the State of Idaho about $15 million in lost revenue every year, according to the coalition. And it’s a tasteless type of tyranny, coalition members say.
“Let’s be more tomato independent,” Burns said. “Grow more here in the summer and buy less of them out of state when they’re out of season.”
Coalition board member Amy Hutchinson said people can participate in the Tomato Independence Project in small but important ways.
“Resolve to grow tomatoes in your garden or patio, ask your favorite restaurant to serve only local tomatoes when in season, teach others how to grow and cook with tomatoes,” Hutchinson said.
The project launches today from 2-4 p.m. at Edwards Greenhouse with a discussion about the health, economic and environmental benefits of locally grown tomatoes. To learn more about the project, visit treasurevalleyfoodcoalition.org.