A New Tool for Choosing Tomato Varieties, Savvy Seed Advice and Meat Monopolies

Whether by boosting your tomato know-how, learning about the science and politics of the seed industry, or looking more deeply into where your meat comes from, we’ll help you make new discoveries about the food that sustains us.

Tomato Chooser App

MOTHER EARTH NEWS' new Tomato Chooser app lets you select from more than 330 varieties.

Illustration by Growing Interactive

Content Tools

In this issue, we examine three topics — growing tomatoes, choosing garden seeds and critiquing industrial meat — through compelling new lenses.

1. In Expert Tips for Growing Early Tomato Varieties, Barbara Pleasant reveals the handful of tomato varieties that are top choices for super-early harvests, and explains how to nurse seedlings and enjoy harvests a month or more ahead of schedule.

To help you explore the wide world of tomatoes, we’re proud to announce our new Tomato Chooser app. This app profiles 333 varieties and lets you choose by color, size, best flavor, disease resistance and more.

Did you know that there are even tomatoes bred especially to ripen indoors, off the vine? You can pick these types before frost arrives and then enjoy them well into winter. Just think — if you supplement your usual summer favorites with a couple of super-early varieties from Pleasant’s article and a winter storage variety from the Chooser, you can expand your fresh, homegrown tomato season by several months.

2. Speaking of what to grow in 2015, this issue includes a special report by Margaret Roach about garden seeds — info you’ll find useful as you dive into seed catalogs. What’s that? You say you usually just grab seeds off the rack at the hardware store? If you don’t spend a few cozy winter weekends perusing seed catalogs, you’re missing out on part of the fun of gardening — plus you can learn so much by reading the top-notch catalogs. Roach explains how to find the companies producing the best seeds for organic gardeners, and covers why heirloom seeds aren’t necessarily your top choice.

3. Also in this issue, veteran reporter Chris Leonard reveals how the Tyson industrial chicken empire works. Most of us are aware of the multiple concerns connected with raising livestock on factory farms, but what you may not realize is how much harm these “vertically integrated” meat and egg production systems inflict on rural communities. In How Tyson Foods Kills Small Rural Towns, Leonard explains why a handful of powerful companies would prefer that the public remain unaware of the hidden social costs of meat monopolies. We learned just how much power these companies wield when we went looking for photos to accompany Leonard’s report. Even though this kind of request is routinely fulfilled, in Arkansas — Tyson’s stronghold — the largest newspaper declined our request for photos. Surprised that Tyson’s influence could shut down access to newspaper files, we contacted a freelance photographer. She agreed to take pictures, but only if we would not publish her name.

Unbelievable. Tyson’s influence is so pervasive that even obtaining pictures of its facilities is difficult. The best way to counter these meat monopolies is to produce your own if you can, or buy from local, independent producers. And share Leonard’s report with your friends; the more that people reject industrial meat, the stronger the demand for a better food system will become.