This is it. Right now. Get to a farmer's market and savor the taste of the summer before it’s over. Don't squander it. This is the season when tomatoes taste like tomatoes. You know what I'm talking about. Tomatoes: sweet, tender, juicy. Not the mealy flesh-colored objects that masquerade as tomatoes in the dead of winter, shipped from miles and miles away. No, tomatoes that are only available when the season allows it—the ones that couldn't weather the 1700-odd mile journey that the average food item on a North American plate travels from farm to fork.

There is something sacred in the taste of an organic heirloom tomato. It is something a long-distance tomato—bred not for taste but endurance to be shipped without bruising—just can’t possess. There is something precious about eating a fruit grown close to home, in season. It doesn't just taste better; it's better for you. Plants lose nutritional value when they’re pulled off the vine before they're ready. Travel-friendly but under-ripe, they mature on a ship or truck instead of under the sun.

What’s more, there is something sacred about the hands that grew that tomato, the hands that feed us all. Yet the awareness of who grows our food and how they grow it is rarely front and center. Small and mid-sized farms have been on the decline for decades, unable to compete with the economies of scale that larger agribusinesses can offer. Transportation costs and additional farm expenses for petroleum-based fertilizers and pesticides have risen, while the amount of money going back to farmers has remained stagnant for more than a decade. According to the USDA, about 20 cents for every food dollar we spend go back to the farmers. Considering these numbers, it should come as no surprise that, in the last five years, roughly 80,000 mid-sized farming operations have disappeared.

There is a deeply delicious and satisfying way to try and increase these numbers: buy food directly from local farmers. I was reminded of this at a farm dinner hosted by Free State Brewing Company. The five-course dinner was held at Prairie Star Farm — a sweet spot of land in De Soto, Kansas, ripe with raspberries, cherries, garlic, greens, and flowers — and paired incredible local food with handcrafted beers (enhanced with wheat, berries and lemongrass from the farm). The distance between the farm and our forks disappeared. My gratitude grew exponentially for these farmers, sitting just a few feet away from me, and for their efforts that went into feeding me.foodislovecherries

This meal was the manifested vision of Free State’s Executive Chef Rick Martin (a new friend and constant source of inspiration). Before the dinner started, I asked Rick what I really needed to save myself for (I’m 5 feet tall, weigh 95 pounds, and knew I couldn’t fully imbibe six beers and five plates of food). “The soup,” he said. “The cold cherry soup.”

I can’t fully describe how deeply nourishing the meal was, but I suspect you’ve experienced something similar: the sensation you get when you eat something borne out of love—a meal prepared by someone who cares about you and cares about the food, a meal that feeds your body and soul. The soup was made with sour cherries fresh from the farm, from a family recipe passed down from Prairie Star proprietress Margit Hall (who runs the farm with her husband Bart) as part of a dinner that, for years, had been Rick’s dream. The care was undeniable, and the soup was delectable.

Simran Sethi_1
8/31/2010 2:56:54 PM

Thanks for the resource. Enjoy the recipe.

8/30/2010 1:08:13 PM

This recipes looks great. I will try it this weekend for Labor Day. If you like cherry recipes, my sister just sent me a free tart cherry recipe book you can get for free at Get a free copy while you can

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