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Welcome to our blog! Learn about our farm operation, public programs, and the people behind our work through the Notes from the Field and Education sections. Peruse the Recipes section for some staff favorites.

Waltham Fields Community Farm (incorporated as Community Farms Outreach, Inc.) is a nonprofit farming organization focusing on sustainable food production, fresh food assistance, and on-farm education. For more information about Waltham Fields check out our website!

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

What does "heirloom" mean?

Tomatoes are a popular heirloom crop in the US (below)
Heirloom crops are plant varieties from earlier periods that are not used in modern industrial agriculture. While large-scale farming relies heavily on monoculture due to production size, high yield, lower cost, and durability (many monocultures have been adopted because of their resistance to damage during mechanical picking and transport), more and more people are growing or seeking out heirloom vegetables for reasons such as taste, historical interest, and the maintenance of genetic diversity in the plant kingdom.

The exact definition of an heirloom crop is contested. Some argue that an heirloom variety must be at least 100 years old, while others argue it must only be 50 years old; still, some would say that a true heirloom has to have been cultivated prior to 1945, marking the end of World War II and the beginning of industrialized agriculture in the United States. Others claim that a crop can only be considered "heirloom" if it has been cultivated and handed down from one generation to the next over several decades.

Regardless of age and familial ownership, most do agree that true heirlooms are open-pollinated and have been cultivated in a specific area over a number of years, typically increasing the variety's resistance to local diseases, pests, and weather extremes.

What kinds of heirlooms do you enjoy growing or eating?
Try our "Heirloom Tomato Salad" recipe below!

Image from The Vintage Moth.
Written and published by Rebekah Carter 2010.

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