Heirlooms Explained

Heirlooms Explained

Welcome to Waldingfield Farm’s Heirloom page. Waldingfield has been growing Heirloom variety tomatoes, and other field favorites for the past twenty years.  While we realize the risks associated with growing the older seed stock varieties, it is our belief that there is simply no comparison between the modern hybrid vegetables.  For example, the modern commercial tomato, with its tasteless flesh and thick skin, does not have nearly the flavor profile, nor real beauty, then the vast majority of Heirloom varieties we grow. In the past decade we have grown over eighty varieties of tomatoes!

As a local farm dedicated to preserving the agrarian past of Litchfield County, Waldingfield gets great pleasure providing a product most people associated with their grandparents gardens. Try our Heirloom vegetables and you will instantly be taken back to a time when only local produce went to market, and conformity which has now overtaken every aspect of our culture had yet to invade the many diverse species found on America’s farms.

What makes an Heirloom seed an Heirloom? Basically, Heirloom seeds are open pollinated, non-hybrid, stabilized varieties over 50 years old (usually developed and maintained by individuals). In Jefferson’s time the tomato was still believed to be poisonous (he laughed at such notions and delighted in serving them to guests at Monticello). Over the next century and a half the tomato came into its own and was the most popular of all summer vegetables until World War II. After the war, a major hybridization program brought with it such goals as durability during shipment, thicker skin, and adaptability to mechanical harvesting but flavor was not a major consideration and was largely lost. These tomatoes simply did not taste as tomatoes were meant to taste, but they fit into the boxes meant for shipping halfway around the world and that’s what mattered to those in charge of production.

Waldingfield Farm, and other growers with taste on their agenda, have made great efforts to educate the consumer about the many complexities of the tomato and why saving the heirloom varieties from extinction is vital to our shared heritage. Over 80% of the varieties available in 1910 are now extinct! This is the kind of negligence which civilized societies should not tolerate. As you may be able to tell, we take the tomato seriously….

When we first started growing our Heirlooms back in 1992 our first customers were some of the top restaurants in Litchfield County. The Good News Café, The West Street Grill and The Mayflower Inn were all early champions of what was then seen as a novelty by many. Waldingfield Farm believes the future of Heirloom vegetables and fruits is increasingly bright. Agriculture schools, food critics and chefs are singing the praises of Heirloom vegetables and consumer demand, once it becomes organized, can change the way America grows and eats.


The Horan Brothers