Craig LeHoullier is a gardener, author, and educator. He’s an accessible, inspiring tomato authority for experts and beginners alike, but he describes himself very modestly, saying, “All I am is Craig LeHoullier—someone whom heirloom tomatoes chose to help participate in their continued relevance.”
The author of Epic Tomatoes, one of the most definitive books on the fruit, Craig is also known as the North Carolina Tomato Man, a nod to his home state, where he serves as an advisor at the Seed Savers Exchange. A popular and knowledgeable source of gardening knowledge, he offers weekly blog posts and videos on YouTube, and is an in-demand speaker scheduled across the nation from the Philadelphia Flower Show to the Chicago Botanic Garden to the Omni Homestead in Hot Springs, Virginia.
Craig’s followers understand that he loves gardening with the same passion they feel. He learned the simple pleasures of gardening walking alongside his grandfather and father. The seeds were planted early, and he expresses his joy in sharing and learning. His depth and breadth of knowledge across seeds, soil, transplanting, pruning, varieties, pests, and more are shared easily as a friend would share an insight.
Cynthia Sandberg began her career as a trial attorney but set aside practicing law after her gardening hobby developed into a passion. She founded Love Apple Farms in 2002, originally located at her two-acre farmhouse in Ben Lomond. There, she cultivated rare, open-pollinated tomato varieties from seed, selling seedlings and fruit to passersby. Demand for her plants grew such that Love Apple Farms’ annual plant sale, now the largest in California, vends over 100 varieties of heirloom tomatoes, peppers, and eggplants. After developing a partnership with David Kinch of Manresa restaurant in 2006, she moved to 21 acres of terraced Santa Cruz Mountain hillside. In 2012, Love Apple Farms earned Demeter biodynamic certification.
The name Love Apple Farms originates from a European nickname for tomatoes. When old-world explorers first introduced the fruit—native to Central and South America—to European markets, consumers believed them to be aphrodisiacs—hence “love apples.”
Cynthia teaches 40 weekend gardening classes per year at Love Apple Farms. Her expertise garners frequent requests to speak at gardening and biodynamic farming events. She has given lectures at the San Francisco Flower & Garden Show, Eco-Farm, MAD Symposium in Copenhagen, and the Nordic Barista Cup in Oslo, Norway. Topics in her repertoire include Mastering the Art of the Tomato, Introduction to Biodynamic Gardening, Farmer/Chef Relationships, Designing the Perfect Vegetable Garden, and All-Season Vegetable Gardening.
Cynthia conceived of a global tomato-loving community many years ago when she realized that there existed no worldwide group to revere and preserve the diversity of the world’s tomato varieties. In 2014, she founded the World Tomato Society with Gary Ibsen, Linda Lico, Harry Murray, and Helen Pastorino, and has worked hard to celebrate and educate others about the world’s most popular fruit.
The founder of TomatoFest Heirloom Tomato Seeds began his adult life aboard US Navy nuclear submarines in the early 1960s. He went on to earn a living as an artist; an architectural designer; an owner of a Cajun restaurant; and a marketing consultant for Coca-Cola. Then he fell in love with food—and studied cooking in Italy with Marcella Hazan, eventually serving with Julia Child and Robert Mondavi on the founding board of directors for the American Institute of Wine & Food. Ibsen was the creator of two award-winning food magazines, until one day, a Portuguese farmer in Carmel Valley presented Ibsen with his first heirloom tomato plants—and his entire world shifted. He went on to launch the annual Carmel TomatoFest event and write The Great Tomato Book, the quintessential volume on the life and times of the world’s most popular fruit.
As the cofounder of the World Tomato Society, Ibsen is a vital source of tomato expertise and celebration. The “TomatoMan” is known to tomato fanatics around the world as a pioneer of the heirloom tomato. His online TomatoFest store and annual event is revered as one of the first companies in America to grow, harvest, and distribute only certified-organic tomato seeds. Ibsen is one of the world’s strongest advocates for sustainable agriculture and has saved many heirloom tomato varieties. To date, Ibsen and his wife and partner, Dagma Lacey, have grown and preserved seeds for 800 tomato varieties in their TomatoFest Seed Bank; they sell more than 650 tomato varieties through their website. “I can’t think of another food . . . that has so many people’s emotions, memories, and loyalties attached to it,” says Ibsen.
His commitment to seed-saving efforts and telling the story of each variety of heirloom tomato has become the foundation of the World Tomato Society.
Jere Gettle has had a lifelong passion for growing things and a dedication for nurturing heirloom seeds and making them widely accessible. He is the founder of Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds, which offers the largest selection of heirloom vegetable, flower, and herb varieties in the United States. From his base of operations, he offers over 1,800 varieties and unique seeds from over 75 countries.
Jere and his wife, Emilee, are focused on promoting and preserving our agricultural and culinary heritage. Encouraging a continuous exchange of ideas and seeds is their motivation as authors, publishers, and educators as well as conveners of gardeners and natural food enthusiasts. Over 700,000 gardeners receive Baker Creek’s seed catalog.
Jere’s creative range of operations includes a seed store and pioneer-style farming village in the Ozarks of Missouri as well as a seed bank housed in a renovated bank building in Petaluma, California. He and Emilee are philanthropists with global hearts, supplying free seeds to many of the world’s poorest countries as well as here at home in school gardens and educational projects. At the core of their work as advocates for a better and safer food supply is to make nutrition and education accessible for all.
Joe Cannistraci is co-owner and architect behind Enoteca La Storia's success as an authentic Italian eatery and purveyor of fine wines from around the world. Born in New York and raised in northern New Jersey, Joe’s “100 percemt Sicilian” roots took hold in the US shortly after World War I. Joe's paternal grandfather, Lorenzo, great-grandfather, Andrea, and great uncle, Carmelo, ran a successful Italian grocery store on New York City’s Lower East Side for many years. Equally influential on Joe was his relationship with his maternal grandfather, Calogero Bellina, who taught him the purest and most enduring southern Italian sensibilities, including how to manage a garden and grow tomatoes. To this day, Joe travels back to the hometown of his ancestors in Sicily to spend time with his cousins, cooking, eating, and, of course, drinking good wine. It is this authentic Italian heritage, still very much alive in Joe’s life, that he draws on to provide guests a truly unforgettable Italian experience at Enoteca La Storia.
Joe started his urban farm that supplies Enoteca la Storia with 3,000–4,000 pounds of vine-ripened tomatoes each year and has developed a cult following among tomato lovers throughout the entire Bay Area. He focuses on building and maintaining a healthy microbiological environment in the soil in which he grows tomatoes. Joe feels the concept of terroir applies to tomatoes as well as wine; it’s all about the soil. He does not use chemical pesticides or fertilizers at any time.
Joe resides in Los Gatos with his family. He can be found most days at Enoteca La Storia running the show, forming rich, close relationships with artisanal winemakers; sharing his knowledge about wines, food, and culture with guests, friends, and famiglia; and, of course, growing tomatoes.
Mike Dunton is first and foremost a family farmer. He can trace his roots in America to the early 1620s and every generation of his family has at one point farmed. Today, the Dunton Family Farm in Liberal, Oregon, is still a true multigenerational family operation and home to the Victory Seed Company. Founded by Mike in 1998, the Victory Seed Company is the realization of his passion for preserving endangered, open-pollinated, and heirloom seed varieties.
Heritage garden seeds of vegetables, herbs, flowers, grain, and even tobacco are cultivated at Dunton Family Farm, but tomatoes have been a particular focus of Mike's and, by proxy, of the Victory Seed Company. He and his family have dedicated their efforts to teaching the principles of horticultural heritage, maintaining a seed bank, building a horticultural library, and remaining independent from the mainstream seed trade, ensuring important varieties remain commercially available to future generations of gardeners.
Mike honors farming tradition while also being a leading innovator connected to a global community of gardeners and farmers. Each year, he receives their prized seed varieties to trial and makes them accessible to gardeners. He maintains a vibrant online community of gardening friends, partners and supporters. With efforts such as rebuilding A. W. Livingston’s tomato collection, his choices speak volumes about his dedication to preserving biodiversity and horticultural history.
Tal Offer, PhD, has 10 years of experience in R&D and product management. Since joining Lycored in 2011, she has been developing and managing the finished products and the bioactive ingredients category, from designing the claims and writing extensive scientific dossiers to defining the value proposition and commercial strategy. As a scientist, her focus has been biochemical processes in nutrition and health; she has authored numerous publications.
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