From Seed to Supper
Heirloom tomato farmer Jennie Smith grows more kinds of tomatoes than she can name. She's pushing 85 varieties, and she's only in her 3rd year of farming. There are Gallapogos', Red and Green Zebras, Tiny Tims, Kellogs Breakfasts, Red Beauties and about 80 others. And hungry diners in Iowa are clambering for each and every one of them.
What makes Jennie and her tomatoes
Most obvious is Jennie's vibrant personality, her drive to succeed and let's call it her "tomato fan base." That's right, Jennie and her tomatoes have accumulated quite a few fans.
Some call it "The Jennie Effect."
As an entrepreneur, farmer and young woman about town, Jennie has a way of gathering friends, admirers and customers. She's simply too charismatic to overlook. And she uses that to her advantage while working as a farmer, supplier and server in Des Moines.
For Jennie, all three jobs are a joy, and they're interconnected. She makes sure of it.
As an heirloom tomato farmer in Carlisle, IA, she grows produce and sells it directly to customers and at the farmer's market. As a supplier of heirloom tomatoes in Des Moines, she gets her harvest into restaurants that serve local fare. And as a server of her own heirloom tomatoes in some of those restaurants, she puts those tomatoes on the tables of eager customers with a broad smile, sometimes saying, "By the way, I grew that."
With each job and through every step in the process, Jennie takes her bounty from heirloom seeds to ripe tomatoes to tasty dishes. She's created her very own farm-to-fork experience, and folks in Des Moines and the surrounding area have eaten it up.
They've even built
a sort of community around it.
That proved true this spring when Jennie hosted her Seed the Farm Event to fund a year-long trip to New Zealand, where she'll earn a Master's Degree of Sustainable Agriculture with Rotary International. She gathered friends, neighbors, local foodies — musicians and some of the area's most talented chefs for a barn-raising of sorts. Together they reveled in local food, brew and wine — dancing, celebrating, bidding on donated items and wishing Jennie a fond farewell.
She's earned it.
Jennie's story inspires those around her. Starting in the insurance industry after graduating from Iowa State University with a degree in Liberal Studies, Jennie took stock of her dreams, what she was doing and what she could do instead — and she followed those dreams. In only three years, she's grown her 2-acre Butcher Crick Farms into a successful farm and business, and when she returns from New Zealand at the end of the year, she will continue to build on that success.
As an heirloom tomato farmer, Jennie has thought big picture. She's shown that there is more to being a successful farmer than dirt, seeds, water and elbow grease. For Jennie, it's a business, it's growing for the future and most importantly, it's about community — in this case, a community that adores her. And for good reason.