The Food Issue: Nice Tomatoes

The story behind the Eastside Green Tomato photo gallery

We Austinites are no strangers to signs touting “local produce” at our favorite food joints.

photo by Nate Jackson

It almost seems a bit bourgeois – the hipster-esque bold, ornate fonts and colors, boasting this ubiquitous trend that feels like so many episodes of Portlandia.

“Ok, so, uh, this is, uh, local?" Fred Armisen, you’d dig what’s going on here.

photo by Nate Jackson

My personal familiarity with local sourcing is firsthand and deeply rooted in generations of East Texas farmers. My dairy-farming grandfather, born and bred in Alba, Texas (pop. 503) used to lead my cousin and I to his barn at sunrise to gather the day's milk. And while the experience put me in touch with my heritage, no, our hands weren’t blistered from churning butter and splitting logs with a homemade cedar ax.

photo by Nate Jackson

A few years into those frolicking farm times, I was interviewed for the Oprah show during her feature on the Golden Sweet Potato Festival in Golden, Texas (pop. 197). Click on the "Oprah" link up there and you can hear me, in a squeaky, pre-pubescent voice, as I timidly said, “Our sweet potatoes are so good here in Golden, Texas because we have the best soil.” Oprah now buys her sweet potatoes from Golden. No lie. So take that, GMO potatoes.

My debut on "Oprah" (Photo by

All of this nostalgia made me curious. A restaurant's boastful claim of only using local crops had me wondering about the pedigree of the food I was about to consume. I wanted to know how local this produce was, exactly where it came from, and the nurturing hands responsible. I decided to document what I was to learn about these “fresh” veggies.

And here it is, the Austin Chronicle photo gallery: An Eastside Green Tomato Story.

photo by Nate Jackson

I began my journey at a farm early one morning and learned a lot about urban farming and food sustainability. The rest… well, you’ll just have to see for yourself.

Read more Food stories at The Austin Chronicle’s Food Issue hit the stands Thursday, June 13.

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Green Tomato, Eastside, Springdale Farm, Locally Grown, Sweet Potatoes, East Texas, Oprah, Sustainability, Food Issue

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