The story behind the cover photo of Seacoast Harvest taken by Caitlyn Winders.
The newest Seacoast Harvest has now been released to the public, and hopefully you’ve been able to get your hands on a copy! As you may know, earlier this year we held a photo contest for the cover of Seacoast Harvest. We had over 100 submissions featuring homegrown produce, farmers’ market vendors, local seafood, and behind the scenes of producing local foods. Through much deliberation, Caitlyn’s photo featuring her beautiful, vibrant, homegrown San Marzano and Big Boy tomatoes took the cake and is now the cover of Seacoast Harvest. The bold colors and brimming abundance of her photo is what screamed “eat local food!” to us. I had the pleasure of speaking with Caitlyn about this photo, her ties to local food, and her experience with gardening and am excited to share with you the “story behind the cover”.
The Story on the Tomatoes
The basket in this photo is a collection of just one day’s harvest. Caitlyn says, “you would assume this photo is edited because the colors are so vibrant, but it’s not”. She describes the tomatoes that she grows as her “pride and joy”, her “favorite thing to grow”. Caitlyn talks about how she grew up watching her Dad tend a massive garden at their house, the same garden these famous tomatoes were grown in, and accredits her love of gardening to her Dad. She refers to gardening as an excuse to spend all of her free time outside, tending especially to her tomatoes and attempting to fight off blight. Blight is a disease caused by fungal growth that impacts tomatoes in the New England region, making them inedible and a sore to the eye. It is also an incredibly common issue in this region amongst farmers, and can be detrimental to entire fields of tomatoes, resulting in inedible and unmarketable crops. Caitlyn talks specifically about blight as one of the reasons this photo brings so much joy and pride to her. She had had such a hard time fighting tomato blight and this photo displays her success in producing healthy, blight-less tomatoes. She does admit that the plants that bore these fruits did eventually succumb to blight in September, but only AFTER they had yielded hundreds of pounds of beautiful, edible tomatoes. The season this photo was taken, Caitlyn had 12 plants that she started from seed. She canned many jars of sauce and diced tomatoes, donated many pounds to a local food pantry, and indulged in enjoying tomatoes her favorite way – straight from the garden, sliced with a little salt. Caitlyn says that she cannot eat tomatoes during off season any more, and can understand why people don’t like tomatoes if they’ve only had the ones from the grocery store. “I truly believe that if any tomato hater came to my garden I could convert them to be a tomato-lover”, states Caitlyn confidently.
Why Local Food?
Caitlyn says that while she does accredit her love of gardening to her Dad, she really started to get into growing food while she was serving in the Peace Corps in West Africa, teaching nutrition at a health clinic for women and children. As a part of her teaching, she started a garden that incorporated easy to grow, nutrient-dense crops, and she talks of this time as the pivot point to when she started to truly feel connected to produce. It was when she returned from the Peace Corps and COVID struck that Caitlyn got into growing food in her parent’s garden. This is also when she started attending the Portsmouth farmers’ market regularly with her mom. Caitlyn says that they love going to the Portsmouth market because they have the best quality produce and because she’s established relationships with many of the vendors there. She’s even helped vendors with work on their farms when they need an extra hand with things, and that relationship was established at the market. “Feeling connected to the people around you is really important, and the market is the best place to do that.” Caitlyn says that she goes to the market because you can see the faces behind the produce, you get access to items you can’t get at the grocery store, like sun golds and ground cherries, and the produce is of the highest quality. “It [shopping at the market] is cyclical – you’re feeding yourself but also your community”, says Caitlyn.
She calls out Vernon Family Farm for not only the nourishing meats and meals they create, but also for providing a space for the community to gather around music, local foods, and relationship building. “Farms are so much more than what they produce, it’s what they foster within the community”, Caitlyn states.
Caitlyn is not only a huge advocate for attending local farmers’ markets, but also for growing your own food. She says, “there is nothing more satisfying, special, and affirming than growing your own food. I have such a reverence for the Earth from growing food, a real powerful connection to the Earth.”
Next time you pick up a Seacoast Harvest, the pop of juicy red tomatoes catching your eye, think of Caitlyn’s story, her love of the farmers’ market, and belief in the power of community, connection, and gardening.