by Marie Krane, Tomato Bliss founder and Naturally Chicago member

As a principal in Tomato Bliss, I am proud that we have been accepted into the 6th cohort of FamilyFarmed’s Good Food Accelerator *. As we prepare for our early-stage business to take its next big step, we look forward to the proven learning experience, the industry-leading mentorship, and the networking connections we will make during the six-month intensive program.

If you shop outdoors at Chicago’s Green City Market, you may have seen our stand where we sell our jarred 100% heirloom tomato pantry staples: roasted tomatoes, salsa verde, soup and clarified tomato broth. Or perhaps you’ve found our products on our e-commerce site.

The Tomato Bliss stand at Chicago’s 2019 outdoor Green City Market. Tomato Bliss will be back for the 2020 outdoor season, which begins in May. Photo: Tomato Bliss

Although we have plenty of room for growth and innovation, I’m proud of how our community-building art project has turned into a mission-driven business.

We began by sharing and building heirloom tomato gardens in buckets on the South Side of Chicago. The popularity and ecological importance of growing heirloom tomatoes inspired us to begin farming in an underserved area of southwest Michigan.

As we practiced sustainable farming in that region’s glorious “fruit belt,” we learned that heirloom tomatoes are easy to grow, and that seed diversity is an urgent key to the future of food. The question we faced was how could we find consumer support for the fundamentally important mission of sustainable farming, especially heirloom seed preservation.

Tomato Bliss was born from our experience that delicious natural food can help people make flavorful food instantly and blissfully. We needed to look no further than our own pantry. For years, we’d had surplus heirloom tomatoes and had made handcrafted small-batch heirloom tomato staples. The time we spent preserving tomatoes in the summer made preparing delicious food easy during the rest of the year.

Today, we practice state-of-the-art sustainable growing practices at Lotus Flower Farm, the home base of Tomato Bliss, which is Certified Naturally Grown. The farm includes a certified wholesale food facility where we develop our recipes.

We grow heirloom tomatoes ourselves and also partner directly with family-owned independent farms. Heirloom seeds, sun and the fertile soil of southwest Michigan produce exceptional heirloom tomatoes. These beauties, hand-cut and preserved with clean ingredients and without any sugar added, yield the best tomato products in the world.

The momentum we’ve experienced since we launched the business in 2018 is amazing. People love the summertime flavor Tomato Bliss delivers. We love connecting in person with heirloom tomato fans at Green City Market in Lincoln Park (we’ll be back for the outdoor market season that begins in May) and at specialty food stores such as Local Foods, Green Grocer, Dirk’s Fish and Fresh Market Place.

Marvelous, too, is the reception of our online store as people begin to discover the real difference heirloom tomatoes can make. We hope you will check us out, especially as the Good Food Accelerator provides us with the tools to do much more.

* The Good Food Accelerator’s 6th entrepreneur cohort begins its six-month intensive program on February 26. To learn more about the program and the Fellows, check out these articles on NaturallyChicago.org: 

https://naturallychicago.org/mingle-accelerator-puts-pedal-to-metal-with-new-cohort-broader-reach/

https://naturallychicago.org/good-food-fellows-meet-the-new-accelerator-cohort/