Tomatoes on the 23rd Floor

Gardens have an almost magical ability to transport us to another place, far away from our everyday stress and worries. Most people, even if they aren't gardeners, find it soothing to spend time among green, growing things.

You don't have to live on a farm to experience that magic. You can carve out a vegetable patch in a tiny urban back yard. You can fill a window box with potting soil and create a flowerbed on your apartment balcony. You can even tend tomatoes on the 23rd floor of an office tower.

That last example is a favourite story of mine. I think I first read it in the Globe and Mail. A corporate CEO, with a lavishly furnished corner office, vanished every day between the hours of twelve and one. His secretary held his calls and turned away all visitors. Meanwhile, the boss took off his jacket, rolled up his sleeves, and looked after his tomato plants. Every window was lined with them.

I love to think of him in there, placidly watering, fertilizing, and pruning, while the business world buzzed on around him. That was his time, and nothing could interfere with him and his tomatoes.

I'll bet those plants, treated to so much love, water, and sunlight, produced the best tomatoes ever seen on Bay Street.

During our market days, we often met folks like that CEO. Every so often, fancy cars would turn into the yard and men dressed in wing-tipped shoes and tailored suits would get out. They'd chat with us about the weather and carefully look over the fresh tomatoes, peas, corn, and beans. Some of them even went out to the field to pick their own.

I always thought that the vegetables were just a convenient excuse. What they really wanted - and needed - was to get out of their offices and onto the land, even for just a little while. It brought back something from their childhood days. When they went up to that field on a sunny afternoon and looked out at that magnificent view, it gave them a wonderful feeling. At the same time, they could pick something nice for supper!

I remember finding a man up at the far end of the vegetable patch one afternoon, gazing out at our field of ripening wheat. He said, "You know, I grew up in Saskatchewan, but I had forgotten how beautiful a grain field looks."

That was the first time I saw him. After that, he was out in our field every single week. He didn't pick an awful lot, but I have the feeling he always came away well nourished.

-Lois Hole I'll Never Marry A Farmer