sustainable food

5 Questions: Tony Grossman

5 Questions: Tony Grossman

Meet Tony Grossman, seriously active dad to three animated, freckle-faced kids, and owner and beginner- farmer at Earnest Acres Farm in Wisconsin. He is the chief cook in the family, a sustainable-farming advocate, and as you’ll see, a prolific taco maker.

What does eating well look like for you?

Eating well, for me, would include: produce that is seasonal and locally-sourced as possible, meats that are not tainted with antibiotics, hormones, or torture/immoral living conditions, and grains that are whole and diverse. Eating well also mandates a comfortable space, shared with loved ones and anyone who is hungry. It demands calmness and gratitude towards those who sacrificed to either grow or be the food, and gratitude towards those who cook the food.

What is a favorite and reliable everyday dish for you and your family?

Breakfast Tacos. I lived in central Texas for 3 years of my life and can proudly say that for most of those mornings I had a breakfast taco. Why we bold northerners have not figured out that this is the most efficient and wholesome way to start a morning, I do not know. Tacos are easy to make, and can include almost anything from your fridge if paired and cooked right. Maybe I love them because I don’t like to follow recipes and you can wing tacos in every way; they are the easiest conduit for getting eggs and veggies into my children. Maybe I love them because other than coffee, nothing smells better than fried onions in the morning. I’m not sure, but my family always seems to be happy after a good breakfast taco.

Can you share a defining food memory?

Upon moving back to Minnesota I serendipitously landed a job at the Seward Co-op Grocery and Deli as a produce worker. I worked alongside intelligent lovers of food and sustainable farming practices, people striving to eat better and support a local food system. After three years I was totally and completely inspired to grow as much food as possible in as many places as possible. I was inspired to eat whole foods grown sustainably and to provide seasonally-appropriate meals (as often as possible anyway) to my children, no matter the cost to the food budget.    

What topics around food are you most interested in, and why?

I love to grow food. I love to experiment with growing food. So naturally any knowledge or information pertaining to this peaks my interest. One of my favorite things is to listen to older generations talk about the past, but growing food in particular is fascinating for me. Beyond this I am interested in advancing towards change in our food system. I believe that in some ways our country’s system of eating and distributing food has led us down a path of poor health. I believe we need to motivate future generations to learn how to grow their own food and to support a cooperative model of food sharing.

I have to ask. What would you hope for as a last meal on this earth?

For sure it would be a meal prepared by someone else. Food always tastes better to me whenever someone else cooks it. I would probably demand a full Indian-style buffet banquet with paneer in every dish.

To Peel or Not to Peel


Take carrots, for instance. But you might also wonder about beets, potatoes, squash. I get asked this question from time to time, from students and friends. My first response is usually to pooh-pooh the peeler, and that instinct is religious and comes from my indoctrination in the church of organic vegetables. With those teachings I have learned to praise the skin, since it is known to be a great keeper of vitamins. Roll up your sleeves, scrub ecstatically the dirt from the vegetable, and eat. But, as I learned in a bit research, to peel or not to peel is not as simple as the gospel dictates.

First, you should know that I rarely, if ever, peel a carrot, but this is because I grow my own or buy organic. In St. Paul, where I live, we are fortunate enough to have access to local, organic carrots most of the year, and I seek them out. Conventionally grown carrots have, more-than-likely, been treated with pesticides during their growth period, and the peel is where those chemicals concentrate. In that case I would peel, and with that knowledge I would do the same to any conventionally grown fruit or vegetable.

But let’s consider another subject altogether, and that is palate. Some eaters find the peel of a carrot, or a beet or potato, too bitter to tolerate. I don’t, but if I did, I would have to weigh whether or not it was worth scrapping those extra nutrients, and taking the extra time to peel. And then there is texture. I love a bit of potato skin in my mashed potatoes, but my young daughter wouldn’t put up with such a thing. And on the flip side, she loves roasted beets with their skin (drizzled with honey), but I can’t get past the flaky skin of a beet to enjoy it.

No easy answer here, but this reminds me of a general rule I usually adhere to: eat whole. That means— and there are a few exceptions to this rule--eating food that is unadulterated and pure and intact. For me, that means organically and sustainably grown and raised foods, with their skin and bones. There is respect and integrity with this approach, two qualities that are integral to healthy eating.