TOMATO BLISS where sustainability meets taste

Notre Dame's Campus Dining team is committed to sustainable practices and cultivating local farming relationships. Such connections ensure that our campus is eating the freshest and most nutritious foods available in the region, with less impact on our environment. As of Fall 2023, Campus Dining established its new tomato soup vendor, Tomato Bliss.

Nestled in the heart of Michigan's picturesque fruit belt, Tomato Bliss is revolutionizing our perception of tomatoes. The remarkable Lotus Flower Farm, the birthplace of Tomato Bliss' exquisite tomato soup, is situated just 21 miles from Notre Dame's campus in Galien, MI.

Yet, Lotus Flower Farm transcends the mere role of tomato cultivation, standing as a pioneering force in regenerative agriculture and a stalwart advocate for non-GMO heirloom tomatoes. With an unwavering commitment to rejuvenating depleted fields into thriving ecosystems and fostering a community of like-minded farmers, Lotus Flower Farm is at the forefront of a profound agricultural transformation. In this article, we embark on a journey to explore their remarkable story and their resolute mission to reintroduce biodiversity to the local area, while bringing flavor to our Dining Halls.

A Regenerative Revolution

By departing from traditional agricultural practices and embracing permaculture and biodiverse farming techniques, Tomato Bliss is actively proving the economic viability of regenerative agriculture. Over the course of the past seven years, these innovative growers have yielded remarkable results, breathing new life into a once-manicured event venue filled with mowed grass fields, artificial ponds, and depleted soils. Instead, Lotus Flower Farm has allowed Michigan’s natives and non-natives alike to take over their property, crafting a vibrant tapestry of diverse flora and fauna. This transformation has not only created a sanctuary of natural beauty but has paved the way for a supply chain rich with regeneratively grown heirloom tomatoes. However, Tomato Bliss doesn't stop there.

At the core of their approach lies the practice of no-till farming, a method that prevents the disruption of topsoil, allowing the soil’s vibrant ecosystem to thrive. This method ensures that the carbon dioxide (CO2) absorbed by vegetation remains sequestered within the soil—a critical factor considering that soil has the capacity to store three times as much CO2 as the entire atmosphere.

Yet, what truly sets Tomato Bliss apart, even among the ranks of regenerative farmers, is their unwavering dedication to eradicating monoculture and fostering biodiversity.

From left to right, top to bottom: Sage, dahlia, parsley, swiss chard, and volunteer watermelon growing at the farm.

As you step onto this picturesque farm, you are immediately captivated by the stunning array of plant species gracing the landscape. Within their greenhouses, Tomato Bliss has taken the bold step of randomizing tomato species, fostering a robust and resilient ecosystem. This intricate web of biodiversity serves as a natural defense against the spread of diseases, eliminating the need for the hazardous chemicals often employed in conventional monoculture farming.

This elimination of chemical inputs spans throughout the entire operation, eliminating the usage of synthetic fertilizers, pesticides, and herbicides. Instead, co-founder Marie Krane, alongside her husband and Director of Operations Bob Bergman, have implemented ingenious ways to minimize outside factors from disrupting the growing process, such as planting allium bulbs all around the farm to deter deer from eating the crops and relying solely on nutrients derived from their healthy soil, eliminating any anthropogenic pollution and reducing their cost of operation significantly.

This celebration of biodiversity continues across the entire property with breathtaking displays of wildflowers, diverse fruit trees, flourishing fungi, and crops affectionately referred to as "volunteers." These volunteers are the result of seeds carried by the wind, birds, or perhaps the diligent farmers themselves, savoring a well-deserved snack amidst this thriving ecosystem. In turn, this array of vegetation has not only replenished the nutrients within the soil but attracted pollinators of all shapes and sizes, making The Lotus Flower Farm a little slice of Michigan heaven.

Heirloom Tomatoes: Taste the Difference

Aside from these incredible agricultural practices, there was one thing our team could not forget about—the flavor. Tomato Bliss soup tantalizes the taste buds with every spoonful. The rich, savory flavors of their heirloom tomatoes, nurtured in the fertile soil of Michigan's fruit belt, are at the heart of this exceptional soup. Each bite is a symphony of sun-ripened sweetness and a delightful hint of acidity, creating a perfectly balanced, full-bodied taste that is truly unforgettable. Whether enjoyed hot on a crisp autumn day or chilled on a warm summer afternoon, Tomato Bliss soup is a testament to the pure, natural essence of tomatoes, making it a true delight for discerning palates. And Tomato Bliss's dedication to heirloom tomatoes isn't just about flavor; it's about health. Heirloom tomatoes are packed with antioxidants, including the powerful lycopene, which has been shown to promote bone and oral health, and proper blood pressure.

Tomato Bliss is more than a farm; it's a movement. It's a testament to what can be achie ved when farmers and communities come together with a shared vision of regenerating the earth and redefining our relationship with food. Their commitment to sustainability, biodiversity, and flavor is nothing short of inspiring, and their delicious heirloom tomatoes are a taste of the brighter, more sustainable future they're helping to create.