the seed we need: there’s not enough

posted March 7, 2017

Portrait

Outside right now, in central Massachusetts, it’s 5 degrees Fahrenheit. There’s a thin crust of fresh snow on the ground, and the trees are brown and bare. But in the flood of seed catalogues that have been flowing into the farmhouse mailbox over the past few months, it’s summer. Peas are fat in the pod, the lettuce is in full flush, and eggplants hang heavy, shiny, and purple. All the grass is green. There are flowers everywhere.

It’s into this imagination land of color and warmth that we’ve been burrowing throughout the coldest season as we attempt to tease out a concrete organic crop plan from this fantasy of perfect bounty. But as with any fantasy, there are limitations to this one’s ability to deliver on it’s promise: our land is not perfect land, our soils are not perfect soils, we are not perfect growers, and the weather, inevitably, will not behave perfectly for our purposes.

Even more than the obvious disparities, however, these catalogues are limited in that they bely the true nature of their industry. Abundance, diversity, and choice: this is what we hope to achieve in the crop plan for this farm’s organic vegetable CSA, and that is what the seed catalogues are selling us. But the reality of the seed industry is not that. The reality of the seed industry is this:

seedindustrystructure

Consolidation is the name of the game when it comes to seed, and nothing suppresses abundant diversity and choice like the concentration of research funding and intellectual property rights into the hands of just a few. Despite the existence of a select number of seed companies that cater to the needs of small-scale, diversified, and/or organic farmers, and despite the considerable (and still growing) market for organic seed, the actual supply of attainable organic genetics is quite small. And without sufficient organic seed, the hardiness of organic agriculture starts to look—well, considerably less hardy.

According to the Organic Seed Alliance’s 2016 report, most organic farmers still rely on conventional seed because they can’t find organic versions of the varieties they need […] The result for farmers is not simply compromised principles and reliance on regulatory exemptions, but a reservoir of organic germplasm whose quality, in addition to scale, is inadequate to their needs.

The reasoning here is partly ideological, partly regulatory, and partly (the biggest part) due to the nature of seed, explains Tyson Neukirch, former head grower at the Farm School. Growing with organic seed means supporting the growth of the organic seed industry—an act of solidarity as well as self-interest. Increased demand ought to lead to increased supply of organic seed, and increased supply enables organic farmers to better comply with organic certifiers who are becoming more stringent with their requirement that organic-certified farmers use organic seed unless, as the USDA National Organic Program puts it, “an equivalent organically produced variety is not commercially available.”

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$250 bonus for growing out seed

posted March 20, 2013

For our friends are the Hudson Valley Seed Library.
Seems like a pretty useful bit of subsidy.  Even if the slots are filled for the cash it’s worth participating.

Dear Growers,

Greetings from the Hudson Valley Seed Library! You’re receiving this e-mail because you have expressed interest at some point (as recently as yesterday, as long ago as 2008) in producing seed for the Seed Library. We hope you’ve had a good winter–a real one, this year!–and are looking forward to the start of the growing season.

Based on our successes and failures with the Seed Stewards Network program in past years, we have revised our program to ensure a successful and happy experience for all who choose to take part. We hope that these changes will help us create lasting partnerships with growers that can help seed production blossom in the Northeast.

The key improvements are the use of a Google Doc Spreadsheet to coordinate this year’s Growout and a clear payment schedule so that growers know what to expect before getting started.

In addition, we’re excited to announce that we have received a SARE grant this year to study the impact of disease on small-scale organic seed production in the Northeast! (more…)


farm jobs at the seed library

posted January 22, 2013

Two Excellent opportunities, greenhorns.  The Hudson Valley Seed Library is a special place.

echinacea-sneak-peek

FARMER or FARM COUPLE
Seeking experienced farmer or farm couple with a minimum of 2 years farm management and 4-5 years organic growing experience to continue growing on 1+ acres already in no till production while developing an addition 20+ acres for future organic vegetable and seed production. Farmer will be provided with shared housing, land access, start-up budget, existing farm stand, and assistance with marketing, publicity, and educational events. CSA or market growing experience preferred. Willingness to work collaboratively with local seed company, farm school, botanic illustrator, and food bank. Starts Feb 2013, minimum 3 year commitment. Become part of a neighborhood farm community in the Hudson Valley (Accord, NY) that includes the Hudson Valley Seed Library www.seedlibrary.org, Hollengold Farm hwww.hollengoldfarm.com, Westwind Organic Orchard, Hudson Valley Farm School, and Rondout Valley Growers Association. Cover letter, resume, references to: Ken Greene, ken@seedlibrary.org. (more…)


seed saving workshop

posted August 22, 2012

Growing for Future Sowing: Saving Quality Seed from Your Farm’s Fields
Date:  August 28, 2012
Location: Hudson Valley Seed Library: 484 Mettacohonts Rd., Accord, NY 12404 (Ulster Co)
Time: 3:30 PM-6:00 PM
If you’d like to start saving seed on your small diversified organic farm, this field day will offer you a strong foundation.  A tour of the Hudson Valley Seed Library’s seed production farm will provide examples of the isolation and pollination techniques used to maintain pure seed varieties. Our discussion will cover distancing, timing of successions, caging and hand-pollinating. (more…)

home to the head lettuce

posted February 3, 2010

oh gloriousness.
from our friend natsuko!  She is in france — and she found this for us:
Next point. we have lettuce seeds, head lettuces mostly including speckled trout seed.
Packed and processed by our homies over at HUDSON VALLEY SEED LIBRARY — grown by Smithereen farm + the Greenhorns.
Purchase some here
oh yes. you can grow then in a tiny box on your window sill if you want to .


greenhorns seeds!

posted January 19, 2010

We grew Spotted Trout Lettuce last summer on our little farm, and saved the seeds – now you can buy them from our friends at Hudson Valley Seed Library.

Celebrate the Greenhorns!
Library Pack : Grown by Smithereen Farm
Eligible for Membership Deal
$2.75 / $2.25 for members

These seeds came from Smithereen Farm, home of Severine von Tscharner Fleming and her young farmer activism organization The Greenhorns. In addition to conferences, handbooks, and resources for beginning farmers, Severine has been working on a documentary film that explores the lives of America’s young farming community — its spirit, practices, and needs. (more…)


seed library catalog

posted January 11, 2010

from our friends at the hudson valley seed library:

Our Full 2010 Seed Catalog is now online!

New for 2010

This year we have expanded our offerings, printed more packs, and grown and processed more of our own seed.

We now have three kinds of seed packs to help our customers distinguish between our seed sources.

Our Art Packs are the colorful, flower shaped packs that feature original artwork from 16 different New York artists. The Art Packs contain heirloom, open-pollinated, and non-GMO seeds from independent commercial sources. (more…)


seed library events

posted October 6, 2009

more from our friends at the Hudson Valley Seed Library!

It’s cozy in here. Which is a feeling, I regret to say, that only happens when it’s cold outside. Right now Doug, his mom Nancy, our neighbor Linda-Brook, and I are all in our tiny house surrounded by seeds, spoons of various shapes and sizes, Kale the dog, Bumps the cat, and tens of thousands of envelopes. There are still piles of semi-processed seeds in the barn including Forellenschluss Lettuce and Hank’s X-tra Special Baking Beans. The last of the sweet Italian frying peppers are ripening on the plants, the slimy cucumber seeds are fermenting, and the vermilion Gift Zinnias are fading and forming cone-shaped seed heads.

The final versions of the 16 new Art Packs are at Hemlock Printers and should be in our hands for folding by mid-October. Then, in November, our Gift Catalog with the new Art packs and Gift Memberships will be online.

To tide you over, take a stab at writing a caption for this month’s Seedy Sayings Contest. The prize for October’s best caption entry is a 2010 Gift Membership that you can use for yourself or give to a deserving gardening friend. (more…)


artists wanted

posted June 29, 2009

Any artistic hudson valley-based greenhorns out there?  The Hudson Valley Seed Library is seeking artists to illustrate their seed packs!  Read on…

calendula

Hello from Seedy Farm!

I’m excited to say that the Hudson Valley Seed Library is going to offer more Art Packs in our next seed catalog. Please help us in our search for new artists to design the covers of our seed packs. If you are an artist, consider sumbitting your work; if you know any artists, feel free to forward this email to them. The deadline is soon as we need to move quickly in order to give enough time for each selected artist to create his or her work of art.

The guidelines are included below and are now posted on the Seed Library website.
Thanks for being part of our community effort to save seeds and support artists. (more…)