Saving Seeds on the Farm

When we first started our farm we knew we wanted to be producing a certain amount of our own seed each season. Over the years, as certain open-pollinated heirloom varieties have disappeared from commercial seed catalogs, this objective has become even more important. The current social and economic conditions seem to have led to an increase in backyard gardeners. This is great! This is really what we have wanted since we started thinking about growing and selling good quality, locally-produced fruits and vegetables. Unfortunately this puts those of us who depend on seeds to make a living and to feed our neighbors in a bind. The current lack of existing seed growing infrastructure in the world is taking a long time to react to this newly increased demand, if it even can.

We really hope that this trend in home gardening and de-centralized growing systems keeps up. This will continue to demand more and more seed from more and more places. We are striving to find an appropriate balance between growing food for our community and growing seeds for those around us who wish to grow food for themselves and their families.

2020 taught us some real important lessons, 2021 is already driving them home. It has become abundantly clear that we cannot call ourselves a sustainable farm and continue to depend on a weak worldwide supply chain infrastructure that is prone to disruption and surprises. We really upped our seed game last year, but we are going to do everything we can this season to grow the seed we need to keep feeding our customers and neighbors for years to come.

We have been planning to introduce a hyper-local seed catalog for some time now. Last year threw us for a loop for more than one reason but we are going to continue to improve the quality and quantity of the seeds we grow here on the farm with the intention of having a relatively thorough catalog to distribute locally in the near future.

Everything starts with a seed, and without them we cannot possibly be a successful commercial farm. This is hugely taken for granted at every level of the farming community these days. We are going to continue to do everything we can to perpetuate the timeless cycle of growing seeds and food for ourselves, our neighbors, and our valued customers.

^ Costata Romanesco zucchini seed saving in progress. This is hands down the best zucchini we have ever had, and our customers wholeheartedly agree! We will definitely keep working on this one. This amazing historical variety has a long history crisscrossing the Atlantic, and we will continue to select the traits that thrive on our farm and that our customers desire.

^ The footprint of a seed saving project does not need to be large. This mason jar box provided plenty of room for over a dozen wet-process, quick-ferment seed crops over the course of a month or so. Even Anna didn’t mind this that much on her kitchen counter. This is a small price to pay in space and time for a significant value in the sustainability and dependability of some of our farm’s most popular crops.

^ Speaking of popular…we won’t even have any of our famous canned dill pickles this year because we sold every single one of our pickle cukes fresh at market! This is the third generation seed crop of National Pickling Cucumber grown on this farm. Every year they seem to get more productive and vigorous, not to mention tasty.

^ Where would small Maine farms be without lettuce? We had particularly good luck growing Burgandy red leaf lettuce despite extreme drought conditions and a lack of irrigation. This is certainly a keeper.

^ We are currently saving seed for almost half of the vegetable varieties we grow on this farm. Over the years we have tried to focus on growing a relatively small diversity of crops. This allows us the flexibility to find the best and grow the best. There are still some major gaps in our seed sustainability plan but we are working on them. We consider this a great start with a truly minimal amount of work hours during our busiest seasons. Our seed envelopes do not look like those found on most commercial farms, but this is where we believe the future foundation of sustainable farming begins.

^ Some people might think this is nutty, but we also grow our own trees from seed here on the farm. The closest bucket shown above is English Walnut seed from Anna’s parents farm two towns over. The other bucket is peach pits (seeds!) from our neighbor’s farm less than a mile away. We built a “hopefully mouse-proof” nursery bed for these special seeds that need stratification over the winter. We are expecting dozens of different peach and nut tree seedlings in the spring. Each of these will have their own unique set of genes that we will be judging for compatibility with our farm’s micro-climate over the years to come.

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