the irresistible fleet of bicycles


Leave a comment

the seed we need: there’s not enough

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.”

Continue reading


Leave a comment

$250 bonus for growing out seed

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! Continue reading


Leave a comment

farm jobs at the seed library

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. Continue reading


Leave a comment

seed saving workshop

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. Continue reading


Leave a comment

home to the head lettuce

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 .


Leave a comment

greenhorns seeds!

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. Continue reading