How We Grow For Seed

Composting is the cornerstone of our regenerative practices. We recycle our crop residues, vege scraps, leaves, forest litter, local horse manure and add rock minerals, seaweed and other natural ingredients… we also utilize compost tea.

Biomass farming- that is the conscious management of the  growing and maturing biomass in ones localized system- including classical organic practices such as  green manuring, cover cropping and mulching.  Crop rotation and reduced tillage which are necessary for long term sustainability, disease prevention, weed control and soil stability are also employed.

Prudent use of  dynamic accumulator plants, awareness of companion planting and regeneration of local, native and agro-biodiversity via Kinshp gardening and habitat restoration are also key to our regenerative practices. Seed saving is also an essential activity that most traditional farmers have practiced since the dawn of agricultural endeavor. That said, seed production often involves supplemental weeding which must be done in as efficient and timely fashion as possible.

Natural selection is what we aim to tap into with the above mentioned practices, in order to minimize or even eliminate the use of pesticides. Market growers often rely upon organic pesticide formulations to some extent in order to deliver cosmetically acceptable produce. Growing for seed- on the other hand- often involves some crop loss while improving and selecting for the best seed. Since 1988 I have been able to avoid the use of any commercially formulated pesticide product- organic or conventional- by allowing natural selection to work.

Organic fertilizers– like pesticides-  can also ‘level the playing field’ for your crop, this is often necessary for market growers to be competitive. For seed- on the other hand- I focus on the methods enumerated above in order to minimize use of organic fertilizers. I have primarily relied on seabird guano- OMRI approved- to fortify vegetable seedlings.. Rock phosphate has also been applied sparingly and Potash is provided simply by applying wood ash.

Soil amendments such as oystershell flour, gypsum, kelp, other types of broad spectrum rock dust have also been applied sparingly, often incorporated into soil mixes for transplants. For seedling flats I use Peat moss or coco peat (coir), vermiculite, river silt and hi-grade earthworm castings in addition to the materials listed above.

Other propagation methods include mass selection of bareroot seedlings grown in raised beds of primarily natural soil (look for descriptive photos here soon). That is to say, out of large number of seedlings only the strongest are used to plant out the crop, and trueness to type is carefully noted.

Our seedbank has been created over 30 years as a sustainable resource for our family and community. We trial many varieties from trusted sources, and are actively breeding new lines of vegetables. We do sell produce locally, including a CSA type operation that functions almost year round thanks to our mild climate. So we can continually evaluate the quality and performance of the seeds we offer in order to assure you get the very best.

Treated seeds are taboo. Back in the 80’s we confronted this issue with various seed suppliers and began saving outstanding seed varieties when they would not provide them untreated. Thankfully it is much easier today to find many untreated and some organic seed varieties. However there is little transparency regarding the actual methods used to commercially produce organic or conventional seeds.

Genetically modified seeds are scrupulously avoided. GM crops such as soybeans, canola and corn have been proliferating in industrial farming areas since the 1990’s leading to great concern over potential for contamination of neighboring crops. Soybeans are generally considered self-pollinating so the risk is practically nil, except for GM seed getting actually mixed in. Canola is insect pollinated and there may be rare instances of cross-pollination with other brassica species in areas where it is widely grown (not here). Corn is wind pollinated, hence involving the greatest risk of contamination but we’ve had the assurance of agronomists from UC Davis that the isolation distances at our remote growing site are far beyond the threshold of concern.

More recently the introduction of GM sugarbeets- also wind pollinated with even greater isolation distances required- has threatened producers of Beet and Swiss Chard seed (they are the same species- Beta vulgaris), particularly in the Willamette Valley of Oregon. Contamination has already been discovered in commercial seed lots and has very likely gone undetected in many instances. We feel certain that the varieties we offer are pure because of the isolation distances involved and our foundation seed predates the GM Beta vulgaris menace.  We’ll continue to produce (and assist other growers in producing) pure seed lines in remote locations as this threat is being assessed. For home gardeners wanting to save seed however we advise caution and careful scrutiny of any Beta vulgaris plants near your location, whether planted, volunteer or naturalized.

Alfalfa is the latest crop of concern involving genetic pollution, but we have no commercial alfalfa in our valley. We do have remnant stands of highly diverse alfalfa from which we will be offering seeds in the near future.

We produce the seed varieties listed in this online catalog in accord with the methods described here (with the exception of about a dozen varieties that we supply as a service to our customers) .