How We Grow For Seed

Composting is the cornerstone of our regenerative practices. We recycle our crop residues, vege scraps, leaves, forest litter, and add rock minerals, seaweed and other natural ingredients… we also utilize compost tea, made with homegrown alfalfa, clover, nettles, chamomile, and blackberry trimmings.

Carbon farming- that is the conscious growing of biomass- including classic organic practices such as  green manuring, cover cropping and mulching.  Crop rotation and reduced tillage- for disease prevention, weed control and soil stability- are also used.

Prudent use of  dynamic accumulator plants, awareness of companion planting and regeneration of local, native and agro-biodiversity via Kinship gardening and habitat restoration are also key regenerative practices.

Natural selection is what we aim to tap into with the above mentioned practices, in order to eliminate the use of pesticides. Market growers may rely upon organic pesticide formulations to some extent in order to deliver cosmetically acceptable produce, but Growing for seed- on the other hand- often involves some crop loss while enabling crop  improvement.

Organic fertilizers may be used sparingly, while often necessary for market growers to be competitive.  A focus on the methods enumerated above allows us to minimize use of organic fertilizers. Rock phosphate has also been applied sparingly and Potash is provided simply by applying wood ash.

Soil amendments such as 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 occasionally 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.

Seed saving is also an essential activity that most traditional farmers have practiced since the dawn of agricultural endeavor, which involves planning, research, careful timing and supplemental weeding. Educational efforts and networking are critically important to our long term sustainability and success as Seed Savers.

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 operation that allows us to 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.

Rock Dust Trial 1988

PHOTO- Rock dust trial in cooperation with Don Weaver in 1987

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, there is no commercial Beta seed production in our locale, 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 small 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) .