Local, organic agriculture. Environmental education.

By the Light of the Silvery Moon

Jon with new seedsNow full, and beginning to wane, the march towards spring can continue. With daylight creeping slightly longer each day, one can think about well-lit windows, grow lights and toiling one’s fingers in the soil again, although I just feel now that there is no more dirt under the nails and the oft-dirty knees are just about scrubbed clean. With these hands and strong eyes, I can spread out the seed catalogs on a long desk or call up the information on dueling computer screens.

A little bit of snow here in New England does not keep me too busy shoveling, so I can instead sift through the endless comparisons of High Mowing, Fedco and Johnny’s (no relation). Each seed company has a slight variation on a theme, which is organic, fairly saved and non-modified seed for the coming growing year. This does not include the seeds I set to dry from the recent autumn collection. This past October through December, the birds did not take all the sunflower seeds from the mammoth head, nor did I eat all the green beans on the vine and many a dried cilantro flower makes for terrific coriander seed.  For what the farmer can save, saved seeds could add up at this time when relatively inexpensive seeds begin to add up.

These three seed companies, to select just a few of the environmentally, conscientious seed savers and cooperatives, each hail from New England and offer a chance for bulk ordering, free delivery and early order deadline incentives. There are many other smaller, even more thoughtful organizations and non-profits that spend a great deal of time to save, protect and gently sell their favorite, heirloom variety. But with these three as an example, the farmers have a heck of a time figuring out which seed to order, how many and for what purpose. For not every seed will grow, so one has to leave a little up to the reality of whether or not a seed will germinate (fancy term for sprout, in a visible manner to the naked eye). Each seed packet will give a best guess prediction as to what percent chance a seed has to grow. For now, the farmer and grower must carefully read the small paragraph detailing how well a seed variety did in a certain climate. How will the seed thrive, if rotated to a different spot in the garden? What the temperature of the soil is will help indicate possible success. How many bed feet does one need to sow? How many grams of seed will be enough for the garden bed or the farm row?  Perhaps the seed grower wishes to sprinkle lettuce seed in April, May, June and July, how many seed then?

These deliberations are fine, tedious activities while the wolf moon waxes and wanes and the cold temperatures rise and fall. Radish, beet, carrot and potato, leek nasturtium. There are many seeds to buy and large graph paper sheets to complete all while figuring out which beds to plant and grow. The best laid schemes of farmers, men and women are just that, schemes, while winter wends its way through the barnyard. The farmer cannot sell the root crops, tubers, flowers or herbs yet. We must wait until the greenhouse is warm, the light of day is long and the ground is workable. The livelihood is on hold until folks are ready to purchase the produce and crops. While waiting, we feel the bern to grow, but must wait. Until then, we pour over the words of nearby growers, stay warm and wait for the commerce of organic farming to take hold. Reading, thinking and ordering: plenty of work before the hard work of the growing season begins in earnest.

© 2016, Jon Belber. All rights reserved. Friends of Holly Hill Farm

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