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High Mowing Organic Seeds
High Mowing Organic Seeds High Mowing Organic Seeds

Greetings from Tom
Off-Line Sales List
Winter Social and Open House!
Emergence of an Organic Seed Industry  - The future of the Organic Seed Scene
Farmer Paul's Row - Insurance, Part 2.  Really. Read it.
Current Events - Trade Shows, The Town That Food Saved,
"How the Control of Seeds Effects Our Lives" talk
Katie's Kitchen - Thai Coconut Squash Soup!

Greetings From Tom

Tom StearnsEven as we have just dug out from big snowstorms all over the East, spring clearly is on the way. My neighbors are tapping their maples, the snow is gone from some fields and it is no longer totally dark when I have to wake my kids for school. Upcoming this month, we have a fun event to help celebrate the last of winter – Open House Winter Social . See below for more info, but this is a great potluck, tour of the warehouse and slideshow of seed production on our farm in VT and around the world. We hope to see you there. In addition, many of our staff have really enjoyed meeting and talking with so many of you over the last two months at over a dozen tradeshows and conferences and with all the phone conversations we've had. We are striving to be your first choice for organic seeds and are so appreciative of all your support. Please continue to let us know what you would like to see from us in the seasons ahead. Happy spring!

Tom Stearns,
President & Founder

Off-Line Sales List

Have you heard about our Off-line Sale List?  At High Mowing we use a set of in-house germination standards that is in most cases far above the federal rule. Our in-house lab allows us to test seed on a continual basis in order to send our customers seed that meets our standards. In some cases, certain lots may fall below our standards and are no longer available for sale through our catalog. Over time we have accumulated a good amount of seed that has fallen below our standards, but still has value as seed nonetheless. With this in mind, we have created the “Off-line Sale” list, offering seed with a lower germination rate which can usually be compensated for by overseeding, therefore making the seed deserving of a better life than the dumpster or as art projects for kids. We are offering this seed at significant discounts, sometimes up to 80% off. This can be a great way to get seed at a low price for the right project!

Our Off-line Sale List is updated and sent out monthly by email. The most recent germination test results, quantity and specific instructions about ordering are included in this monthly listing. Click here to subscribe to the Off-line Sale List. (offlinesales "at" highmowingseeds.com) Note: Off-line Sales are handled separately from catalog orders. Please refer to the link below for orders or inquiries.

You can e-mail our Off-line Sale representative if you have any questions.

Winter Blues Have You Down?

Join Us For Our Annual Winter Social and Open House!

Saturday, March 20th 4 – 7 PM
Wolcott, VT @ the High Mowing warehouse
This fun, FREE and informative event will provide an opportunity for growers to gather and learn more about vegetable varieties and the process of commercial seed production and distribution. High Mowing Organic Seeds’ founder and seedsman Tom Stearns will offer an overview of seed production happening here in Vermont and afar, accompanied by a tour of the facility, slide show, and pot-luck get-together. 

4 – 5 PM:  Facility Tour: Tom Stearns, founder and president of High Mowing Organic Seeds, will give a tour of the seed warehouse, packing facility, testing lab and seed mill.

5 – 6 PM: Potluck dinner : a chance to meet other growers and to share organic growing tips and techniques.  Please bring a dish or drink to share, as well as your own plate, cup and utensils to reduce waste from the event.  Or, just bring yourself.  Don’t let your lack of a potluck item stop you from joining us at this relaxed, informational event.

6 – 7 PM: Slideshow and discussion of vegetable varieties: Results from our extensive HMS variety trials, how to select the best varieties for your specific growing conditions, how to conduct your own variety trials – followed by a slideshow of seed production featuring High Mowing Organic Seeds’ own farm as well as other seed producers in Vermont, out west and around the world.

High Mowing Organic Seeds’ warehouse is located on Rte 15, across from the Fisher Bridge, between Wolcott center and Hardwick.  Guests are welcome to join in at anytime.  There will be a retail seed rack with seeds available for purchase, so get a start on your spring garden planning!

For more information, please call us at 802-472-6174

Emergence of an Organic Seed Industry  - Heather Jerrett, Research & Development Trials Manager

Heather JerrettA friend of mine made a comment last week at the MOSES (Midwest Organic and Sustainable Education Service) conference while having a discussion about farming and the organic industry. He said, “when I began farming in the 70’s it was a political act - the food movement of today is about food”. This comment struck me, and I have been mulling it over in my mind for a week now. I have always felt that the food movement of today is an artful movement but yet still political. The politics have changed and college-aged kids are no longer fleeing to the countryside to drop out, but rather they are fleeing to the countryside to preserve a way of living, to teach themselves the skills that are no longer handed down, and yes, to eat good food. The modern food movement is a conscious movement; many of its pioneers are educated professionals choosing an agricultural lifestyle. With this consciousness has come the need to work within the system and have regulated guidelines to protect the organic label, to ensure that the rules are not weakened for ease of production, and to ensure that big businesses are taking responsibility for their actions. The organic industry is now a billion dollar industry and has been able to grow in a time of serious economic downturn. People are taking note, and more resources are being allocated to not only the preservation of the organic label but also to research and development of organic systems from seed to table.

This year the MOSES conference hosted the first ever State of Organic Seed Symposium, where seed  professionals from across the nation gathered to discuss the current state of affairs, build relationships, and begin the process of building a innovative industry that focuses on organically bred seed specifically designed for organic systems. The symposium was organized by the Organic Seed Alliance (OSA), a - a nonprofit that supports the ethical development and stewardship of seeds. OSA’s education, research and advocacy programs are founded on the belief that organic food integrity begins with seed integrity. In our December Seed Bin we introduced you to the OSA and invited you to take part in a questionnaire that will become the “State of Organic Seed Report”. The
Organic Seed Aliliancepurpose of the questionnaire is to help better assess certified organic growers' attitudes and perceptions regarding organic seed and categorize obstacles that restrict their usage of organic seed. A national questionnaire of this type had never been done. The symposium was a forum to review the initial findings of the report as well as organize a working meeting to review our understanding of obstacles and potential in organic breeding, seed production, distribution, access, regulation and contamination issues.

Many of the pre-identified challenges revolved around breeding for organics, organic seed production, resource information, value perception of organic seed, and policy. The list is long and very involved when you start breaking down the details, and much work is still to be done. The overview also supplied some suggested solutions and first steps offered from the survey. The symposium offered a forum for seed professionals to gather and begin the discussion of what the future of organic seed looks like. Meredith Davis from High Mowing Seeds was in attendance and was able to offer firsthand insight to some our set backs and successes.

The National Organics Program rule states that organic growers are required to use organic seed to meet the guidelines. At the onset of the organic rule in October, 2002, an exemption was made due to lack of organic seed. High Mowing believes in the future of organic seed but also realizes we are not ready for full compliance; there is much work that needs to be done. No farmer should be denied the use of the best seed suited for their production. We have been working diligently to offer the best available organic seed and increase our offering of organic varieties. We sponsor our own trialing and breeding program as well as work with other parties to develop new organic varieties. We are fully committed and hope to see the advancement of organic seed as an opportunity for superior quality in organic systems. We have an annual field day coming up on August 22, 2010 and our trial gardens are open to the public all season long. Give a call and let us know you are stopping by!

For more information on the State of Organic Seed or to participate in the questionnaire see the links below:

Link to Questionnaire (please DO NOT FORWARD this link; it is specific to High Mowing Seeds customers.)

Organic Seed Alliance

Organic Seed Growers Trade Alliance

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Insurance, Take 2 - Important, Really!  - Paul Betz, Sales Associate & owner of High Ledge Farm

Paul BetzLets face it, when I mention insurance, people are only marginally interested. The classic image of people running away from their insurance agent has been around for a while now. I would even go as far as saying that before April 9th, 2009 it was pretty low on my radar. A few weeks ago I gave a talk about insurance issues at the NOFA VT winter conference, and two people showed up. Given the choices of other workshops to attend, I was not very surprised, but I feel like this is really important. Please do not run away.

I had mixed feelings about insurance in general, but had also been a reluctant participant. Our vehicles were covered, and our house was as well. When our initial homeowner’s insurance dropped us because we wanted to heat with wood, we took the plunge and got a small farm policy that covered our operation, including out buildings, some equipment, and our off farm market presence. That was about six years ago, and although our business has grown, I had not really looked at our policy since its inception. The annual renewal is in September, and the coverage page arrives in mid August. I just never had the time to really sit down with it, because who has time to do anything in August?

Then we had our fire.

The next day I was able to find some time to look it over, and I found out that the greenhouses I had built after the initiation of the policy were not included, because I never added them. Suddenly, the paltry amount that my barn
was insured for really hit home. The check from the insurance company would not even Paul's Burnt Greenhouse - Make sure you get insurance!!cover the materials. The amount that the covered greenhouses were insured for was way under their costs. There was a lot of under coverage. Our washing barn, which survived, was even more grossly underinsured. If that had burned, our loss on that building alone would have been enormous.

I am not an insurance agent, and do not claim to be an expert, but I do have a little advice based on my experience. I should start by admitting that a lot of this is hind sight. Through some amount of dumb luck, our policy had some areas of coverage that never would have occurred to me, and I am glad it did. They will all be important when it comes to putting us back to where we were before the fire. I can go into all of that a little later.

First, some basics. Buying an insurance policy is essentially trading risk for money. Sounds obvious, but it is important to think of it that way. Asses how much risk you are willing to accept against the cost of the policy. There are ways to balance that coverage vs. expense, such as having a higher deductible.

When it comes to policy decisions, ask yourself; in the event of a loss, would you rebuild your business and what would it look like if you did? The answer to this question should help shape your policy decisions. While I am at the age where continuing to farm was not a question for me, I have talked with friends who are not sure that they would start over. The amount of work involved was more than they were interested in taking on, and a significant loss to their infrastructure would be a deal killer for them. Given that choice, it may not make sense to carry the
higher cost of a more comprehensive policy.  If you have a barn that would cost $250,000.00 to rebuild, but you could get by in barn that would cost $100,000.00, the extra expense of insuring to full value may or may not make sense. If your intention would be to continue your operation with as little interruption as possible, then you will need a different level of coverage. Consider all the tools and supplies that you use in the course of the season. How many did you pick up along the way of developing your farm? Now imagine having to buy them all at once. It was a rather chilling thought when I had to face it last April. I was able to put together most of the equipment that I needed, but it wasn’t an inexpensive project. However you structure your policy, all that I am tying to stress is that now is the time to make these choices.

If you do get a farm policy, be sure that you have a coverage section for your equipment. I would recommend an unscheduled coverage over a scheduled. The advantage of unscheduled is that if you get new equipment, it is automatically covered, without having to call in and add it to your policy. I would suggest making a list of your equipment, approximate its’ value, and then add 25% to determine your coverage. This will give you a buffer for any new purchases, as well as the things you have forgotten about.

While loosing the greenhouses was one issue, the loss of sales of starts and tomatoes was a second one. Those are two big pieces of our business and the loss of income was significant. We fortunately have insurance to cover that loss. The amount of that coverage should be equal to your last years’ net income.

One thing that would have been really helpful for us to have is some documentation of our belongings. Even though it has been close to 11 months since the fire, we are still discovering new things that we lost. I have been encouraging everyone to get a video camera and walk around your property and tape everything. Open drawers, closets, sheds, machine shops, all those dark corners of your barns. Then put the tape in a safe deposit box in town or at a neighbors’ house. If you ever have a loss, it will be a huge asset when you file your claim.

Sound scary? What happened at our farm certainly was. It is truly a miracle that no one died. That said, I do not live my life in a state of high alert. Nor am I in constant fear that something bad will happen. But I never believed what happened to us could actually happen. Do I wish we were more prepared? Yes. Am I more aware of potential risks? Yes. I probably always will be, and that’s the way it is. I have faith that this will all work out, although this thinking has taken me a while to fully embrace, and the trip has its unpleasant moments. We have increased the coverage on our surviving buildings and the new greenhouses. I am hopeful I will never use this expanded coverage, but I have decided it is money well spent if I ever need it.

Current Events

Look for High Mowing Organic Seeds at the following conferences and tradeshows across the nation!  Our booth will be staffed by one of our friendly and knowledgeable sales representatives, so stop by to say hello, ask questions or place an order!  It is always pleasure for us to meet our customers face-to-face, and we love to hear your feedback, suggestions and success stories!

Georgia Organics’ 13th Annual Conference - Reclaiming Agriculture
March 19 – 20, 2010
Athens, GA

The annual Georgia Organics conference is the largest event dedicated to sustainable food and farms in Georgia. In its 13th year, attendance grows every year, a direct result of the exploding interest in local food systems and organic agriculture. The two-day conference includes educational sessions, farm and food tours, the southeast's largest Trade Show dedicated to sustainable agriculture and culminates with the Farmers Feast on Saturday night. Keynote address from Slow Food’s Carlo Petrini.

World Premier:  Ben Hewitt & The Town That Food Saved
Tuesday, March 16, 2010
The Galaxy Bookshop, 7 Mill St, Hardwick, VT

We're very excited to be part of the launch of Ben Hewitt's book, The Town That Food Saved. Hewitt's account of the growing agricultural economy here in Hardwick looks at the long tradition of agriculture in the area and examines more recent developments, as people have begun to explore a variety of new possibilities for creating a sustainable local food system. Learn more about Ben Hewitt on his website.

Table Talk: How the Control of Seeds Effects Our Lives

Friday March 26th
Dinner 6:00pm, Talk 7:30pm
Inn at Baldwin Creek - 868 North Route 116, Bristol, Vermont (888) 424–2432

For thousands of years, the success or failure of communities was based on their seed supply and the ability of those seeds to perform under their local conditions. Beginning in 1700, seed companies came about and over the next 300 years shifted the role that seeds have played in the health of our communities.

The 20th Century has brought us genetically engineered varieties, incredible seed industry consolidation and increased non-local food production.

Join Tom Stearns, founder and president of High Mowing Organic Seeds, in a lively discussion of seeds, their role in our current food system and their future role in our healthy food system.
Three course Dinner $25;   Talk is Free

Reservations recommended.  Email or Phone (802) 453-2432

Katie's Kitchen  - Katie Lavin, Wholesale Sales Manager

Thai Coconut Squash Soup
(3-4 servings)

This elegant and flavorful soup is impressive and comes together fast.  I like Thai Kitchen Red Curry paste—it adds a lot of flavor to a simple dish when I am hungry NOW. It is available in most grocery stores.  Serve with a side dish of cabbage sautéed with ginger, tamari, garlic, and tofu or chicken.

3-4 cups pureed squash or pumpkin
2 cups chicken broth, vegetable broth, or water
1 15 ounce can coconut milk
1 large onion, chopped fine
3 cloves of garlic, minced
Olive oil for sautéing 
1-2 tsps Thai Kitchen Red Curry Paste (or to taste)
Tamari or salt, to taste
Honey, to taste (optional)

Saute onion in oil until translucent; add garlic and cook for another minute or two.  Add broth and squash and bring to a low boil over medium heat.  Remove ½ cup of liquid from soup pot and add to a bowl with the curry paste.  Mix together well and add back to soup pot.  Lower heat and add coconut milk.  Heat through and adjust seasonings as needed (more curry paste, tamari, or honey if it needs a little more sweetness).  If you are opposed to having onions floating around in your soup, you could puree it at this point if you want it completely smooth.


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Non GMO Project Verified USDA Organics Vermont Organics Copyright 2016 High Mowing Organic Seeds. All Rights Reserved.
76 Quarry Road :: Wolcott, VT 05680 :: toll free: 866-735-4454 :: fax: 802-472-3201
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