The 2009 Catalog Is In The Mail!
50 new varieties and supplies to choose from, brighter photos and
updated planting and cultural information. New seed selections include
heirloom favorites, open pollinated and hybrid standouts as well as
increased selections of pelleted seed. If you have not received your
current catalog you should expect one shortly. If you have received a
catalog in the past or recently signed up for one you are on our
mailing list. If you would like to send a copy to a friend, download a
paperless catalog or printable price list see the Seed Catalog tab on our home page.
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Updated and Enhanced Website
High Mowing Organic Seeds website has a fresh new look with new and
improved features to make browsing fun and ordering easy. We have
updated and extended resources for planting, cultural and seed saving
information to help answer questions about how to start and care for
your plants, how much seed you will need, and simple instructions to
collect your own seed for many crop types. Ordering online with High
Mowing Organic Seeds is easy and safe, click here to check out the new site and give it a try!
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is snowing in Vermont today. The inevitable march toward winter has
just become that much more obvious. The office and warehouse is filling
up with seeds from the harvest on our farm and our growers’ farms as
well as the winter sales staff and warehouse crew. This time of year is
full of activity as our farm-based seed company parks the tractors and
delivers the harvest to all of you. Our seed catalog is on its way to
all of you as well, and now begins our version of a nationwide farmers
market. We show you our wares and tell you about our farm and you
choose what you like. At a farmers market, customers can see the
produce, but not often do they know if it tastes good. That is based on
their experience with that grower and the trust they have in them.
Seeds are much the same way; many companies offer the same or similar
varieties but we differ in our commitment to organics, quality, service
and mission. I have often said that High Mowing is not here to put
junky seeds out into the world - to do that would undermine our mission
of supporting the growth of healthy food systems and do a disservice to
all of you. So, you can be sure that as a farm-based seed company, we
have our hands in the dirt like you, we both fight, and work with the
weather like you and like you, quality is our absolute focus. So I
invite you to enjoy our catalog through this quieter time of year and
dream of spring. We are here for you and ready to support you as you
lead this country on the biggest food revolution in decades.
Farm Update - Tom Stearns
Our seed harvest from our farm is all in and it was a great year. Of course some crops yielded a little less but others did a little more. It has been a great asset to have the same crew as we have had for t
he last few years - they really know what they are doing and we are getting more efficient with our time and tools than ever before. Several highlights are our successful broccoli seed production (after years of trying), and several entirely new crops for us like Shungiku chrysanthemum greens and leeks. Brassicas and cucurbits are our specialty and we had several types of each including 6 brassicas (Hon Tsai Tai, Hong Vit, Purple Mizuna, Yukina Sav oy and others) and 18 cucurbits (Cider Jack F1, Honey Nut butternut, Valenciano pumpkin, H-19 Little Leaf, Waltham Butternut and many others). This year we put almost 400,000 lbs of squash, cukes and pumpkins through our Liberty 5000 Wet Seed Extractor. It continues to get the job done although will need some serious TLC this winter after such a big harvest. After harvesting the seed, each seed lot needs to be tested for germination rate and then cleaned in our seed mill. At this point in time many are already cleaned and getting ready for packaging.
Looking across the production fields you can see stripes of soil and cover crop where we had undersown either oats or clover while the crop was growing. This will hold the soil well over the winter and help with any erosion from spring snow melt. Our larger cover cropped fields have been prepped and will be ready for planting in the spring. Peas and oats stand thickly, adding some of the fertility that we will need to nurture next years seeds.
Overall, it was a great season, with the weather mostly behaving just fine. Now begins our process of planning for 2009. Beginning in January we will have our seed crop planning meetings to determine what crop mix we will be needing to grow. We usually grow 50-70 varieties each year and we already know about 1/3 of what we will be needing. In early March, the first seed crops will again be growing in the greenhouse and another spring will be upon us. So, we're signing off for now on the farm report, and we'll see you again on the other side.
Trials Update - Heather Jerrett
The snowfall at the end of October marked our final days in the trials fields as we waited for snow to melt on the last remaining cabbages we still needed to harvest to for evaluation. In the trials we had an outstanding year with many successes. Some of our main highlights in the 2009 trials were our high tunnel tomato and cucumber trial, slotted romaine lettuce trial, and specialty roots like celeriac, scorzenera, rooted parsley and fun radishes and turnips with unique shapes and colors. It was our first year for growing many of these crops and we learned a great deal.
Our high-tunnel trials offered a good amount of experience for basic knowledge of growing high tunnel tomatoes, cucumbers and even some flowers. We had a late start planting transplants into the ground in early June. Since it was our first year growing these crops in this space we did not encounter too much of the typical foliar diseases found in high tunnel tomato production. The cucumbers were an area of more concern, our major disease was bacterial wilt transferred by the cucumber beetle. Since we do not screen our high tunnel we had a major infestation of cucumber beetles from the start. We had success in reducing numbers using Surround (Kaolin clay) and Neem oil mixed together with a sticker (Crocker’s Fish Oil). Although we reduced numbers which greatly reduced damage to cucumber skins and increased yields, the wilt had already been set in some plants and spread throughout for the next few weeks and we eventually had to remove all plants.
Our slotted romaine trial offered good results to which varieties work best in different slots throughout the season. We looked at fifteen varieties planted every three weeks for four weeks. We evaluated color, texture, weight, marketable qualities and flavor. The varieties we chose for our trial were numbered varieties yet to be released or varieties that are currently available as NOP certified seed, current High Mowing varieties and market standards.
With winter CSAs becoming more and more popular we started trialing a number of species of root crops that have good storage potential. We anticipate a NOP certified celeriac in 2010 and intend to work on stock seed production of some more specialty types of radishes, turnips and more this upcoming season. Some roots that we found interesting are rooted parsley, scorzenera, salsify, longer specialty radishes with interesting coloring, red colored turnips and baby turnips with edible greens.
If you have any questions about trial varieties or variety suggestions feel free to pass information along to Heather Jerrett, R&D Trials Coordinator.
September Field Day Review
The September Field Day event was by far our most successful event yet! We had about 150 people attend throughout the day taking part in our "Growing and Processing Soybean" workshop jointly presented by Andrew Meyer of Vermont Soy and Karen Hills of University of Vermont Extension, as well as our workshop on seed saving presented by Tom Stearns and Katie Traube of High Mowing and sponsored by NOFA-VT and The Stowe Library. We then had a few hours of garden tours finished off by an amazing spread of local foods, vegetables from our trial gardens and on-site expos including the NOFA-VT Pizza Oven and Vermont Soy’s bicycle smoothie maker. Check out photos from our September Field Days!.
This Just in....
Teresa Taplin won the
"Tallest Sunflower" contest at this year's Tunbridge Fair topping other
sunflowers at a height of 14' 1". The variety was Mammoth Sunflower
from High Mowing Organic Seeds, and was grown organically only using
Neptune's Harvest fish emulsion as a fertilizer.
What a wild ride we had at my farm in Vermont this season. What started out hot and dry turned into the wettest summer ever. We had 23 inches of rain in July and August. And just when you couldn’t imagine a downpour with more force, it showed up. We planted our fall carrots three times, the first two falling victim to pounding rain and silt. We tilled many crops in. There were a lot of desperate times this year for me, and my yearly ritual of considering the other options available to making a living seemed less of an exercise as in seasons past. There have got to be easier ways to make a living than farming. I am sure of it, although I can’t imagine doing anything else. But once the rains stopped, the sun shone and we got a little heat, things turned, and we did alright. Sales are up, I have food in the barn and the freezer, and I am already getting excited about some new things for next year.
A few years ago we had a season where at least half of my transplants died. It did not really matter what they were; peppers, tomatoes, squash, or lettuce. The beginning of each day for weeks was the walk around the farm to see who the next casualty was. Because we grow vegetable plants for sale, I had lots of plants, but the constant replanting just about put me down. It seemed like everything I touched died. All I had was the work, though, so I kept at it, being too stupid or stubborn to care. But I was a mess. I was ready to quit, because I did not think I could take being punched from behind any more. It occurred to me that if I was going to continue farming, the only way to do it was to find a way to deal with the true work involved; the emotional part. The physical part is daunting, but there are tools and tractors and the power of hydraulics that can ease the burden. The real hard work is not feeling completely beat on by the things out of your control, which is basically everything.
I have a motto at my farm, which is Detach and Persist. Basically, do not get caught up in the emotional rollercoaster of farming and try to focus on the work. It usually gets better, and sometimes the better can be great. Mind I said usually, not always. But I was drawn to farming because I really like the work. I have always worked with my hands, and you can look back on the jobs around the farm and see the progress made each day. I get to see some of the most beautiful lettuce in my town. I get to see potatoes the first time they come out of the ground. I get to see a freshly hoed bed, which one of my favorite things. I get to hear a squash planting alive with the buzzing of thousands of bees. I get to see the food I grow go to peoples homes to be enjoyed by their families.
When people ask me if I make a good living, my answer is that I make a good lifestyle, and it’s the truth. I feel like I lead a fairly rich life, even when the times are difficult. I know that there have been a lot of challenging times around the country for folks trying to earn a paycheck from their farms, and I hope that you were able to do well enough to have another go at it next year. Whether your season went well or not, I hope you were able to live richly, and enjoy those moments when it all comes together and you are reminded why you are doing what you do.
Wishing all the best to you and yours.
Take good care,
2008 Squash Breeding - Dr. Jodi Lew-Smith Ph.D
By now, we’ve harvested thousands of pounds of squash seed from our production fields and spent many hours scooping seed from individual squash fruits that were carefully flagged and selected from our breeding plots. While we also breed some peppers, tomatoes, and melons, the vast majority of breeding-related work is taken up with assessing quality and form of all the many different types of squash we work with..
Breeding squash seed harvest always starts with stacks of overgrown zucchinis. These monsters are brought in from the field even before all the foliage is dead, and allowed to ripen for another week to 10 days in the research greenhouse before we tackle them with knives and wrest the seed out of their thick hides. As you can imagine, by the time we do this, some of them are good and rotten, and some of the seed swims rather than climbs out…
After the zucchinis, the only summer squash we work with are pumpkins and winter squashes. Pumpkins, like zucchinis, are selected primarily for shape, color, and yield, not flesh quality. This means that we simply harvest seed from the selections. The true winter squashes, however, are selected most intensively for shape, color, and flesh quality. This means that we not only harvest seed but we also remove pieces of the flesh for measuring brix – a measure of soluble sugars – and also dry matter, the ratio of actual flesh to water.
Think of a large jack o’ lantern pumpkin, how when you carve it the flesh is slippery and rather soft – i.e. not very dense? This is an example of low dry matter. Now think of a Japanese Kobocha squash, how when you cook one it gets flaky and dry, not soupy. This is an example of high dry matter. Let me give you some numbers. A typical pumpkin is likely to have a dry matter of somewhere around 12-15%. In contrast, a high quality Kobocha can easily reach 35% dry matter and will have a distinctively dry texture. You can even ‘taste’ this dryness by putting your tongue against the raw flesh – one means by which squash breeders assess dry matter out in the field.
A good high-quality acorn squash should have an intermediate dryness of somewhere around 22-25% and a delicious nutty sweet acorn flavor. However most supermarket squashes are rarely of this high a quality, in part because they are often harvested too young, long before the fruit has fully matured its flavor and dry matter. It takes around 60 days after pollination for a squash to fully mature, but many growers harvest acorn squash as soon as they reach full size and are green – at around 40 days. Similarly, buttercups and butternuts can show dry matter percentages of 20-25% and have superior flavor and sugars. And as with acorn squashes, these quality traits are only fully expressed at full maturity – somewhere around 60 days after pollination.
So this is what we’re looking for in our breeding program for acorns, butternuts, and buttercups. We select for shape and yield out in the field, but then we bring these selections indoors and test their quality before making any final selections. And it’s exceedingly gratifying to see that we’re making progress – as each year we see these numbers growing higher and becoming more consistent.
With the arrival of the first snow flurries and hard frosts, the northeast growing season winds to a close. Thus, the staff at High Mowing Organic Seeds, like our farming and gardening friends, begin to turn our attention to another kind of growing, the kind we do indoors during the winter months, growing of our farming minds: learning about organic practices, new methods, new materials -- all towards the goal of improving our operation's efficiency and sustainability. One of the ways in which we grow and learn during the down season is by attending various farming conferences and trade-shows, which present wonderful opportunities for us to make growers aware of our company and of the ever-expanding selection of high-quality organic seeds. This allows us to network and talk to growers like yourselves to find how our seeds are working on your farm, what varieties you would like to us to carry, and what successes and challenges you faced over the course of the past season. It also gives us a chance to learn information, techniques and practices that we can apply to our own farm in Wolcott, Vermont.
Following is a listing of upcoming farming conferences and trade-shows across the nation you will find High Mowing Organic Seeds at, so come find us and say hello!
January 17, 2009
NOFA-MA Northeast Organic Farming Association of Massachusetts' 22nd Annual Winter Conference
Organic Agriculture: The Roots of a Sustainable Community
Worcester Vocational Technical High School, Worchester, MA.
Intensive all-day workshop on four seasons growing to be presented by Eliot Coleman is the main highlight of this year’s NOFA-MA winter conference. The conference will also feature thirty other great workshops on crops, gardening, livestock, farm management, organic land care and sustainable lifestyles and more. There will be a large, centrally located exhibit area, the usual delicious pot-luck lunch, raffles and much more.
January 21-24, 2009
ECO FARM Ecological Farming Association's 29th annual Ecological Farming Conference
Asilomar Conference Grounds, Pacific Grove, CA
This four day event with over 50 workshops and over 1,300 participations has been a must go to for the sustainable agriculturalists for many years. Additional features of this event are wine tastings, seed swaps, contra dancing, organic banquets and more. Operating since 1980 the ECO Farm Conference has been a tradition for organically minded growers and gardeners.
January 23-24, 2009
SAWG Southern Sustainable Agriculture Working Group's 18th Annual Conference
Practical Tools & Solutions for Sustaining Family Farms
Chattanooga Convention Center, Chattanooga, TN
Starting Friday morning, the two day general conference will offer eight tracks of conference sessions, state networking sessions, group networking sessions, a trade show, silent auction, video show, keynote by John Ikerd, agricultural economist, Taste of Tennessee dinner and the opportunity to meet and learn from peers from across the region. The conference sessions will provide sustainable production and direct marketing information for horticultural and livestock producers, enterprise management lessons, farm policy education and community food systems development information. Check out website for more info about pre and post-conferences.
January 23-25, 2009
NOFA-NY Northeast Organic Farming Association of New York's 27th annual Winter Conference
Meals Without Wheels: Revitalizing Our Local, Organic Foodshed
Rochester Riverside Convention Center, Rochester, NY
A weekend event with over 80 workshops, and over 75 exhibitors expected at our Organic Tradeshow and Marketplace. The 2008 conference brought over 1,000 attendees and was a huge success. Additional features of the conference include all organic meals from local New York farms, nightly entertainment, round table discussions and more! Check out above link for updated information on keynote speakers and other highlights.
February 5-9, 2009
PASA Pennsylvannia Association of Sustainable Agriculture's 18th Annual Winter Conference
Farming for the Future
Penn State Conference Center, Milheim, PA
The annual Farming for the Future conference is PASA's signature event and our main vehicle for community building. Widely regarded as the best of its kind in the East, this diverse event brings together an audience of over 1,900 farmers, processors, consumers, students, environmentalists, and business and community leaders annually to present over 85 workshops. Additional features include youth & teen programming, a babysitting program, auction, the Sustainable Trade Show and Marketplace, and conference meals featuring sustainably, organically, and regionally raised foods from over forty PASA members throughout our region.
February 14-15, 2009
NOFA-VT Northeast Organic Farming Association of Vermont’s Annual Winter Conference
Grow it Here! Innovations Toward Local Food Sovereignty
Vermont Technical College, Randolph, VT
This is a two day conference offering more than 60 workshops for organic farmers, gardeners, homesteaders, and consumers. The conference also features a farmers' market, NOFA Vermont's extensive book table, live music, silent auction, and the largest potluck lunches in New England! Saturday keynote will be given by Andrew Meyer, founder of The Center for Agricultural Economy, owner of Vermont Natural Coatings, a whey-based varnish company, and Vermont Soy, an organic soy drink and tofu company. Sunday keynote will be given by Eliot Coleman, farmer and author of The New Organic Grower, Four Season Harvest, and The Winter Harvest Manual. Eliot brings nearly 40 years of experience in all aspects of organic farming, including field vegetables, greenhouse vegetables, rotational grazing, and four-season production and marketing. He will also give a farmer intensive workshop session on Monday, February 16 for advanced commercial growers.
February 21-22, 2009
OEFFA Ohio Ecological Food & Farm Association's 30th Annual Conference
The Changing Climate of Agriculture
OEFFA expects over 700 attendees to their 2009 conference offering nearly 50 workshops as well as locally sourced organic food, kid’s conference, childcare, trade show and Saturday night entertainment! Keynote speakers include Fred Kirschenmann, organic farmer and Leopold Center Fellow and Melinda Hemmelgarn, food sleuth and dietitian. Guest speakers include Jeff Poppen focusing on biodynamics and Marilou Suszko presenting winter cooking demos.
February 26-28, 2009
MOSES Mid-West Organic & Sustainable Education Service's 20th annual Organic Farming Conference
La Crosse, WI
MOSES Conference Link
An extraordinary, farmer-centered event, the Organic Farming Conference is the largest organic farming conference in the U.S. In 2008, more than 2,300 people attended, with participants traveling from 37 states and 1 foreign country. The conference is highly regarded due to its practical workshops designed to help beginning, transitional, and experienced organic farmers with over 60 workshops, food exhibit hall, child care, and entertainment. Keynote speakers include Dr. Vandana Shiva founder of Navdanya an outreach organization helping to protect biodiversity, defend farmers' rights and promote organic farming, and Dr Alan Greene, renowned pediatrician helping to educate consumers on the health benefits of organic foods in cooperation with Horizon Organic.
Stay tuned in our next e-newsletter for more winter farming conferences in the northeast!
Savory Autumn - Katie Lavin
Dark by dinner time, rain turning into snow, naked tree branches, the smell of smoke from wood stoves—it must be fall! For those of us who like to eat locally, we also appreciate the changing of the season through the changing of our diets. The kale that tasted just “alright” in August is now sweet and tender after a few frosts. The Brussels sprouts that have stood their ground in the garden all summer are now marching their way into the kitchen and into the roasting pan. Fresh tomatoes and melons, those summer stars, have handed the microphone over to cauliflower and winter squash. The feeling of abundance continues as sturdy roots and hardy greens nourish us for the cold winter ahead.
Herbed Cauliflower Cheese Soup (5-6 hearty servings)
1 large onion, chopped
1-2 Tbs butter or oil
2-4 cloves of garlic, chopped
2 medium carrots, diced
½ teaspoon celery seed
2 Tbs mixed dried herbs: summer savory, thyme, basil, and/or dill
2-3 medium potatoes, chopped
1 large head of cauliflower (4-5 cups), chopped
1 quart or 28 ounce can of tomatoes
3-4 cups of water
Salt and pepper, to taste
1-2 cups of grated cheddar cheese
¼ cup cream cheese, softened
Milk to thin if desired