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

Join our Community Supported Seeds Program and get 10% off your order!

Community Supported Seed ShareHere at High Mowing Organic Seeds, we strive to build a community of growers by fostering a direct connection with our customers. This commitment led us to an idea: a Community Supported Seed (CSS) program, where our customers – our community – could purchase a “seed share” to be redeemed the following season.

Purchase a seed share, and
we’ll give you 10% off your order for paying for your seeds upfront

We invite you to purchase your “Seed Shares” at a 10% discount through December 31, 2010.

For example, if you purchase $100 worth of seed shares, you will pay only $90.

You can purchase seed shares in any denomination.

By joining our CSS, you help us by investing in our seasonal business at a time when costs are high and sales are low. In return, we reward you by giving you 10% off the amount that you purchase.   Visit our Community Supported Seed Share web page or call (802-472-6174) for more information or to sign up for your “seed share”.  Seed shares are on sale only from November 1 through December 31, 2010 and can be redeemed anytime from Jan. 1st, 2011 until Dec. 31st, 2011.  Please note: your CSS share is only valid through one calendar year after purchase, and is non-transferable. Also, CSS shares cannot be used to purchase Seed Racks.

Greetings From Tom

Tom Stearns Welcome to our November e-newsletter!  We’re please to report that our 2011 catalog is in the mail and you should receive it soon – or perhaps you already have. The 2011 catalog cover features some great new varieties from our own breeding program.  As a farm-based seed company, we have always had the opportunity to improve our varieties through basic selection during seed production.  This is something that sets us apart – our Delicata, Burgess Buttercup , Sugar Baby Watermelon and dozens of others have been selected for 10 years and while they are commonly known varieties, anyone who has grown our strains of them know that they are more uniform, vigorous and of higher quality compared with what is generally available.  In addition, for over five years we have improved our varieties by self-pollinating many of them in order to select the best seed for future planting stock, and done numerous grow-outs separate from our seed production fields to see if we are making progress.  In the same five years, we have begun developing our own varieties of vegetables that have distinctive characteristics and traits that are hard to find in the organic seed market.

Breeding new varieties is something that you will see more of in the future as some of these projects come into fruition and we release them.  In 2010, we released Midnight Lightning Zucchini and King Crimson Pepper – both out of our breeding program.  And in 2011, you will be introduced to three more releases from our breeding program; Nutterbutter Butternut Winter Squash , Bing Cherry Tomato and Jack Straw Pumpkin .  These are all open-pollinated varieties that have improved genetics, disease resistance and most importantly, improved flavor.  And they
show that OP breeding can play a great role in the future of organic seed.  Our 2011 seed catalog cover features all of these varieties and others from our collaborations with the breeding programs at Cornell and the University of  New Hampshire. 
Organic Seeds - Jack Straw Pumpkin
Below in this month’s newsletter, you will find an interview I conducted with Jodi Lew-Smith and, next month, one with Heather Jerrett, who run our breeding and trialing programs respectively.  If you are interested in learning more from the people making it happen, I encourage you to check out the article.

Tom Stearns,
President & Founder

Our 2011 High Mowing Organic Seeds Catalog is out!!

Organic Seed Catalog - 2011Our 2011 catalog is hot off the FSC (Forest Stewardship Council) -certified press!

Almost 80 new varieties for 2011!  If you haven’t received yours by mid-November, then we’re sorry you got missed. 

You can fill out our Catalog Request Form on our website .   And, if you know someone who would enjoy curling up with our catalog – filled with mouth-watering pictures and useful planting information – as we head into the winter months, then please send them this link http://www.highmowingseeds.com/2011-HMS-Organic-Seed-Catalog-Request.html and they can request one of their own! Our catalog will provide fodder for your sweet gardening dreams all winter long.

Storing The Fall Bounty Megen Hill - High Mowing Organic Seeds' Sales Associate

We have all worked hard in our gardens and on our farms, reaping the harvest all season long, from spring greens and peas to main season broccoli and green beans.  We’ve been canning pickles and salsa, freezing beans and corn, and drying herbs so that we can enjoy the flavor of a summer meal while warming up near the woodstove after a long day on the ski slopes (at least this is how I like to spend my winters).  Now we are bringing in the fall crops, which thankfully do not take as much effort to store as all the summer crops, but it is handy to know the optimal conditions for their long-term storage.

There are three main categories for which we can divide crops by for storage:
  • Cool and Dry (Onions & Garlic) ,
  • Cold and Moist (Beets, Carrots, Parsnips, Turnips & Rutabagas) , and
  • Warm and Dry (Pumpkins & Winter Squash) .  

Cool and Dry Storage - (Onions & Garlic)
Storage tips for onions and garlic Cool and Dry storage requires temperatures between 32 and 50 degrees F and 60 – 70 % relative humidity.  Onions and garlic store well under these conditions.  For onions, choose late maturing varieties with thin necks for long-term storage.  Harvest once the tops have drooped over.  Harvest onions on a dry day and allow to cure in the sun for several days.  At this point, trim the tops to about an inch and allow them to continue curing for another two to three weeks in a dry and shady location.  Once cured, they can be stored in mesh bags or another breathable contain er for long-term storage.  Garlic, on the other hand, should be harvested when about 1/2 to 2/3 of the leaves have turned yellow.  Allow to cure in a dry, well-ventilated location for about 10 days.  Trim the roots and tops and store in paper bags.  While garlic prefers an even lower humidity of about 50 %, we store ours along with our onions in our unheated spare bedroom and they last until spring.

Cold and Moist Storage
- (Beets, Carrots, Parsnips, Turnips & Rutabagas)
Cold and Moist storage requires temperatures between 32 and 40 degrees F and 80 to 95 % relative humidity, which can be achieved in a refrigerator or a cold, moist cellar.  Crops stored best under these conditions are beets, carrots, parsnips, turnips, and rutabagas.  They prefer the higher end of the humidity range, between 90 and 95 %.  These crops should be late maturing varieties harvested in the fall, rinsed (but not scrubbed), with their tops trimmed to within a half inch, and once dry they should be stored in plastic bags with small perforated holes.  This helps keep in the moisture while allowing airflow.  Potatoes can also be stored with these same crops, but prefer the humidity levels between 80 and 90 %.  Be sure to wait for harvest until after their tops have died back and dried up, being careful not to bruise during harvest.  They should not be washed or scrubbed, but the soil can be gently brushed from the tubers.   They need to be cured for one to two weeks in a warm (60 – 75 degrees F), moist, and dark location.  Under these conditions, these crops will store for four months or longer.

Warm and Dry Storage
- (Pumpkins & Winter Squash)
Storing Organic Squash Warm and Dry storage requires temperatures between 50-60 degrees and 60 – 75 % relative humidity.  Pumpkins and winter squash store well under these conditions and can be treated similarly, although pumpkins prefer slightly higher humidity.  It is important for long-term storage to wait for harvest until the fruits are fully mature, which can be tricky since the fruit often looks mature before it has fully ripened.  It is safe to harvest once the skins have hardened and cannot be punctured by your fingernail.  Acorn squash will develop an orange spot where the fruit has laid in contact with the ground.  It is very important to harvest before the frost hits as frost damage will shorten their shelf life dramatically.  Harvest leaving the stem intact.  Removing the stem will leave an open wound that is susceptible to spoilage. After harvest, cure at temperatures between 80 – 85 degrees for about two weeks before moving to long-term storage.  Although, acorn squash should not be cured and require lower storage temps of about 45 to 50 degrees F to maintain their good flavor and texture.  Your squash and pumpkins will store best if laid in a single layer about an inch apart rather than in a pile. Attics, spare bedrooms, under the bed, and closets are often with the ideal temperature range.

So, now as the cool weather settles in, you can finally put your feet up knowing that you have stored away your bounty.  Jars are filled, the freezer is packed, the root cellar and spare room are loaded with goodies and you’re just about ready to browse through next season’s seed catalogs and dream about doing it all over again!

A Season’s Conclusions from Our Breeding Program - Jodi Lew-Smith, Director of Research & Development  

The highlights of this season in the breeding plot were easily the sweet corn test cross hybrids, the bi-color butternuts, and then, a big surprise, a particular red cherry line for which every single plant was so incredibly delicious that we decided to harvest the seed and release it as “ Bing Cherry.” We think we just got lucky on this one, as flavor genes typically segregate in unpredictable ways. In this case, though, with every single plant out of fifty having remarkably sweet flavor, we were pretty certain we’d hit on a winning combination. It cracks a little more than I’d like, but if you harvest it thoroughly before a big rain it does fine. And when you taste it compared to every other red cherry on the market, I think you’ll agree that it’s much sweeter.

We had a very nice season for evaluating powdery mildew tolerance on our breeding lines. When I say a “nice season” I mean that it was dry enough that not every single plant got wiped out by powdery at the same time, but that the disease came in well enough that you could distinguish who was more or less resistant to it.  I ended up very pleased with the selections for homozygous (two copies of the resistance genes) powdery resistance in pumpkins, zucchini, and also yellow summer squash. I did a little bit of selection for powdery tolerance in butternuts as well. However butternuts get so much less powdery mildew than the other squashes that it’s not only harder to make the selections, but it seems hardly worthwhile. We’ll see. Overall I had only one butternut line that I was particularly pleased with for shape, size, and early maturity, so I’m hopeful that those selections will test well for brix and dry matter.

Greenhouse Tomato inspectionEarlier in the season I wasn’t very happy with the breeding lines for the greenhouse tomatoes. They were on an edge of the plot that got early blight really early, so they looked really terrible. I made some selections but I wasn’t too pleased with them. Some plants of the same lines had been put in the trials greenhouse, though, for comparison with market hybrids, and when the trials crew did taste tests on them I was pleasantly surprised that one of the lines scored in the top two (in a field of 15 or more varieties) for flavor and texture. This was the motivation I needed to taste all the fruit on this year’s lines in the field. The flavor trait is segregating heavily in these lines, so you really have to taste them carefully to pick out the sweet ones. I did so and was fortunate enough to find a few standouts among the several hundred plants. I combined the flavor selections with the selections for earliness, lack of cracking, and yield to come up with just a couple overall standouts that we’ll grow out again next year. Stay posted.

The last achievement of the season was a good year of building our pool of cucurbit “foundation seed” in the breeding plot. “Foundation seed” is the hand-pollinated, carefully-selected seed that forms the core of our production cycle. Foundation seed is what gets planted – usually in a pollination cage - to do an increase into “stock seed,” which then gets planted to do a full seed production for seed to sell. The work we do on the foundation seed is critical to maintaining the quality of the seed we sell, so we devote a lot of labor to hand-pollinating many plants every year, so we can make the selections that we harvest into just a small amount of top-quality foundation seed. So if you like our strain of a particular squash or pumpkin, this is usually the reason!

Top of Page

Visits to International Organic Seed Companies in Holland - Heather Jerrett, Trials Manager

Everyone knows that Holland is famous for its tulips, but it is less known for being the home to some of the leading vegetable breeding companies in the world. This past September Tom Stearns and I took a trip to visit some of our vendors’ trial fields and to visit growers in nearby areas. The trip took me all over the country; I travelled down rural roads with vast expanses of mixed animal and vegetable production, saw modern windmills whimsically scattered along the flats of agricultural plots, and sat in traffic on major highways with acres of glass houses as far as the eye can see.

Our first visit was Bejo Seeds located in Warmenhuizen, which is in the northwest part of the country. Bejo is the leading worldwide breeder of cold season crops such as cabbage, broccoli and cauliflower as well as carrots and onions. We were part of an all organic conference made up of representatives from all over the world. The conference included presentations on current research and trends, demonstrations from their top researchers on breeding and testing techniques, and a tour of their seed testing and cleaning facilities. We also saw both organic and conventional variety trials, processing equipment, and the beginnings of Bejo’s glass house tomato and pepper trials. It is no doubt that Bejo Seeds is located directly in the middle of cabbage country. During our grower visit we were able to see acres of cabbages, carrots and potatoes, which were the major crops still in the ground, and compare practices, pricing and equipment.

Our next stop was Vitalis Organic Seeds located in Voorst, which is in the central part of the country. Vitalis Seeds is the organic arm of Enza Zaden, which is a global seed producer of mainly lettuce, spinach and warm season varieties of tomatoes, peppers and eggplant. We strolled through the trial grounds looking at easily over 100 varieties of lettuce replicated at different planting dates. It was very interesting to look at many varieties we also grow in our trials and see how they compare grown here. In this area we were able to visit two growers who were each very different from each other. One was a wholesale grower with a very large operation who specialized in efficiency and even designed some interesting equipment (that he let us know he was happy to unload if we were interested!) Pete Johnson from Pete’s Greens in Craftsbury, VT was part of our group and it was very interesting to walk around and discuss specifics of planting, harvesting, processing and packing equipment with the two of them. Our second grower was a more diversified grower. He had a CSA drop off and was part of a farm store cooperative that also provided milk, cheese, meets and retail goods. He was able to discuss some of the finer points of distribution to customers and working within a cooperative farming venture.

My last visit was to Rijk Zwaan’s research and
development offices located in Fijnaart, on the southern boarder of Holland. Rijk Zwaan is a global company specializing in, but not limited to, lettuce, spinach and greenhouse tomatoes and peppers. I was able to walk around with their organic sales representative and see the variety showcase garden where we looked at hundreds of varieties of lettuce and spinach. Again it was interesting to see the same varieties we have in our trials in this location. We drank coffee and ate cake while discussing the fine differences among leading varieties and which varieties are more popular in different areas of the world for various reasons.

As I rode the train back to Amsterdam, I was able to reflect on the past days and all that I had learned and observed. For most of our vendors, the majority of their business is not in organic seed sales, yet there was a strong positive feeling about the future of organics and they were excited to grow in this area. As the organic seed industry is becoming established we hope to see the harmonization of organic certification between the US, Canada and Europe. As of now, most of the organic seed production happening by our vendors in Holland and the rest of Europe is EU certified only. We are working closely with them to have their seed producers have dual EU and NOP certification. Harmonization or dual certification will open the door for a new generation of organic varieties that would be available to NOP certified organic growers with enhanced performance, disease resistance, and unique physical attributes.


Behind the Scenes of the High Mowing Organic Seeds' Vegetable Breeding Work - Interviews with the people who make it happen. Tom Stearns, President & Founder

Behind the scenes of our plant breeding are the two people who direct this work, build relationships with public plant breeders, take detailed notes, and organize taste tests to ultimately bring forth these exciting new varieties.  I thought that you would want to hear from them about how it all works.  Jodi Lew-Smith and Heather Jerrett, have both worked at High Mowing since 2003 and are a large reason for the success of our company and for the high quality varieties that we offer.  I interviewed each of them about their roles in developing our unique varieties.

Interview with Jodi Lew-Smith, HMS Director of Research and Production

When did the HMS breeding program begin and what were its first early steps?

"In 2004 we began with making self pollinations (selfs) and cross pollinations (crosses) between varieties of zucchini and summer squash.  2005 was a quiet year when we moved our farm, but then I continued in 2006 only with zucchini because there was more need in the market and we had better quality in open pollinated (OP) summer squash than we did in zucchini.  Our OP zucchini is what needed improvement.  6 lines of the F2s from the 2004 selfs were grown out in plots of 50 plants each in 2006 and we began to narrow down what we were looking for."

Breeding new vegetable varieties is usually done by much larger companies.  Why is HMS even doing breeding and why is it important?

"Large companies almost exclusively breed hybrids whereas our priority is OP’s because we feel that they can be more suited to organics.  We breed hybrids too but because OP’s have received so little attention we feel that we can make a lot of progress in breeding them.  We breed in an organic system, which no big companies do, and I feel like we are well-suited to identify the gaps in organically available seed.  We also work in crops well-suited for the northeast which is generally too small of a market for any other companies to breed for.  For example, most pumpkins are bred in CA and need a long hot growing season and therefore in the northeast they struggle with rain.   But pumpkins developed here have the traits that growers in this region need."

Describe the process of developing a new variety from the beginning until release.

Evaluating sugar levels in winter squash"It depends on what the starting material looks like.  The first year is to identify commercial material that has the traits that we are looking for.  We mostly identify these through the breeding plot grow-outs as well as in our trials fields.  Then, in years 2-6 we make selfs to fix the traits that we want and do test crosses to see how the lines combine.  Every year we evaluate every line and make a small number of selections.  Summer squash selections are made for yield, architecture, fruit shape, PM (Powdery Mildew) tolerance, spines, and overall success throughout the season.  Winter squash selections are made on early fruit set, fruit shape, size, dry matter, brix (sugar content), and taste. 
The taste testing is done by our trials farm and all of our staff.  As varieties mature, they are included in our variety trials and are compared to market standards.  This helps us decide which varieties to move into production and release.   Seed from the breeding plot then becomes Foundation Seed and is used to produce Stock Seed.  Since this is typically the largest population we have seen, we do final quality checks and select for uniformity and any remaining off types.  Sometimes we have enough seed to release it then, but often there is another year of production first.  The variety is then named and released in the catalog.

I need to be flexible to start new projects but also put old ones away so that you can start news ones with different goals.  Sometimes projects just don’t make enough progress, or our thinking about the market changes.  The whole program needs to be flexible.  You never lose a project if you save the seed and your notes.  I can just set the seed aside, and maybe I’ll pick it back up later and continue."

HMS collaborates with others on some breeding work.  Describe a few partners.

"We’ve collaborated with Cornell to develop King Crimson pepper which we selected out of their breeding lines from crosses between King of the North pepper and some early CMV (Cucumber Mosaic Virus) tolerant lines.  We have worked with UNH as well, to commercialize varieties that they develop, but we are also beginning test crosses with their lines and our lines.  We are making many test crosses with an inbred sweet corn line from UWI to develop new hybrid varieties.  All of these universities are different and have been great to work with.  I visit UHN and Cornell every year and always learn a lot.  I’ve especially learned a lot from Brent Loy at UNH, on breeding for flavor and quality.  He has been a real mentor for me."

Are there overall aims of the High Mowing breeding work or is each project different?

"Flavor is a primary concern for many crops.  Disease resistance is also a key focus.  Commercial traits, like ease of harvest and uniformity are also important.  But flavor is our primary driver.  We are at the point in our young breeding program where we are learning about how flavor as a trait is fixed.  Bing cherry and butternuts are examples." 

Hybrid Sweet Corn Trials What new projects are you excited about?

"I am excited about our hybrid sweet corn projects.  We’ve just completed our second year and we started with really good material from UWI.  We are learning to do evaluations of test crosses, how to collect the data and which traits to focus on.  Corn is such a new crop for our breeding program.  It has an interesting reproductive system and is very different from the fruiting crops and cucurbits that we have mostly been focused on.  We also are seeking grant funds to expand our breeding especially sweet corn."

What interests you so much about plant breeding?

"Breeding is as much about art as it is about science.  Creativity, intuition and instinct all play large roles.  Flashes of inspiration can even play a role.  I love evaluating a large pool of material and picking out the best standouts.  Every year, a project can direct you as much as you direct it."

Next month - an interview with
Heather Jerrett, Trials Manager. 

Katie's Kitchen - Kimchi!   - Katie Lavin, Wholesale Sales Manager

What is kimchi?
Kimchi is a traditional Korean condiment of fermented vegetables.  You can play around with the ingredients, like by adding some turnips, using red cabbage, or using different cuts of vegetables. I experimented last year and found that I liked the recipe offered below the best, cutting slightly larger vegetable pieces than one would get through shredding, like a ¼-1/2 inch thickness on cabbage slices, and 1/8th  inch thick carrot and daikon coins.  When you are about to run out, make another batch, since the ingredients are readily found in the winter.  To get whey, strain plain, whole milk yogurt through cheese cloth or a fine sieve over a small bowl.  The whey is the liquid that drips in the bowl, and the thick yogurt leftover can be used liked cream cheese on some bread or muffins.

What is the process by which kimchi is fermented?
Kimchi is lacto-fermented.  Lactobacilli are beneficial bacteria that are present on organic vegetables and in some dairy products like whey.  In the right environment, they will produce lactic acid, which pickles and preserves the vegetables.  Adding the whey instantly boosts the lactobacilli population, but if you don’t want to use it, the salt helps prevent putrefaction of the vegetables in the first few days until enough lactic acid is produced. 

Why eat kimchi? 
I love to eat a spoonful of kimchi in the winter when I get home from work.  That salty, tangy, crunchy, spicy bite satisfies me enough to avoid eating an accidental dinner of tortilla chips and salsa, and I feel like it helps push back the “winter sickies”. It is a “live” food, and introduces healthful bacteria and enzymes to your digestive system, as well as vitamins and minerals. Your roommates will love to walk into the kitchen and say, “you just ate some kimchi!”

How does one  make kimchi?
Oh, see below! This is a fun food project, especially with a partner-chop, grate, pound, pack!  Also, you really don’t need any special equipment—a large bowl or bucket, an empty wine bottle, some mason jars.

Kimchi (Recipe adapted from Nourishing Traditions by Sally Fallon)

  • 1 head green cabbage, cored and chopped
  • 1-2 onions, chopped
  • 1 cup carrots, shredded or thin coins
  • 1/2 cup daikon radish, grated or thin coins
  • 1 tablespoon freshly grated ginger
  • 3 cloves of garlic, peeled and minced
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried red pepper flakes (or more for more hotness!)
  • 1 tablespoon sea salt
  • 4 tablespoons whey (or, if not available, use an additional 1 tablespoon salt)

Place all ingredients in a large bowl, a clean 5 gallon food-grade plastic bucket, or ceramic crock, and pound with a wooden pounder, meat hammer, or empty wine bottle (my preference, just be careful because it’s glass!) to release juices. This will take at least 10 minutes. You want it to be juicy! Place the mixture in a quart-sized, wide-mouth mason jar and press down firmly with your clean fingers until juices come to the top of the cabbage. The top of the vegetables should be at least 1 inch below the top of the jar. Cover tightly and keep at room temperature for about 3 days before transferring to cold storage (probably your fridge).  This will keep for months. Eat some everyday!

Upcoming Food and Farming Events   

Look for us at the following fall events – stop by our booth to chat; let us know how your season went: which varieties performed well for you, which didn’t do so well; share your suggestions for improvements – we’re always happy to meet our customers!

Tilth Producers Annual Conference

November 12 – 14
Fort Worden State Park, Port Townsend, WA
Come visit us in the tradeshow at booth #22 in Building 204 Upstairs South

Farmer 2 Farmer Conference, hosted by the New Entry Sustainable Farming Project

December 9, 8:30 AM 6:30 PM 
Sturbridge Host Hotel, Sturbridge, Massachusetts

Tom Stearns, founder and president of High Mowing Organic Seeds, will be leading an afternoon workshop on Building Healthy Community Around Healthy Food.

Conference organizers surveyed small-scale beginning farmers to find out what they are looking for now in a conference.  Overwhelmingly, beginning farmers are looking to obtain an insider's view from their peers regarding how to make their businesses successful. What could be better than a conference which addresses your specific needs?

ACRES USA Conference

Dec. 9-11
Indianapolis Marriott Downtown, Indianapolis, Indiana

The Acres U.S.A. Conference is the premier event nationwide for commercial-scale sustainable and organic agriculture. Several hundred eco-minded individuals from around the world gather together to tap the knowledge of some of agriculture’s brightest minds.
Come visit us in the tradeshow at booth #86

Great Lakes Fruit, Vegetable and Farm Market Expo

Dec 7 – 9th, Grand Rapids, MI
Come chat with sales reps Paul Betz and Katie Lavin at booth #1213

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Non GMO Project Verified USDA Organics Vermont Organics Copyright 2016 High Mowing Organic Seeds. All Rights Reserved.
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