Meet Us There! Our Winter Tradeshow and Conference Lineup

Paul, Sara, Nels and KT at Northeast Veg and Berry

Each year our Sales staff travels far and wide to tradeshows and conferences all over North America. The goal of these trips: to forge new relationships with our customers, to strengthen existing ones, and to understand their needs better. These shows are exciting and meaningful for everyone who attends; whether you’re a farmer, gardener, seed company representative or just hoping to acquire some new knowledge or skills, you’ll be sure to learn something valuable.

Most shows include an amazing line-up of workshops and presentations by leaders in the organic food movement, many great freebies, and incredible networking opportunities. PLUS, there are a few more benefits in it for those who visit our booth – we offer discounted, regionally-appropriate seeds at each show, free magnets and other goodies, and this year we’ll be giving away gift certificates to lucky winners (but you have to be at the show to enter!) We hope you’ll come say hello at our upcoming shows near you – here’s the schedule so you can find us in your area:

Mother Earth News Fair – Topeka, KA 10/25-10/26

Growing Power Urban and Small Farms Conference – Milwaukee, MI 11/7-11/9

Eastern Canadian Organic Seed Growers Network – Sainte-Anne-de-Bellevue, Quebec 11/7-11/9

Tilth Producers of Washington – Vancouver, WA 11/7-11/9

Carolina Farm Stewardship Sustainable Agriculture Conference – Greenville, SC 11/10-11/12

Acorn – Halifax, Nova Scotia – 11/12-11/14

Young Farmers Conference – Pocantico Hills, NY – 12/3-12/5

New England Veg and Berry – Manchester, NH 12/15-12/17

Acres – Austin, TX 12/4-12/6

Southern SAWG – Mobile, AL 1/14-1/17

NOFA-Mass – Worcester, MA

Eco-Farm Conference – Pacific Grove, CA 1/21-1/24

NOFA-NY Winter – Saratoga Springs, NY 1/23-1/25

NOFA-NJ Winter Conference – Mount Laurel, NJ 1/24-1/25

Mid-Atlantic Fruit and Veg Conference – Hershey, PA 1/27-1/29

Vermont Farm Show – Essex Jct, VT 1/27-1/29

Guelph Organic Conference – Collingwood, ON 1/31-2/1

PASA – State College, PA 2/4-2/7

Organicology – Portland, OR 2/5-2/7

NOFA-VT – Burlington, VT 2/13-2/15

New Mexico Organic Farming Conference – Albuquerque, NM 2/20-2/21

MOSES – La Crosse, WI 2/26-2/28

Natural Products EXPO WEST – Anaheim, CA ¾-3/8

Organic Growers School – Asheville, NC 3/7-3/8

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Getting Started with Hydroponics

As the weather gets colder, many of us are thinking about moving our food production indoors. Hydroponics is a unique way of growing food indoors year-round, and can be done with completely organic inputs. While not yet approved for use under the National Organic Program, gardeners and growers who aren’t certified may benefit from these techniques. Since we don’t have much experience with hydroponics, we asked long-time customer Fullbloom Hydroponics what they recommend for people interested in getting started.

What is Hydroponics?


Leafy greens NFT hydroponics setup Photo: Ryan Somma

Hydroponics is a type of indoor agriculture. Plants are grown in containers filled with soilless growing media and receive nutrients dissolved in water that they’re irrigated with on a regular schedule. Hydroponics has the unique benefit of being possible year-round in virtually any climate, regardless of light and temperature levels. It has become a popular method of growing commercial crops, particularly lettuce and tomatoes, in Northern climates during the winter. It can also be almost completely automated, so that very little maintenance is required to produce bountiful fresh produce all year round.  The first thing to learn about hydroponics is which plant varieties are best suited to a soilless growing system.

Plants Suited to Indoor Hydroponic Growing Systems


Herbs growing in an NFT system with continuous shallow stream of water Photo: Ryan Somma

Most hydroponic setups are indoors or in greenhouses so it is good to stick with plants that like warm temperatures and high humidity levels. Cucumbers, tomatoes, beans, and most types of peppers are a perfect choice to start with. Try varieties like the Silver Slicer

Cucumber, Bronco Bush Bean, Gold Nugget Cherry Tomato, or Shishito Japanese Pepper. They are a nice treat because they aren’t readily available at your local supermarket, plus they are very reliable, productive plants.

Leafy greens and herbs also tend to do extremely well in hydroponic systems. They grow very quickly and don’t take up too much room in your growing area. Try out Rainbow Chard, Red Oak Leaf Lettuce, and Rosie Basil for some interesting varieties that will add a splash of color to your plate.

Easy Setups for Getting Started with Hydroponics


Small homemade deepwater culture (DWC) setup Photo: Ted Major

There are a number of basic hydroponic systems that are easy to set up and perfect for beginners. Drip systems are easy to control and cheap to make. All you need is a growing medium that doesn’t hold too much moisture, a water pump, and some drip irrigation emitters. Another good choice for beginners is a Nutrient Film Technique (NFT) system. A NFT system basically consists of a small gutter which has a shallow, continuous stream of nutrient-rich water flowing past the roots. An ebb and flow system is similar to an NFT, the main difference being that ebb and flow setups are flooded with water a few times a day and then drained. Whatever system you use, you will need some kind of reservoir to hold the water that passes through these systems.

Organic Growing Mediums for Hydroponics

Many growers are committed to producing organic, environmentally-friendly produce. If you are looking to keep your hydroponics setup completely organic, you have a number of great growing mediums to choose from.

Coconut Coir and Coconut Chips


Compressed coconut fiber growing medium Photo: hydroponics.com

Coconut is a fantastic choice for organic hydroponic growers. It is completely pH-neutral, which is important as growing mediums that change pH levels can affect how well your plants absorb nutrients. It also has a great water-to-air ratio which means you won’t have to worry about overwatering and drowning your roots.

Sand

Sand is an often-overlooked organic growing medium that produces great results. It holds minimal amounts of water so it is often mixed with other mediums in systems where there is not a constant flow of water.

Rice Hulls and Wood Chips

Rice hulls and wood chips are two of the most environmentally friendly organic growing mediums, but have very different properties. Rice hulls are great because they provide good drainage and are a product that would normally be thrown away. Wood chips store a high level of water so they are good for hydroponic systems that don’t have a steady stream of water, such as ebb and flow setups.

Benefits and Challenges of Hydroponic Growing


Commercial-scale production of basil and cucurbits with deepwater culture hydroponics (DWC)

There are a number of benefits to using hydroponic systems for growing your fruits and vegetables. They are highly productive, which means you can grow fewer plants but still get higher yields. Due to the nutrient-rich nature of hydroponic systems, plants are able to devote more energy to producing food as opposed to searching for nutrients.

One thing that is important to keep in mind is that plants in a hydroponic system are usually grown in very clean conditions. Particularly if you are only growing one crop, any pests accidentally introduced into your growing area can take over quickly in the warm, predator-free environment. But as long as you are diligent in cleaning what you bring into your growing area, pest infestations will be much less common than outdoors. Depending on your situation, hydroponics may offer a growing system that is more efficient, more practical, and more easily-controlled than outdoor growing.

For more information about hydroponic systems, visit www.fullbloomhydroponics.com

 

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Garlic Keeper Giveaway!


With garlic-planting season in full force, we thought we’d add a little fun by offering a giveaway. 

We’re very excited to partner with local potter Abby Tonks of Abby T Pottery in Randolph, Vermont, who is as big a fan of our seeds as we are of her pottery. Her signature pieces are these lovely “Little Birdie Garlic Keepers.” Depending on how you look at it, you’ll see a little bird or a garlic clove or both!

This porcelain garlic jar, glazed in robins egg blue, was hand-thrown with great attention to detail. It is large enough to hold 5-6 heads of garlic and will keep them fresh for weeks! This piece features a carefully hand perforated design and a little white bird forever perched atop the lid to keep you in good company.

It’s easy to enter! Just click “login” to create a Rafflecopter account if you don’t have a Facebook account. Then follow the instructions to enter for more chances to win.

Contest starts Thursday, September 18 and ends Thursday, September 25 at midnight EST.

Good luck, have fun and be sure to order your garlic for fall planting now – we run out every year!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

NOTE: Rafflecopter is the easiest way for us to manage contests and give people more opportunities to win and share the contest.

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How to Plant (and Order) Garlic

It’s hard to believe, but it’s that time already – time to start thinking about ordering and planting garlic! Here are some instructions for planting garlic and how to order the right amount. Already know what you need? Click here to see our varieties.

Garlic is best planted in the fall for a spring crop. It can be planted in spring, but this will result in lower yields and is not recommended, as cloves that have not been exposed to temperatures below 65 degrees may not form bulbs. Garlic is very cold-hardy and starts growing again early in the spring after planting. Hardneck garlics produce flower stalks called scapes in early summer. The scapes should be cut to encourage larger bulb development and are also a popular food and marketable product. Garlic bulbs are then ready to dig and cure around mid to late summer, after the lower leaves have dried down.

The best time to plant garlic depends on where you live – but generally it should be planted between the end of October and end of November, after the first frost but before the ground freezes. Our garlic ships between October 6th and 15th, and sells out every year – so if you’re thinking about planting garlic this fall, now is the time to order. Whether you’re a Music lover or a Spanish lover, don’t get your heart broken when they sell out!

How to Plant

Garlic prefers soft, loamy soil with good fertility and likes to be covered with a thick mulch. A thick layer of straw mulch laid down after planting helps prevent the garlic from “heaving” out of the soil when the ground freezes, and will also help keep down spring weeds.

Separate bulbs into individual cloves right before planting, being careful not to break off the basal scar, which protects the bulbs from rotting. Plant each clove with the basal root end down, and pointed tip up. Larger cloves will produce larger bulbs with fewer cloves, while smaller cloves will produce heads with more small cloves. Small cloves, especially those found on softneck bulbs, can be sown in the fall at a close planting density for garlic greens.

For most hardneck and softneck varieties individual cloves should be planted 2″ deep (if mulching) or 3-4″ deep (if not using mulch), with the cloves 6″ apart in rows 18″ apart. Elephant garlic requires a wider spacing of 8-12″.

How Much Do You Need?

The amount of space that can be planted from a bag of garlic depends mainly on how many cloves are in each head for that variety.

Softnecks weigh about 2.25oz/bulb, so you get about 50 seed cloves/lb with roughly 7-10 seed cloves/bulb. For a 10 foot bed with 3 rows in it, you would need 60 cloves or a little over 1lb. That translates to about 60,000 cloves/acre (~1,200lb/acre) using 6” bulb spacing and 18” row spacing.

Hardnecks weigh about 2oz/bulb so there are about 40 seed cloves/lb with 4-7 seed cloves/bulb. Since hardnecks and softnecks use the same spacing, the number you need is the same – about 60,000 cloves/acre using 6” bulb spacing and 18” row spacing. However the weight of garlic you need will be different, about 1.5 lbs for a 10 foot bed or 1,500 lbs/acre.

Happy planting!

Click here to see our varieties.

 

 

 

 

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Got Veggies? Lacto-Ferment Dilly Beans and more for Healthy Winter Meals

I don’t know about the rest of the country, but in Vermont everybody makes “dilly beans”, vinegar-pickled string beans with garlic and dill.  When I first heard about dilly beans after moving to VT in 1999, in order to immerse myself in the culture of my new home, I immediately began canning this old time tradition, lining my pantry shelves. Recently, though, rather than canning all my preserves, I have begun lacto-fermenting all of my favorites, starting with dilly beans.  I have yet to convince the true Vermonter that my creation is better than theirs, but my recipe has won the hearts of just about everyone who has tried them, including my four year old daughter, who eats them like they’re going out of style.

What is Lacto Fermentation?

Lacto-fermentation predates canning as the original way of pickling produce.  While the scientific explanation followed later, it was discovered that foods could be preserved by this method for long periods of time without freezers or pressure canners by way of lactobacilli, a “good” type of bacteria that converts sugars and starches into lactic acid, and inhibits the growth of putrefying bacteria. In the process, it actually increases the health benefits of these foods over time by boosting the levels of vitamins, enhancing digestibility, and promoting heathy gut flora. Not only are lacto-fermented foods better for your health, but the process is also much simpler and quicker than canning. By just adding a little salt, you can turn your fresh summer veggies into healthy winter food with a tangy kick. Many different crops can be lacto-fermented with great results. Good examples are kimchi and sauerkraut, ginger carrots, and many more.

Before you get started…

I do all my ferments in small batches like pint, quart, and half-gallon mason jars with plastic storage lids, which you can get most places that sell the canning jars.  These lids do not interfere with the fermentation process and are not airtight so they allow the escape of gasses created in the process of fermentation. And unlike the canning process, the jars do not need to be sterilized, only cleaned well.

Aside from the ingredients in my ferments, I also use something to weight down the veggies under the brine.  The veggies need to remain submerged in the brine because exposure to oxygen will cause them to spoil.  Some people use a boiled rock or glass weight, but I like to use a large leaves like horseradish (my preferred leaf), oak leaves, or grape leaves, which are all high in tannins, helping to preserve the turgor and crunch of the veggies in the ferment.  Since these may be hard to find, a large cabbage leaf will do just fine.

What You’ll Need

Aside from the jars, lids, and weights, you will need to collect your ingredients.  This suggested ingredient list is to make one quart size jar of fermented beans, with options for the many variations I have tried and loved:

  • Green or yellow beans with stem ends trimmed, enough to stuff into a quart sized jar standing straight up and down  (my favorites are Provider and Gold Rush)
  • 1 or 2 large garlic cloves, cut in half
  • 2 or 3 large sprigs of dill weed
  • 1 or 2 dill flower heads
  • 1 TBSP of sea salt
  • 4 TBSP of whey (if you do not have whey, you can double the salt)
  • Spring water

I have tried using other fresh herbs in place of dill, my favorite being fresh thyme, two large sprigs per jar.  I also love to spice them up with hot peppers like chili peppers, habaneros, or Thai hots.  And while the traditional dilly beans are made with green beans, I have found my preference to be yellow beans because they maintain their crisp the best.  I have also tried purple beans too hoping they would retain their color, but have found that, despite being raw, they turn a dark green color after some time fermenting.

The Process

Pack your jar with trimmed beans, garlic, herbs, and optional hot peppers.  Top with salt and whey and fill with spring water, leaving 1 ¼ inch of head room.  Fold your large leaf that you chose for your weight to be just larger than the mouth of the jar and stuff it into the brine using it to hold down the other ingredients.  Tightly close the plastic storage lid on the jar and allow to sit and ferment at room temperature for approximately 4 days.  70 degrees is ideal, so if it is cooler, ferment longer and vice versa.  After fermenting, place into cold storage (a root cellar, the refrigerator, a cool closet or under the bed in a cool room…you will have to be creative if you don’t have space in the frig). Below 50 degrees and above freezing is ideal – if stored properly your beans will be good for at least nine months if not longer.  When you are ready to eat your ferment, remove the leaf weight, but keep any unused portion submerged in the brine and stored in the refrigerator.  Enjoy!

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Emerging Agritourism: Farm to Fork Dinners at Sandiwood Farm

Twenty-five years ago, the land that would become Sandiwood Farm in Wolcott, VT wasn’t much more than a barren field. But that didn’t stop Sara and Bob Schlosser from putting down roots and starting a life there. The two married in that field, and in the years that followed, they built a house, a family, and a farm, all the while transforming it into a beautiful, thriving landscape. In their quarter-century of farming, Sara and Bob have refined their growing techniques to be able to offer some the earliest vegetables available in Northern Vermont—zucchini and cucumbers the first weeks of June, and potatoes just before July!—and have developed strong relationships with area chefs who serve Sandiwood produce all around the Stowe and Morrisville area. They also sell directly to customers at the Stowe Farmers Market, and at their own farm stand in Wolcott.

From left: Kyle, Sara, Bob, and Sandi Schlosser

In 2012, after many years of planning and dreaming, Sara and Bob decided to add agritourism to their list of farm enterprises, and hosted their first Farm to Fork Dinner. Their daughter Sandi, a New England Culinary Institute trained chef, helped develop the idea. The farm produces almost all of the food served at the dinner, while Sandi creates the menu and runs the kitchen. Their son Kyle (whose middle name Woodrow is the second reason for the name “Sandiwood”) is also involved in the dinners, helping prepare and serve the food, and acting as the event photographer. The dinners have taken off since 2012, and the 2014 season will see one dinner each month through October.

I had the chance to stop by Sandiwood Farm and see the dinner prep in action for their season kick-off Solstice dinner. As always, Sara was brimming with excitement, welcoming me and showing me around the farm while Bob greeted early arrivers and Sandi and Kyle prepped with a small crew in the kitchen. There was not a weed to be found in the gardens that surround the house, and Sara joked that everywhere she walks she has the chance to weed. It’s hard not to be drawn in by Sara’s genuine love for farm and family, which is surely one aspect that keeps many diners coming back for meal after meal.

As agritourism is growing in popularity around Vermont, I asked Sara for her thoughts on it.

Katie Spring: How long have you been farming?  Can you give a quick background on your farm—what you grow, where you sell, etc.

Sara Schlosser: We’ve been farming for 32 years. We grow a diverse array of produce, pushing the early season boundaries by having zucchini and cucumbers to sell by early June and beans and peas mid June. This year potatoes will be ready from a high tunnel by the end of June. We also produce maple syrup from our 35-acre sugarbush and sell it through mail order on our website. We’ve been fixtures at the Stowe Farmers Market for 20 years as, and also sell to high-end restaurant chefs.  In the 1990s we had a 35-member CSA for 10 years before it was popular in the area. We’ve taken many twists and turns over the past 26 years but have stayed committed to growing food for ourselves and the surrounding community. More recently we’ve been focusing on sugaring and farm tours, and the Farm to Fork Dinners in the field!

KS: What does agritourism mean to you?

SS: Having guests to the farm to connect to where their food is raised and grown. Giving a wonderful, memorable, and educational experience and, in our case, an incredible localvore sunset meal in the field. We are blessed to be stewards of an amazing piece of land with incredible views, and we want to share what we love and what we are doing.

KS: What drew you to agritourism and wanting to share your farm with others?

SS: It’s natural to share what we are so blessed with—this land and the farm—and we’re proud of our accomplishments. We also want to share what we’ve learned about crops and varieties, season extension, and what is possible to grow in this climate without a heated greenhouse.

KS: Did you offer agritourism events or have other ways of inviting the public to your farm before you began the Farm to Fork Dinners? 

SS: We’ve always welcomed people to our farm for sugaring and educational tours, and we have a plant sale from the farm for 6 weeks in the spring and early summer. We launched our first Farm to Fork Sunset Dinner and farm tour in 2012 and sat 20 people. We had no idea this type of dining experience would be so popular—we now seat 60 and could expand if we build a more permanent structure or pavilion. We are excited to have guests to our farm to connect to where the food is grown. We’ve had to find our niche with our farm dinners and make a truly unique experience different from other farm meals.

KS: You developed the Farm to Fork dinners with your daughter, a NECI-trained chef. What was the seed of this idea?  How has this partnership evolved over the years?

Chef Sandi, at right, prepping with her team

SS: Our now-grown children were born and raised on the farm, and helped build our farm and business. Sandi found her true passion early on, always going to the gardens to harvest and prepare food from the time she could walk. Sandi has always loved to cook. It’s no wonder she went on to the New England Culinary Institute to get her chef degree! Collaborating on the Farm to Fork Dinners was a no-brainer with our incredible views, the farm, and Sandi’s passion to cook. I’m also a Justice of the Peace, and the family is excited to branch more into weddings and other special events on the farm with catering/grower/venue/family collaboration. Our son, Kyle, is entering his senior year at UVM and is a Parks, Recreation and Tourism major. Kyle is an integral part in making the farm dinners happen, from grounds and maintenance, kitchen help, and serving. We couldn’t do all that we do if our whole family wasn’t involved.

KS: What keeps you farming year after year?

Chef Sandi’s Fried Green Tomatoes with Micro Arugula

SS: It’s what I’ve been doing for so long—it’s hard to change!  I will always grow food for the local community and ourselves.

KS: What’s your favorite aspect of the Farm to Fork dinners?

SS: Seeing so many people truly enjoying the experience, raving about the food, venue, and what our family is doing together. It is so much more than a meal in a field. It is community building.

KS: Do you have any advice or encouragement for other farmers interested in agritourism?

SS: There are so many details—parking, rest rooms, insurance, handicap accessibility—and all the little things that need to be done in a timely way to give folks the best experience. It’s a lot to think about and prepare for. Just like agriculture, with all the certifications and insurances, it’s hard to stay small and really be sustainable. For us, we’d have to do a lot more dinners or branch out further with other agritourism options on our farm, but at this time we are maxed out with the mix of farmers market, chef sales, and on-farm dinner events. We are only in our third year of the dinners, though, and just like agriculture, it can take a little bit to get on your feet. The community experience and family venture keeps us going, and we are excited at how the dinners are growing!

KS: Any advice for eaters seeking out a farm experience?

SS: Do it!

***

One of the best things about agritourism is that it allows you to have a unique experience in your own backyard. Historically farms have not been a public space, but more and more farmers across Vermont and the US are opening their land up and inviting eaters to dig in. Whether you are driving to a local farm or visiting farms on a vacation, agritourism allows you to get to know a place on a deeper, and certainly more delicious, level. To learn more about Sandiwood Farm or to sign up for a Farm to Fork Sunset Dinner, visit www.sandiwoodfarm.com

 

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Local Food, Music, Workshops, & More at High Mowing Field Day

Join us this Sunday, August 24th for the annual High Mowing Field Day, our fun-filled open house marking the height of the growing season! Learn something new at our workshops, tour the beautiful Trials & Showcase fields, satisfy your soul with a delicious Local Food Showcase meal prepared in the field by New England Culinary Institute chefs, then dance the night away with live music and a bonfire!

Best of all, all events are FREE!

Be sure to check out all the other great events going on this weekend as part of Kingdom Farm & Food Days, a celebration of local farms and producers of Vermont’s Northeast Kingdom. KFF is presented by High Mowing Organic Seeds, Sterling College, Pete’s Greens, and the Center for an Agricultural Economy. Read on for more details…

High Mowing Field Days Schedule – Sunday, August 24th, 2014

All tours and workshops start at the Welcome tent.

1:00-1:50pm

  • Field Tour with Taylor

Workshops:

  • Pollinators, What’s All the Buzz About? with Stephen Purdy. This workshop will take a look at pollinator identification, habitat, and life cycle with a focus on their role in organic seed production. We will walk through wildflower patches and production fields discussing the challenges that pollinators face, then build some nesting sites to take home.
  • Introduction to Vegetable Fermentation with Holly Simpson. In this workshop we will cover all the basics of successful home fermentation.

2:00-2:50pm

  • Field Tour with Jacob
  • Seed Saving & Production Tour with Tom Stearns. In this workshop we will walk around the Trials and nearby seed production fields discussing techniques and issues related to saving your own seeds on both a garden and farm scale. Most varieties of vegetables as well as some herbs and flowers will be covered.

3:00-3:50pm

Workshops:

  • GMO OMG: Understanding Genetic Modification and Why It Matters with Sophia Bielenberg. In this workshop we will discuss many aspects of genetic modification. We will talk about transgenic and cisgenic genetic engineering, what they are, and why the USDA allows one in organics but not the other. We’ll also cover High Mowing’s stance on varieties derived from the popular artificial CMS technique, the recent study of nutritional differences between conventional and organic foods, and what’s on the horizon for Vermont since passing the GMO-labeling law. We’ll save time at the end for Q&A.
  • Putting Cover Crops to Work: Better Soils for Better Crops with Jacob Keszey. Join us to learn about the broad impact cover crops can have in improving the life of your soil. We’ll discuss how using cover crops effectively can improve soil conditions by increasing organic matter, fixing nitrogen, reducing soil compaction, suppressing weed growth, preventing excessive water loss, and limiting erosion of fallow ground.

4:30pm: Local Food Showcase Meal prepared in the field by New England Culinary Institute Chefs!

5:30-8:30pm: Live Music with Granite Junction and a bonfire!

Getting There

High Mowing Field Day takes place at the High Mowing Trials & Showcase Field on Marsh Road, Wolcott, VT (NOT at our warehouse at 76 Quarry Rd!)

Directions To Trial & Showcase Gardens

From Morrisville and Points West:
Drive East on Route 15 through the town Wolcott. Continue on 15 past Fischer Covered Bridge on your right and High Mowing Organic Seeds’ warehouse on your left. Turn left on Marsh Road. Follow Marsh Road uphill continuing to bear left wherever the road forks. When the road stops going uphill, continue past the Steve Hill farm on your right until you see the VT Land Trust sign on the left. High Mowing Organic Seeds Trials & Showcase Garden is the next driveway on your left. (Google Map)

From Hardwick and Points East:
Drive West on Route 15. Turn right on Marsh Rd. Follow Marsh road uphill, continuing to bear left wherever the road forks. When the road stops going uphill, continue past the Steve Hill farm on your right until you see the VT Land Trust sign on the left. High Mowing Organic Seeds Trials & Showcase Garden is the next driveway on your left. (Google Map)

We hope to see you at Kingdom Farm and Food Days this weekend – and join the fun on Facebook!

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Win a Winter Garden Collection from High Mowing Organic Seeds!

Sometimes in the midst of the summer farm and garden abundance, it’s hard to remember to plan ahead for the fall and winter months. A little planning now can help you make that abundance last long into the winter–so we’re having a contest to tell us what fall and winter crops you’re growing this year!

Lately many people have been using the website Pinterest to organize their garden ideas and wishes. We think this is an excellent idea as it provides a great visual representation of what you’d like to grow. The boards people create are beautiful to look at and fun to use.

We would love to see what YOUR dream fall/winter garden looks like. We’re inviting you to create your dream fall garden by “pinning” varieties you’d like to grow onto a board, then sending us the link to your board. We’ll randomly choose three winning boards, and the owners of the winning boards will receive a Winter Garden Collection of seeds to help make those garden dreams come true!

Check out our past winter growing articles to get some ideas for your board!

The rules are simple:

  • Create your own board called “Winter Garden from High Mowing Organic Seeds“. Pin vegetable varieties you’d like to grow this fall/winter. You can pin varieties from our High Mowing Organic Seeds website or any other site.
  • Come back to this post and leave us your Pinterest “Winter Garden” Board URL in the comments section below. Make sure to use your real e-mail so we can contact you if you win!

Enter by 4pm, Friday, September 5th 2014 for your chance to win the Winter Garden Collection! The winner will be announced on Monday, September 8th.

Contest closes at 4pm (EST) on September 5th, 2014.  The fine print: High Mowing Organic Seeds is giving away 3 Winter Garden Collections (a $13.75 value) to three lucky winners! The contest runs from 8/14/14 through 4pm (EST) 9/5/14. The winner will be selected using random.org. The winner will be notified via e-mail, so please ensure that your e-mail is accurate. Winners must respond to the winner announcement email within 96 hours to claim their prizes. If the winner fails to respond within that time, High Mowing Organic Seeds will select another winner through random.org and will send out another e-mail to the next winner.

 

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Easy Seed Saving for Everyone

In the northern reaches of the country we are just starting to see the first ripe tomatoes rolling in. Very soon there will be not only red but purple, yellow, orange, green, striped, white, long, fuzzy, and flattened tomatoes ready – a cornucopia of colors, textures, and flavors to delight the senses. Why not carry a bit of that abundance forward?

Believe it or not, there are several crops that make seed saving easy as pie—and tomatoes are one of them! We’ll also talk about peppers, peas, and beans, and how to Cross Your Own Hybrid. The even better news is that you don’t need to sacrifice your whole crop to save seeds—just a few fruits will do. After all, producing seeds is the end goal for most of these plants….we just happen to like eating what grows around them. Here are some easy seed saving techniques perfect for kids’ activities and adults alike.

For Ages 2+: Peppers are one of the easiest crops to save seeds from for two reasons:

they are mainly self-pollinated annuals, and the seeds are ripe when the pepper is ripe. That means you get to have your cake (the seeds) and eat it (the pepper) too! About 20% of them are pollinated by insects, however, so you need to be ok with a few surprises in the mix. If different varieties are isolated from each other by 200-300 feet, you may be able to get completely “true” seed just like the parent variety; however this is probably not practical for most people. That being said, peppers are even easier than tomatoes to save! Here are the steps:

  1. Harvest your favorite kind of ripe pepper (that means if it’s a red pepper, harvest it red, not green)
  2. Cut the pepper in half and use your hands to gently brush the seeds onto a plate or cloth. If need be use a 1/8” screen or colander to remove any detritus. Pat seeds dry with a paper towel.
  3. Store the seeds in a cool, dry place for up to 3 years.


    Tom Stearns mashing tomatoes to extract the seeds

For Ages 3+: Tomatoes are nearly as easy as peppers—they are self-pollinated annuals, and the seeds are ripe when the tomato is ripe. Many vegetable crops are insect-pollinated (like squash) or wind-pollinated (like corn). But tomatoes can pollinate themselves because they have perfect flowers  (with both male and female parts). So that means that they should nearly always “come true”, or make plants just like the parent plant, and it also means two different kinds can be side-by-side and not cross-pollinate each other. Here’s how you save the seeds:

  1. Harvest your favorite kind of ripe tomato(es).
  2. Using a spoon or your hands, squeeze the seeds and juice into a jar and add about the same amount of water as tomato juice. (Use the leftover tomato flesh to make sauce!)
  3. With the jar open, allow the tomato seed-juice-water mixture to ferment in a warm place for 3-5 days, stirring each day, until the seeds sink to the bottom of the jar.
  4. Rinse the seeds thoroughly with water (a 1/8” screen or colander may help) and let them dry on a paper plate or dish cloth. Once fully dry, the seeds can be stored in a cool dry place, such as in a container in the refrigerator, for 4-10 years.

For Ages 5+: Peas and Beans can be pollinated by insects, but it’s very rare. These have perfect flowers too—in fact, the flower is usually pollinated before it even opens. One thing to consider is that mature plants will produce more viable seed with wider spacing—so consider this if you’re planning to grow peas or beans for saving next year.


Erin winnowing seeds at High Mowing

  1. Harvest all the peas and beans you want when ripe, then leave some on the plant to mature seeds. For peas this is about 4 weeks after they stop producing edible peas; for beans it takes about 6 weeks after your last harvest. The pods should be completely dry when it’s time to harvest the seeds.
  2. If rain or frost threatens while your pods are drying down, dig up the entire plant and hang upside down by the roots in a cool, dark place (such as a garage or basement) until pods are completely dry and papery – the beans should be hard enough that your fingernail doesn’t leave a mark.
  3. For smaller quantities, you can shell the pods by hand, but for larger quantities you will probably want to thresh the plants. This means laying out a tarp and jumping on the pods until they open. Who needs a trampoline when you can thresh!
  4. Remove any remaining chaff (plant residue) by winnowing with a box fan – set up a fan on a chair blowing over a bin next to it, then pour your seeds into the bin. The fan will blow away any lighter chaff but not the heavier seeds. Store the seeds in a cool, dry place for up to 4 years.


    Squash blossoms identified for pollination at High Mowing

Ages 8+: Cross Your Own Hybrid using two related varieties of the same species that have qualities you like, such as the Powdery Mildew-resistant Success PM Straightneck summer squash and the adorable round Ronde de Nice summer squash. Making a hybrid is a bit more complicated than simply saving seeds, but you might just invent something great that no one’s ever seen before. To make a hybrid, you’ll need:

  • A few plants of each squash variety
  • Some twist ties
  • A few surveyor’s flags or neon-colored ribbon
  • A permanent marker

Each squash plant has some male flowers and some female flowers. You can tell which flowers are female because they have a bulge at the base of the flower where the squash will form. The female flowers will only accept pollen the first morning they are open. This means you need to have them properly identified when they’re still closed, the night before they’re going to open. They should be bright orange and very full. Here’s how it’s done:

  1. Go to your squash plants the evening before you plan to make your hybrid. Use the surveyor flags or tape to clearly mark the flowers of each variety you plan to use so you can find them easily the next day. For example, let’s say to mark the female flowers of the Success PM plant and the male flowers of the Ronde de Nice.
  2. Locate the male and female flower(s) that will open the next morning. Use the twist ties to tie the flowers closed so that they can’t open by themselves.


    Hand pollinating squash blossoms at High Mowing

  3. Return early the next morning and harvest a few twist-tied male flowers from the Ronde de Nice plant. Take the male flowers over to the females and untie all the twist-ties. Remove the pollen-coated stamen from the male flower and use it to brush pollen onto the stigma inside the female flower. Then twist-tie the female flower closed again so no other pollen gets in.
  4. Mark the stems with pollinated female flowers with flags or tape, noting the date and varieties used with permanent marker.
  5. Allow the fruit to ripen and grow far beyond the edible stage. Harvest once the outer shell hardens, then allow to cure 3-4 more weeks in a warm, dry place. After curing, cut open the squash, scoop out the seed, rinse it in warm water, and pat dry with a paper towel. Allow the seed to dry completely on a cookie sheet. Store seeds in a cool, dry location.
  6. Next year, plant out your test crosses and see what happens!

Check out our Hand Pollinating Squash video for visual instructions, and find growing and seed saving information for every crop type on our website.

Posted in Kids and Gardening, Seed Saving and Production, Uncategorized | 3 Comments

The Benefits of Hillside Farming

Katie Spring owns and operates Good Heart Farmstead with her husband Edge Fuentes in Worcester, VT.

Prime agricultural soils are often found in flood-plain, where the land is nutrient-rich and fertile. Hillsides, in contrast, can bring a range of challenges for the farmer: nutrient-poor soil, erosion, and nutrient run-off to name a few. But as we experience more extreme weather in the Northeast and all over the country, hillsides can offer some unique solutions to environmental pressures.

Hillsides: The Underutilized Resource

As young beginning farmers, we didn’t expect to buy land with the perfect agricultural soils, and we knew early on that we’d spend years building soil and increasing organic matter in our fields. We had met on a hillside farm in Alaska that grew 3 acres of veggies on terraced land, and so we were excited to find land with a slope and to integrate some of the practices we had learned at Calypso Farm.

Though it requires more work to establish cropland on a hillside, the benefits, from flood protection and gravity-fed irrigation to the increased solar gain on south and south-western slopes, make the work worth it. The solar gain difference is particularly significant—according to Eliot Coleman’s book The New Organic Grower, “Land in the northern hemisphere at a latitude of 43 degrees with a slope angle of 5% to the south with have the same solar climate as the area 300 miles to the south of it.”

Watch & Learn


Preparing Beds with a Broadfork at GHF

Before tilling up an acre for crops, we watched the land through a spring and summer. We took into account where the natural high and low points are, where the water naturally flows and, judging by the types of plant species growing, where the nutrients seemed to be the highest (which coincided with the water flowed). We chose a central spot high on our field that had a small crest in the center that falls away to the south, out of the way of the water flow. Our land has a gentle enough slope to avoid leveling and building terraces; instead, after tilling, we used broadforks and a pick to make raised beds that follow the contour of the land. Rather than tilling the entire field each year, we will have permanent beds and use a low-till system to encourage the build up of soil life.

Gravity-Fed Irrigation & Drainage

Our first season started off with a hot and dry May followed by a cool, rainy
June. In May, we set up a 250-gallon water tank at the top of our field and used the brook above to gravity-fill it. We then set up drip tape and gravity-fed water through the garden. We’d fill the tank as we irrigated to keep the water supply going, and this system kept the plants happy until June came and we no longer needed it.

In the drenching rain day after day, the raised beds held their shape as the broadforked soil was able to absorb much of the water, while excess water ran off our crops into the field. Thanks to our slope, we were able to continue transplanting and harvesting when fields in the lowlands were bogged down with water. During this time, we diverted the water in the holding tank from the garden and used it instead to bring water to our livestock in the pasture below.


Ditches at GHF

Hillside Challenges & Mitigation

Of course, we had our challenges, too. Even though the garden drained well, there were still days too wet to work in it, and parts of our pasture were flowing with water, forcing us to keep our sheep out of those areas which also happened to have some of the nicest grass. A little ditching helped relieve the problem somewhat, but keyline plowing or a series of irrigation ponds may offer a more permanent solution.

It is important to note that the techniques you should use depend greatly on the subsoil characteristics and annual rainfall in your area. In Papua New Guinea, for example, where hillsides up to 45 degrees are farmed and rainfall can exceed 150 inches a year, down-slope oriented beds are actually preferable. This is because the clay subsoil does not erode easily, and the water is able to drain away. If cross-slope beds were used, the clay-lined beds would hold huge pools of water, which would eventually overflow, carrying the whole bed down with it.

In drier regions, it is usually  preferable to site beds across the slope on the contour. A subsoil keyline plough, which does not invert the soil but creates channels through it, is an excellent tool for encouraging water to move across the land and soak into it rather than flowing downhill.

Let the Land Work for You

Even with our challenges, the slope of our land more often offers advantages. In heavy rains we are protected from floods, in dry times we can use gravity to our advantage in irrigation, when frost settles in the valley come fall we can stretch out an extra week or so before the frost makes its way uphill, and the Southwest orientation magnifies the sun’s effect, warming our fields from spring through fall. And let’s not forget the many cultures and people who have farmed on hillsides long before us—from Asia to South America, hillside farming has been utilized for centuries as an effective method of farming on seemingly unlikely farmland.

For more information check out the NRCS Guide to Contour Farming and The Challenge of Landscape, the seminal work by PA Yeomans, inventor of Keyline farming.

Posted in Uncategorized | 2 Comments