GIVEAWAY! A Treat for Mother’s Day

Without mothers, not one of us would be here.

For the thousands of cuddles, reluctant wake-up calls, shoulders to lean on, patient driving lessons and coaxed garden chores, we want to say THANK YOU to moms – because we wouldn’t be who we are without you.

One lucky mom will win:

  • a beautiful harvest basket handmade in Vermont by Blue Frog Basketry
  • our favorite garden gloves and snip-style pruners and
  • a $25 gift certificate for seeds of her choice

If you’re a mom, enter our giveaway! And if you’re not – we bet you know one (you can enter and have it sent to a mom of your choice in time for Mother’s Day if you win).

HOW TO ENTER
It’s easy! Just click “login” below 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 Friday, April 17th and ends Friday, April 24th at midnight EST. Good luck, have fun and happy gardening!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Posted in About High Mowing Organic Seeds | 143 Comments

High Mowing’s Permanent Home: Our New Farm Property


The future home of High Mowing Organic Seeds

We are pleased to announce that High Mowing has purchased a farm property! The land we’ve purchased is in Hyde Park, Vermont, and will serve as our permanent home. High Mowing has relied primarily on leased land and buildings in the Wolcott, Vermont area over the past twenty years, and that has allowed us a measure of flexibility as our business has grown.

The new property presents exciting potential for a permanent headquarters, allows for expanded production of organic seeds, and gives us the freedom to customize with a view to the longer-term needs of the company. High Mowing has been conducting an exhaustive search for a suitable “home base” for several years, and finalizing the sale represents both the end of that process and the beginning of many new ones.

The property High Mowing has acquired is a 250-acre parcel that has been owned by our friends and neighbors the Clark family for over 50 years. The family has been operating a certified organic livestock business, Applecheek Farm, on the property and will continue to graze their animals on the farm and their adjacent land for the foreseeable future. High Mowing is pleased to work with the Clark family to support the success of both businesses, and is grateful for the opportunity to build a permanent home in a location with such tremendous resources in terms of agricultural land and natural beauty. The Clarks have been excellent stewards of the property, using only inputs suitable for certified organic production and focusing on farming techniques that maintain soil health. The farm also satisfies the other essential qualification of being near our existing warehouse, facilities and employees, ensuring that a smooth transition can take place over the next few years.

High Mowing is committed to taking a slow and thoughtful approach to our move and use of this farm. In the meantime High Mowing will continue to utilize most of the land and buildings that have served us so well for several years to come. The site offers two tremendously valuable attributes for seed production – its relative isolation from other farms makes it excellent for preserving genetic integrity, while the steady breeze discourages plant diseases, one of the biggest challenges of growing seed in this climate. During our transition we are extremely grateful to the Clarks, our customers, and our community for supporting us as we grow and move forward.


Fall foliage over the farm barn


For more information please read our press release at: http://www.highmowingseeds.com/HMOS_Farm_Announcement.html

 

Posted in About High Mowing Organic Seeds, Commercial Growing, Events, Philosophy, Seed Saving and Production | 11 Comments

Kinder Garden: Creating Functional Theme Gardens for Kids

Giving a child a garden is a wonderful way to spark interest in the natural world and offers built-in lessons in ecology and personal responsibility. And at the end of the day, it’s something beautiful and rewarding that they can take pride in, knowing that they did it themselves. Parents will appreciate having some time to get things done in the garden, since the kids will be occupied with their own space. Just don’t forget that this space belongs to them, and will be more gratifying if you take a “hands off” approach. Try to choose a spot where you won’t be worried if it doesn’t look perfect, and where it’s ok if a few weeds or garden plants drop seeds – that’s all part of the experience.

When it comes to choosing a theme garden, the options are pretty much limitless, and it can be tough to choose just one when you have limited space. Here are some of our favorite creative ideas for theme gardens that will delight your child all summer long.

 

Bee and Butterfly Garden

Plant a garden for pollinators, then sit back and watch them feast! As added bonuses, you can harvest beautiful bouquets and your insect-pollinated garden veggies will thank you by producing extra-heavy yields. Creating a little path through it using flat stones surrounded by White Clover or Thyme will allow your child to enjoy the garden and observe all its flying visitors. We recommend:

Ornamental Blend Sunflowers

County Fair Blend Zinnias

Maayan Orange Calendula

Thyme

Sacred Basil

Catnip

 


Mammoth Sunflowers

Sunflower House

Use tall sunflowers to create a secret hiding place. Sow the hiding place with White Clover to make a comfy spot to sit, then surround it with alternating tall and medium-height sunflowers like:

Goldy Double

Lemon Queen

Ornamental Blend

Mammoth

For more info on flower houses visit: http://www.kidsgardening.org/activity/secret-hideaways-and-fun-structures

 


German Chamomile Flowers

Tea Party Garden

Design the garden as a tea party space, using recycled materials like boards and logs to make a mini table. Upended logs make cute chairs, and some yard sale tea cups will complete the set. Sow the tea area with White Clover for a cozy groundcover and surround it with herbal tea plants such as:

Sacred Basil

Chamomile

Catnip

Lemon Balm

Medium Red Clover

 


A Rainbow of Carrots

Strangebow Garden

Choose vegetables in every color of the rainbow – but look for ones that aren’t their usual colors. This is a great opportunity to learn about the different nutrients associated with different colors – like lycopene in purple carrots and anthocyanin in blue tomatoes. We recommend:

Red Swan Bush Beans or Pomegranate Crunch Lettuce

Toronjina F1 Tomatoes or Golden Midget Watermelons

Yellowstone Carrots or Boothby Blonde Cucumbers


Tipoff F1 Romanesco

Tipoff F1 Romanesco Cauliflower or Green Tiger Tomatoes

Blue Coco Pole Beans or Indigo Cherry Drops Tomatoes

Azur Star Kohlrabi or Dragon Carrots

Dakota Black Popcorn or Purple Beauty Peppers

Snowy Eggplant or White Satin Carrots

And try rainbow-colored Iko Iko Bell Peppers!

 


Kale growing under snow

Winter Garden

Focus on a year-round food supply with a garden that will provide all winter. Plant frost-tolerant crops like spinach and kale, storage crops like squash, potatoes and carrots, and heat-loving crops for easy, kid-friendly summer preserving projects like freezing herbs, tomatoes and peppers. We recommend:

Giant Winter Spinach

Lacinato Kale

Olympic Red Kale

Danvers 126 Carrots

Sugar Dumpling F1 Winter Squash

Stocky Red Roaster Peppers


Merlot F1 Tomatoes

Red Chieftain Potatoes

Katahdin Potatoes

Merlot F1 Tomatoes

Genovese Basil

 

 

Have a great idea for a “kinder garden”? Have your kids designed gardens of their own? Share your creative ideas in a comment below!

Posted in Beginner Gardeners' Guide, Growing Tips, Kids and Gardening, Variety Highlights, Winter Growing | Leave a comment

Why Seed Matters: An Interview with Matt Dillon


Matt Dillon (left) examines a wheat trial with Seed Matters’ first Graduate Fellow, Brook Brouwer at the High Mowing Trials field. Brook is researching low-input grain crops for organic systems at Washington State University

Seed Matters is an initiative created by the Clif Bar Family Foundation to improve the viability and availability of organic seeds. Their goal is to ensure healthy, nutritious and productive crops by conserving the genetic diversity of food crops, promoting farmer participation in seed stewardship, and supporting public seed research and education. The initiative came about as a response to the lack of organically-bred seed appropriate for organic farmers. Seed Matters is working to put breeding back in the hands of farmers, gardeners, and public seed breeders, to conserve and grow the diversity of seeds developed over the past 12,000 years of human history.

Matt Dillon first got involved with organic seed issues after working on an organic farm in the 90s. He quickly found his passion for seed saving and breeding, and wound up volunteering at the Abundant Life Seed Foundation in Port Townsend, Washington. He worked for Abundant Life until a catastrophic fire in 2003 destroyed its entire collection of over 3,000 varieties. Like a phoenix, Matt rose from its ashes and co-founded a new organization, the Organic Seed Alliance. He was its Founding Director from 2003-2010, helped launch the Organic Seed Growers Conference, and started numerous other seed programs including the first participatory organic breeding project in the U.S. Matt has been working to expand these programs ever since, and now plays a key role in their development as the Director of Seed Matters.


Shannon Carmody, the 14th Graduate Fellow with Seed Matters

HMOS: What is Seed Matters working on right now in terms of projects, and what impact do you hope to have?

MD: Seed Matters supports the improvement of organic seed through an array of programs designed to create positive seed solutions for gardeners, farmers, and eaters.

We continue to provide Community Seed Resources for gardeners and organizers that want to create local seed swaps, libraries and seed conservation gardens – and also launched a new partnership with the Sustainable Economies Law Center (SELC) to provide these community projects with legal guidance in the wake of several states shutting down seed libraries. A petition to educate and encourage state regulators to work with seed savers to find solutions is hosted on our web site.

In February we brought in our 14th Seed Matters graduate fellow, Shannon Carmody, our first fellowship recipient not studying plant breeding. Shannon is working with Dr. Lindsey DuToit at Washington State University in the field of organic seed pathology, an important area of research for organic seed companies and farmers.

In February 2016 we will also see the release of the second State of Organic Seed report, authored by our partners at Organic Seed Alliance. Clif Bar Family Foundation helped fund the first report, and believe this second iteration will give seed companies, policy makers, and the organic industry a better picture of where we all need to invest in organic seed solutions.

Finally, this year we are launching a SeedFarmTable public outreach campaign. We believe this a first of its kind attempt to educate the public on why organic seed improvement is essential in improving the sustainability of our farms and the quality of food on our tables. We are working with organic food retailers, Seed Matters brand partners, and nationally renowned chefs to raise awareness that seed is a solution.

We want people to get beyond the idea of “Heirlooms are good and GMO seed is bad” and instead be inspired by the potential we have in organic plant breeding to improve the nutritional quality, season availability, and flavor in our food as well as increase yields and decrease the ecological footprint of farming. People can check out our website and enter the sweepstakes to win an organic gardening kit, sign Save Seed Sharing petitions, fund one of our new regional seed projects, attend one of our SeedFarmTable dinners or sow their own organic seed and host their own dinner.

HMOS: Why did you decide to invest in Fellowships? Why was this so important?

MD: Historically our public agricultural schools served the needs of regional farming and food systems. Public plant breeders developed crops for local markets and climates, and helped train the next generation of agricultural educators, researchers and entrepreneurs. Unfortunately in the last 30-40 years we’ve seen a drastic decrease in public plant breeders as well as a reduction in their areas of research focus, primarily serving larger industrial cropping systems that can provide the universities with royalty returns on their research efforts. A handful of schools have shown a commitment to organic research, but again, they remain seriously underfunded.


Claire Luby is a PhD Fellow from the University of Wisconsin-Madison studying the effect of intellectual property rights on access to and sharing of plant diversity using carrot as a model crop

Clif Bar Family Foundation decided that if we really want to transform seed systems to serve the needs of regional and organic food systems we had to bring change to these public agricultural schools. The Seed Matters Fellowships give graduate students stable funding for organic seed research. These student researchers are not only improving crop genetics for organic farmers, they are also drawing attention to their administrations that organic is not a fad or a niche, and that organic farmers and consumers want science-based innovation to make organic even more competitive with conventional-chemical agriculture. We know we can increase organic yields without losing our quality or sustainability, but we have to invest in research, and our public institutions are key partners in innovation with the private sector.

HMOS: What is your relationship to High Mowing? How do you see us in the context of organic seed breeding?

MD: The private seed sector has become increasingly consolidated, with a primary focus on breeding and producing seed for high-input conventional agriculture. We need more companies like High Mowing that are committed to improving the quality of organic seed and serving the needs of a more diversified farming system. High Mowing was one of Seed Matters’ early funding partners, and recently hired Adrienne Shelton, one of our post-doc Fellows and one of the breeders of Who Gets Kissed? sweet corn. It’s been great to watch High Mowing grow from a small regional seed company to a national leader in the organic seed movement. High Mowing understands the value of public-private partnership in plant breeding. We need more companies willing to invest and commit resources to improving the quality of organic seed.

HMOS: What’s on the horizon for Seed Matters? What do you hope to do next?

MD: 2015 is a big year. We are funding our first private plant breeder, Frank Morton of Wild Garden Seed – a man who has helped define the ethos of the organic seed movement by releasing his new varieties in the public domain without restriction. We also have new partnerships with Cornell and a group of farmer-breeders in the Dakotas working on improving ancient grains. And we will have a big announcement in the summer of 2015, what we think is a game-changer in the future of organic seed research. I hate to end with a cliff hanger, but come back to us in a few months for some really good news.


ENTER to WIN the Organic Seed & Garden Kit! Seed Matters is kicking off their SeedFarmTable campaign with this great giveaway – just click to enter.

 

Posted in About High Mowing Organic Seeds, Ask The Expert, Breeding / Research Program, Commercial Growing, Farm Ethics, Philosophy, Seed Saving and Production | 1 Comment

The Sweeter Side of Farming: Grow Your Own Candy Bars


Paul preparing to cut up candy bars for seed

One of the things I like the most about farming is access to some amazing food. Even if I don’t grow a particular crop, my network of producer friends allows me to trade around and cover most of my food needs. The wrinkle is that producing food can be exhausting. I hear a lot of stories about growers who, at the completion of a CSA pick up or farmer’s market day, go home to leftovers or noodles before they fall asleep.

Ask any vegetable farmer and they’ll probably agree; one of their secrets is that lots of organic farms run on three main ingredients: coffee, beer, and candy. I know mine does. Coffee isn’t really suited to New England production, but lots of growers make their own beer. That leaves the candy… We’ve been growing our own for years. It’s fun, really easy, and it saves us money as well.


Candy bar seed pieces ready for planting. Note the distribution of fillings in each piece.

 

Step 1: Start with the Best

It’s important to start with good stock seed. I always buy new seed every year, mainly because the temptation of our harvest overcomes me, and we have consumed all of our bounty. When cutting your seed pieces, I like to make sure there is a good distribution of fillings in each piece.

 


Seed far enough apart to produce large bars.

Step 2: Planting

I cut a trench about 6”deep and gently place the seed pieces about 8” apart in the row. It’s possible to control the size of the finished bars by changing your spacing; more room between the plants will give you a “king size” bar, tighter spacing will give you more of a “fun size”. I have found that 8” gives a nice range for me and my farm’s needs. I just barely cover the seed pieces so that they can feel the warmth of the sun and emerge from the soil quickly.

 

 


Once the candy bars have developed lush foliage, it’s time to amend with sugar and cocoa, then hill for best yields.

Step 3: Amending for Yield

In about 5 weeks, the plants should be lush green and about 18- 24” tall. At this point there are a few operations that are really important and will contribute to the success of the set. This crop is a heavy feeder, so I side-dress with a good amount of organic sugar and cocoa. My experience is that most soils are pretty deficient in these elements, and many agricultural soil testing services don’t even screen for them. I typically band a 350’ bed with about 100 lbs of a 2:1 mix of sugar to cocoa. I then use a set of hilling discs on a tool bar to get a good hill to cover the plants. When I am done I end up with about 5” of stems above the soil level. This hill covers the developing bars and keeps them out of the direct sun, keeping them cool. We’re all aware of what happens when chocolate is in the sun. Keeping the bars cooler also keeps them cleaner when it comes time to harvest.

 

 


Harvesting candy bars is made easy using a candy digger from Hershey, PA

Step 4: Harvest

The last step is the harvest. I cut the tops off the plants 2-3 weeks before I want to dig them. This sends a signal to the bars to set the chocolate, also known as tempering. It gives the chocolate a nice glaze, and makes cleaning post harvest much easier. It also lowers the incidence of bruising if one harvests mechanically, allowing the crop to store almost indefinitely.


Charlotte harvesting candy bars by hand

 

 

I use an old mechanical candy digger that I bought in Hershey, PA. It does a great job of gently lifting the bars out of the soil and making them easy to find. It’s one of my favorite single purpose tools.

If you don’t have access to this kind of an implement, it also works well to dig them by hand.

 

Step 5: Post-Harvest Handling & Storage

Once the bars are harvested, we brush them lightly before we eat them to get any lingering soil off the surface, and then enjoy (or store them in a cool, dark place).

Every time I have one of these pieces of candy, I am reminded of the sweet times behind us and the sweeter times ahead. I hope the upcoming season brings you and your farm everything that you need.


A bumper crop of freshly harvested candy

 

Happy April Fool’s from High Mowing Organic Seeds!

Posted in Articles by Farmer Paul Betz, Ask The Expert, Beginner Gardeners' Guide, Commercial Growing, Farmer Authors, Growing Tips, Philosophy, Variety Highlights | 5 Comments

A Guide to Planting Spring Cover Crops

Planting cover crops is a powerful way to improve your soil. Cover crops perform a host of valuable functions like increasing soil organic matter, fixing nitrogen, breaking up compaction, suppressing weeds and preventing erosion. In this guide we’ll discuss your options for spring cover crops and the benefits of each, when and how to plant, and how to manage the crop once it’s established.

While commercial growers typically use a seed drill or mechanical broadcaster to plant cover crops (followed by mowing and tilling before the crop sets seed), home gardeners can grow cover crops too. For gardeners we recommend planting most cover crops by hand-broadcasting seed over freshly turned soil, then raking in lightly just before a rain. When the cover crop is in flower, just before it sets seed, it should be cut with a scythe or mower, then left as a living mulch for the rest of the season or turned under with a rototiller. Because of the nutrients bound up by the decomposing crop, it is recommended to wait 2-3 weeks after tilling before planting another crop into the area. At this point the cover crop residues will have mostly decomposed, making organic matter and nutrients available to the next crop.

BMR Sorghum-Sudangrass F1

Life cycle: Annual

Benefits: fast growing, tolerates drought, builds biomass, smothers and discourages weeds, penetrates compact soil. Can grow to 12’ tall with 4,000-5,000 lbs of dry matter produced per acre, easier to grow than corn (for silage)

Uses: soil building, silage or green forage when 24-30” tall (not suitable for horses)

When to sow: Late May to early July depending on location, or when soil reaches 60ºF

Days to maturity: 90-100

Seeding rate and depth: 35 lbs/acre drilled or 40-50 lbs/acre broadcast, .5” deep in heavy soil, 1.5” deep in sandy soil

How to harvest: Mow when crop reaches 36-40” tall for silage

Limitations: soil temperature must reach 65ºF at least two months before first fall frost. Performs poorly in waterlogged soils

Learn more about Sorghum-Sudangrass for silage here

 

Common Buckwheat

Life cycle: Annual

Benefits: a rapid grower widely used for smothering weeds, lightening heavy soils, holding nutrients for the next crop and attracting pollinators

Uses: as a green manure in rotation with vegetable crops, for grain

When to sow: late May through July or when soil is at least 50ºF, at least 3 months before first frost for grain

Days to maturity: 35-42 bloom, 70-84 grain

Seeding rate and depth: 2-3 lbs/1000 sq ft or 35-135 lbs/acre

How to harvest: for green manure mow or harrow before seeds mature, about one month after planting. For grain cut when 80-90% of seeds have turned brown, after killing frost

Limitations: does not tolerate waterlogged soils or very hot, dry weather (later planting is recommended for Southern growers to avoid the hottest part of the summer)

Learn more about Buckwheat for grain production here

 

Medium Red Clover

Life cycle: Perennial

Benefits: fixes nitrogen, mines nutrients & conditions soil, tolerates shade, reduces compaction, attracts beneficial insects, tolerates poor/wet/acid soils, produces 2-4 tons dry matter/acre in 2nd year

Uses: soil builder, ground cover, undersown in existing crops, insectary, hay and forage

When to sow: Spring to summer when soil is above 41ºF

Days to maturity: 14 months when spring sown

Seeding rate and depth: Broadcast, drilled or frostseeded 1/2 lb/1,000 sq ft or 5-15 lbs/acre, ¼-1/2” deep

How to harvest: Incorporate once blooming begins in spring of 2nd year by mowing and/or tilling under

Limitations: not exceptionally heat-tolerant; growers in the South should plant in late summer/fall for overwintering

TIP: “Frostseeding” can be effective at least a month before last frost; sow in early morning when soil is still frost-covered

 

Field Peas

Life cycle: Annual

Benefits: fixes nitrogen, builds soil, moderate weed suppression, biomass decomposes quickly, edible tops

Uses: soil builder, edible tendrils, forage crop

When to sow: Early spring as soon as soil can be worked

Days to maturity: 52-75

Seeding rate and depth: 5 lbs/1,000 sq ft or 200 lbs/acre, 1 ½ to 3” deep

How to harvest: Till when flowering begins

Limitations: does not tolerate hot, dry conditions; growers in the South should use as fall/winter crop in areas where legumes have not been grown recently

TIP: Oats support weak pea stems and act as a “nurse” crop; sow 120 lbs of peas with 2 bushels of oats per acre

 

Improved White Clover

Life cycle: Perennial

Benefits: fixes nitrogen, reduces compaction, improves soil health, tolerates mowing/trampling/wet soils/drought

Uses: soil builder, excellent for paths and lawns, undersow around existing crops for living mulch, green manure, hay, pasture forage

When to sow: Anytime, preferably before a rain

Days to maturity: 60-70

Seeding rate and depth: ¼ lb/1,000 sq ft, 5-9 lbs/acre drilled, 7-14 lbs/acre broadcast then rolled, raked or cultivated to ensure good soil contact

How to harvest: Chisel or moldboard plow to kill; regular mowing to maintain

Limitations: Slow to establish, not ideal for smothering weeds.

TIP: Combine with Annual Ryegrass to increase soil benefits. “Frostseeding” can be effective a month before last frost; sow in early morning when soil is still frost-covered

 

Oats

Life cycle: Annual

Benefits: fast grower, prevents erosion, suppresses weeds, scavenges nutrients, builds biomass with up to 8,000 lbs/acre dry matter from spring stands

Uses: soil builder, nurse crop for legumes, green manure, grain, hay

When to sow: Early spring to summer, when soil is at least 38ºF

Days to maturity: 100-120 for grain

Seeding rate and depth: Broadcast or drill 4 lbs/1,000 sq ft or 100-140 lbs/acre 1” deep

How to harvest: Till in when seedheads are just forming, or cut grain when seeds harden

Limitations: performs poorly in hot, dry weather; Southern growers should plant in fall

 

Annual Ryegrass

Life cycle: Annual

Benefits: fast grower, suppresses weeds, controls erosion, adds organic matter, catches nutrients, thrives in all soil types

Uses: soil builder, nurse crop, emergency forage

When to sow: Anytime soil is at least 40ºF

Days to maturity: 50-70

Seeding rate and depth: Broadcast 20-30 lbs/acre or drill 10-20 lbs/acre ½” deep

How to harvest: Disk, till or plow under as soon as flowers form

Limitations: occasionally some plants overwinter and become weedy

 

Yellow Sweet Clover

Life cycle: Biennial

Benefits: nitrogen-fixer, mines nutrients from deep in soil, drought-tolerant, attracts beneficials, tolerates poor soil, adds up to 2.5 tons dry matter/acre in first year

Uses: excellent green manure, soil builder, subsoil aerator, and honey plant

When to sow: Spring to summer when soil is at least 42ºF

Days to maturity: 60-70 to bloom

Seeding rate and depth: Broadcast ½ lb/1,000 sq ft or 15-20 lbs/acre, drill 8-15 lbs/acre

How to harvest: Kill early in 2nd year by mowing or tilling when stalks are 6-10” tall

Limitations: does not tolerate waterlogged soil; recommended for fall in the South

TIP: Best grown with 2 bushels of oats as a nurse crop

 

Field Peas/Oats Mix

Life cycle: Annual

Benefits: versatile, fixes nitrogen, builds soil, suppresses weeds, decomposes quickly, edible pea tendrils

Uses: versatile soil builder, marketable pea tendrils, forage crop

When to sow: Early spring when soil is at least 38ºF

Days to maturity: varies

Seeding rate and depth: Broadcast 5 lbs/1,000 sq ft or 200 lbs/acre and rake or cultivate

How to harvest: till under or otherwise incorporate before seeds are set

Limitations: peas do not tolerate very hot dry weather; may be grown as a fall crop in the South

 

Field Peas/Oats/Vetch Mix

Life cycle: Annual

Benefits: versatile, fixes nitrogen, suppresses weeds, decomposes quickly, edible pea tendrils, adds up to 8,000 lbs/acre of organic matter

Uses: versatile green manure, soil builder, marketable pea tendrils, forage crop

When to sow: Early spring when soil is at least 38ºF

Days to maturity: varies

Seeding rate and depth: Broadcast 6-8 lbs/1,000 sq ft or 210 lbs/acre and rake in

How to harvest: till under or otherwise incorporate before seeds are set

Limitations: peas do not tolerate very hot dry weather; may be grown as a fall crop in the South

 

Posted in Beginner Gardeners' Guide, Commercial Growing, Growing Tips, Soil Health, Variety Highlights | 3 Comments

The Perfect Potato: How to Choose Varieties

Ever since potatoes in the grocery store came to be known simply as “red”, “white” or “russet”, knowledge of potato cookery has gone into decline. While potatoes are fantastically versatile, there are significant differences in the varieties that make them well suited for particular purposes. The simple spud, as it turns out, isn’t so simple after all. But with just a bit of knowledge you can transform your cooking using this delicious and nutritious tuber. We’ve broken down the different types of potatoes by the cooking methods you prefer to help you make the most of your potatoes. We also included a comparison chart below to help you compare other characteristics such as storage qualities and disease resistance to help you select the right varieties for your garden.


Dark Red Norland

I like my potatoes new

For these tender early treats, boil whole and toss with butter – they can be any variety but we especially recommend Dark Red Norland, Red Chieftain and Purple Viking

 

I like my potatoes baked, mashed, as French fries, hashbrowns or latkes

Choose Burbank Russet potatoes – their fluffy texture is ideal and holds together well when fried – also try All BluePurple Viking and German Butterball

 


Yukon Gold

I like my potatoes in chowder, soup, scalloped, boiled, or in potato salad

Choose waxy potatoes like Yukon Gold, Yukon Gem and Katahdin or firm, moist potatoes such as Red Chieftain, Dark Red Norland, All Blue, All Red or Purple Viking

 

I like my potatoes roasted

You can’t beat the moist, buttery spuds Russian Banana Fingerling and German Butterball

 


All Blue

I like my potatoes sauteed or pan fried

Choose All Blue, All RedDark Red Norland or German Butterball

 

2015 Seed Potato Comparison Chart

 

Please note: Yukon Gold, Rose Finn Apple Fingerling, Red Norland, Russet Burbank and Yukon Gem are now SOLD OUT for 2015

 

Posted in Beginner Gardeners' Guide, Growing Tips, Recipes, Variety Highlights | 1 Comment

Dig In to Gardening GIVEAWAY!

Dig In to gardening with our March giveaway, in collaboration with Gardener’s Supply Company!

One lucky winner will receive our Garden Starter Seed Collection AND our favorite garden tool, the Hori Hori Garden Knife from Gardeners.com.

  • The Garden Starter Seed Collection  includes 10 vegetable varieties that you can sow directly in your garden – no seed starting required! Perfect for beginners ready to get their hands dirty, this collection offers some of everything you need for an easy, productive and delicious vegetable garden, including
    • Provider Bush Bean
    • Detroit Dark Red Beet
    • Danvers 126 Carrot
    • Marketmore 76 Cucumber
    • High Mowing Mild Salad Mix
    • Gourmet Lettuce Mix
    • Cascadia Snap Pea
    • Cherry Belle Radish
    • Sweet Basil
    • Dark Orange Calendula
  • We’re also giving away our favorite hand tool, a Japanese tool known as the Hori Hori Garden Knife (pronounced hari-hari) from Gardener’s Supply Company. What’s our obsession about? We love it because it’s small, lightweight, wearable, and performs the same tasks as numerous other hand tools, but more efficiently. Made from heavy duty stainless steel with a full tang (steel built into the hardwood handle), plus a serrated edge on one side, this tool is perfect for digging up stubborn weeds (think dandelion and burdock). It’s hefty enough to put your weight into without breaking or bending. Its relative sharpness and narrow profile make it the ultimate tool for transplanting (much easier than a big, dull trowel). And when it comes to digging or dividing perennials, working in tight spaces, or harvesting root crops, it just doesn’t get any handier than this. Plus, it comes with a sheath that attaches to your belt so you’ll never be without it. (TIP: Wrap some neon tape around the handle so it doesn’t get lost in the garden!)

HOW TO ENTER
It’s easy! Just click “login” below 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, March 12th and ends Thursday, March 19th at midnight EST. Good luck, have fun and happy gardening!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Posted in About High Mowing Organic Seeds, Beginner Gardeners' Guide | 380 Comments

Affording the Farm: Financing for Beginners


Katie Spring and her son Waylon

For beginning farmers, finding the support to start your own farm or to improve your existing farm can seem like a challenge. This challenge doesn’t necessarily let up for the first few years—for perspective, a beginning farmer is defined as someone who has farmed for 10 years or less on their current operation. In other industries, you might feel as if you’ve passed the beginning stage by year 8 at least, but if you’ve ever worked with soil, plants, and livestock, you know the intricacies of these living systems are ones that are learned over a lifetime.

According to the USDA Ag Census, in 2012 there were 522,058 beginning farmers in the US, and 226,670 of those had been farming for five years or less. Though this may sound like a healthy number of new folks entering the field, the census also showed a 20% decrease in the overall number of beginning farmers compared with 2007 (with a 22% decrease in the five year or less category).

There are surely many factors leading to this decrease in beginning farmers across the country, though two of the largest hurdles when it comes to starting a farm are access to capital and land. Many new people entering agriculture are first generation farmers, and therefore don’t have family land or equipment to start out with.

As our food system faces unprecedented droughts in the west, higher flooding rates in the east, and all-around unpredictable weather from year to year, plus an aging farming population where the average age of the principal operator is 58, it’s imperative that we find ways to support beginning farmers, as they are the ones who will not only feed us, but who will be creating new sustainable systems in a changing climate, which in turn will inevitably reshape our national food system.

With that in mind, I wanted to learn more about what kind of financial support there is for beginning farmers. I myself am a beginning farmer, going into the third year of running my business, and am looking at how to finance some major infrastructure improvements. As I began to search for financing options, I found some good news: the number of programs, lenders, and borrowing options out there are many! The closer you look, the more people and places you’ll find that are committed to supporting new farmers and the local food economy. The hard part of it is wading through all the opportunities to find the right one for you.

Financing options can be broken down into a few categories: private contracts, community and state, and federal lending programs. There are also grants to be found in each of these categories.

Private contracts are those between farmers and current land owners, and often come into being when a current land owner is looking for a new farmer to take over his/her business, or for a new farmer to revive an agricultural business on land that is no longer in use. Finding a situation like this take more relationship building and willingness to seek out land owners to present them with a proposal. Many of these organizations, like the “Land Links” help connect farmers seeking land with land owners.

Vermont Land Link

New England Land Link

Center for Rural Affairs – National Land Link and Financing

Beginning Farmers – Finding Land to Farm – Land Link programs by state

Information on Community and State financing programs can often be found through your state’s Cooperative Extension office. In Vermont, UVM Extension runs the New Farmer Project, as well as the Women’s Agricultural Network and the Farm Viability Program, all three of which have educational and technical support for beginning farmers. Local and state credit unions are another, more traditional lending option.

The National Council of State Agricultural Finance Programs has an excellent Directory of State Programs, which is a good place to find more information on loan programs state by state.


Katie Spring researches financing in her yurt “office”

Federal programs through the FSA present still more options for financing, and they offer a a straightforward guide to farm loan programs that details all of the different programs available and helps you figure out exactly where to start.

When you’re ready to start reading through the different types of loans, I recommend getting a hot cup of tea or coffee and a chocolate chip cookie and settling in for a morning or afternoon of gathering information and noting down questions. While there is a wealth of information online, I find it most helpful to get a sense of the programs, write down my questions, and follow up with a real person who can have a more in-depth conversation with me. Reaching out to someone in the Beginning Farmers office at Cooperative Extension can be a good place to start. Don’t forget to have some fun, too! Though it can be a bit daunting to wade through so much information, remember that these all present opportunities, and behind each link there is a real person who wants to see new farms succeed.

 

Katie Spring owns and operates Good Heart Farmstead in Worcester, VT with her husband Edge and son Waylon. They grow diversified vegetables and meat that they market through a CSA and their mission is “to make fresh, local food accessible to everyone, despite income.” They work with NOFA-VT’s Farm Share program to provide subsidized CSA shares to low-income customers. Katie writes on a variety of topics for her own blog, Wild Spring, and works in Sales at High Mowing during Vermont’s cold winter months.

Posted in Ask The Expert, Commercial Growing, Farmer Authors | 1 Comment

Growing Partners: The Greening of Detroit

This year we are excited to launch Growing Partners, a series of articles focusing on the farmers, gardeners, seed growers, breeders, vendors, donation recipients and non-profits we work with who are making waves in sustainable agriculture. Together they form a revolution of environmental stewardship and positive change working its way over the global landscape. We’re so invigorated by their trail-blazing work every day, we want to share it with the world–and inspire the food movement leaders of tomorrow to follow in their footsteps.

Neighborhood kids make bird feeders during a Camp Greening session. The Greening of Detroit hosts Camp Greening, an outdoor environmental education program, at city parks throughout the summer months.

To kick off the series, we’re starting with a longtime High Mowing customer and non-profit, The Greening of Detroit. We wanted to let them speak for themselves about what they do and why, so we interviewed their Director of Urban Agriculture, Tepfirah Rushdan to get the lowdown.

HMOS: What is the mission of the Greening of Detroit? What makes it unique?

GD: The Greening of Detroit’s mission is to inspire sustainable growth of a healthy urban community through trees, green spaces, food, education, training and jobs. I think we are unique because all of our three field departments collaborate on various projects that collectively support the mission.  These departments include Green Infrastructure, Workforce Development, and Urban Agriculture. We also are firmly grounded in community while also maintaining a higher vision to support policy and advocacy.

The Greening of Detroit’s farm apprentices learn about transplants and growing methods as they begin their training program at the Detroit Market Garden site.

HMOS: Please tell us about the Greening of Detroit, including location, crops grown, land area in production, and how produce is distributed.

GD: The Greening manages three farm sites in Detroit:

Romanowski Farm Park is a two-acre farm inside of a 26-acre city park in the ethnically diverse southwest neighborhood of Detroit. It features an orchard with five different varieties of fruit in production, a community gardening area, and a butterfly garden.

The Detroit Market garden, a 2.5 acre farm situated in Detroit’s Eastern Market District, is an example of intensive small-scale production site.


Lafayette Greens garden in downtown Detroit. Last season, The Greening hosted more than 100 wellness events and activities on-site. More than 1,300 pounds of chemical-free produce was also grown and donated to community groups.

This farm garden features four hoop houses, a free-standing wash/pack and storage area, and access to Detroit’s premier greenway called the Dequindre Cut.

Lafayette Greens, a 3/4 acre farm and greenspace, is located in the heart of downtown Detroit.  This site was recently donated to the Greening of Detroit by the Compuware Corporation and features a children’s garden, a lavender promenade, trellised hardy kiwi, and a small heirloom apple orchard. Produce is aggregated from all three sites and sold in retail, wholesale, and Community Supported Agriculture (CSA), markets as well as donated to many emergency food centers.

HMOS: What is the relationship between the Greening of Detroit and your local/regional community? What programs do you offer that foster this relationship?


The Greening of Detroit’s nutrition education team teaches students how to grow fresh vegetables and prepare healthy food.

GD: The Greening offers expertise and support to community members looking to create green spaces in their community. We support community efforts to repurpose vacant land in ways that improve quality of life in Detroit neighborhoods. We assist communities in developing neighborhood green plans that may include tree plantings, vacant land treatments, gardens, pocket parks, etc. We hold demonstration gardens with a variety of education classes and community events each year. In addition, we teach both environmental and nutrition education in dozens of schools and housing sites throughout Detroit.

HMOS: How old is the Greening of Detroit? How would you describe its growth/expansion?

GD: The Greening is 25 years old. We began with three employees committed to planting trees in the city. Today we employ between 30 and 40 full-time employees and between 200 and 300 seasonal staff. The city of Detroit has more than 20 square miles of vacant land. Our scope continues to grow as the needs and focus of the city we serve evolves.

HMOS: What are some advantages of the area in which you are located? What are some disadvantages?

GD: Advantages are a robust urban environment (the people). We also have a unique opportunity to transform the city into a cleaner, greener, healthy urban center because of all the vacant land. The disadvantages are the increased pollution in soils and air.


Produce grown at The Greening of Detroit’s farm gardens are sold at farm stands in the city to help fund the organization.

HMOS: What is a major challenge you have faced as an organization, and how did you overcome it?

GD: A major challenge for The Greening of Detroit is funding. This is not unique to The Greening, as all nonprofit organizations struggle with inadequate funding. Many grants are annual or one-time only, and this is disruptive to the continuity of programming. The Greening of Detroit has a complicated funding mix, and is always trying to provide and measure community impact. Unrestricted funding would allow us to strengthen measurement, evaluation and community impact but this type of funding is very difficult to obtain. This is a common challenge for all organizations in the nonprofit sector.


Volunteers assist in the gardens at Lafayette Green garden in downtown Detroit.

HMOS: What resources have been important to your success as an organization? What advice would you give to someone just starting out?

GD: Funding is of course essential to our work. In addition, we hire talented, educated people to champion our mission. Collaboration is also very important to our successes, as well as sweat equity from our volunteers.

HMOS: What High Mowing varieties perform best in your area? (And tell us why if you know). Are there any special techniques you use?

GD: We have had success with all varieties purchased from your catalog, along with a satisfying germination rate. We believe in building and maintaining healthy living soil for success. Our City is extremely diverse in their interests and food choices, so we have chosen to explore the possibility of implementing at least two to five new varieties each year from your catalog.


Students participating in The Greening of Detroit’s Our LAND program plant trees in Detroit’s Rouge Park. After a series of classroom lessons on the environment, students venture outdoors for experiential learning.

HMOS: What are your goals for the future of the Greening of Detroit?

GD: We hope to continue to be a catalyst for environmental stewardship in Detroit, and desire to pass on farming skills to the next generation. We are committed to assisting Detroiters in becoming healthier, self-sufficient, and more knowledgeable about the food options in their community.

To donate, volunteer or learn more about the Greening of Detroit, visit them on the web at www.greeningofdetroit.com and check out their Facebook page!

Posted in Farm Ethics, Farmer Authors, Health and Wellness, Kids and Gardening, Philosophy | 1 Comment