Be First to Market with Colorful Vegetables

In Vermont, most farmers’ markets start in May. This may seem late to those of you growing in warmer climes, and it is. What’s even more shocking is that at that time of year, there’s only just enough produce to even have a farmers market – you’ll find kale, salad greens, scallions, radishes, some overwintered roots and…not much else. Many farmers are now supplementing their spring offerings by selling transplants and value-added products from the previous season to stay competitive.

Historically gardeners in Vermont play it “safe, not sorry” and refuse to plant tomatoes before Memorial Day (and for those of us who have been burned by late frosts these past few years, we understand why). But at long last, the times they are a-changin’ – consumers of local food are demanding more local produce earlier in the season, and growers are responding. So we’re excited to share our varieties and ideas to help you be the first at market with the bright, colorful vegetables your customers look for.

Plan for Early Crops

Growing extra-early crops isn’t that difficult, it just takes a little extra-early planning. With a little special attention given to direct-sown and transplanted crops, you can harvest them weeks earlier than your neighbors.

Direct-Sown Crops

Prepare several beds for early spring planting in the fall. Choose locations with the best possible drainage, as spring flooding can slow down spring planting. Thoroughly amend the soil and form a smooth level bed to allow for planting as soon as soil can be worked. Beds can be covered with black plastic the week before planting to warm the soil for tender crops. After spring sowing, cover beds with row cover to keep the germinating seeds moist and protected from frost. Remove the row cover or add hoops before plants strain against it, replacing the row cover for protection on cold nights.

Transplanted Crops

Start your transplants 2-4 weeks earlier than you ordinarily would. When their roots fill out 4” pots, transplant them into 12” diameter or 3 gallon pots. Keep the plants in the greenhouse or indoors under grow lights, watering thoroughly on sunny days and fertilizing lightly every 2 weeks until it is warm enough to plant outdoors (usually when all danger of frost has passed). Then harden off as you normally would, over several days to a week, before transplanting.

Choose Early Varieties

This trick may seem obvious, but it can’t be understated – choosing varieties that mature earlier can mean getting to market with them a full week or two earlier, and that translates into paying back your investment sooner. Here are some of our earliest varieties in each category to get your season off to a colorful start!

NEW! Gemstone Greens Mix provides an eye-catching, flavorful mix of deep maroon and emerald green leaves, with an incredible array of leaf textures in just 21 days.

Vivid Choi Pac Choy offers a rainbow of stem and vein colors for baby or full sized leaves. 21 days baby, 45 full size

Purple Plum and French Breakfast Radishes can be direct-sown as soon as the soil can be worked and provide bright magenta color in just 25 days.

Ruby/Rhubarb Red and Pink Passion Chards have bright, colorful stems as baby or full sized leaves. Add them to mixes for a splash of early color! 30 days baby, 60 full size

Rhazes and Spretnak Lettuces will charm customers with their petite size and bright color. Plant early or overwinter in hoophouses for super-early salads! 42-45 days full size

Azur Star Kohlrabi produces gorgeous purple, eye-catching globes in just 50 days.

Early Wonder Tall Top Beet is a sure crop for both greens and roots in less than 45 days, while Touchstone Gold is a treat for the senses in 55.

Napoli F1 Carrots offer that welcome splash of orange in just 45 days for baby carrots or 55 for full size, while White Satin F1, Cosmic Purple, and Yellowstone create an irresistible rainbow in 70 days.

Poona Kheera Cucumbers will have customers asking questions about their endearing stubby, russeted appearance in 50 days, while Silver Slicer steals the show with its mild flavor and elegant creamy white color in 54.

NEW! Purple Viking Potatoes are stunning with their pink-streaked purple skins. A versatile Early Season potato that will delight your spring customers.

Toronjina F1 Tomatoes will win the race to first orange cherry with prolific yields of seductively sweet fruits. Perfect in high tunnels for the absolute earliest tomato in just 55 days from transplant.

 

Purple Beauty Peppers shine early with glossy black skin and bright green flesh in just 55 days, while Iko Iko offers a rainbow of red, purple, and gold-streaked fruits in 65-80 days.

Little Finger and Snowy Eggplants are the perfect early offering – plant according to our instructions above and you’ll be harvesting these 60 day beauties way ahead of the pack.

Golden Midget Watermelons will catch eyes and hearts everywhere with golden yellow rinds and delicious bright salmon-pink flesh in just 70 days.

 

Posted in Commercial Growing, Growing Tips, Variety Highlights, Winter Growing | Leave a comment

Sprouts Collection GIVEAWAY!

ENTER TO WIN! We’re giving away a Best-selling Sprout Collection to one lucky winner – read to the end for details on how to enter.

Happy, Healthy Holidays

The holidays are such a special time of year – we get together with our friends and families, share laughter and good times, and reflect on the year behind us.  We also gather to share delicious meals prepared with love and steeped in tradition – sometimes many, many of them. This is one of the few times of year when we embrace abundance with abandon, even as much of the country is frozen in the grip of winter and plant growth has ground to a halt. But it doesn’t have to – in fact, just the opposite. There have never been more options for producing fresh food in the winter than there are now – and you can give your holiday meals a nutritional boost while you’re at it.

With sprouts it’s easy to grow your own fresh food indoors, all year round. And now you can share that gift with friends and family! We are pleased to launch a NEW Special Holiday Collection of our Best-selling sprouting seeds paired with a sprout jar lid – so you can share a happy and healthy holiday with your loved ones. Best of all, we’ll be giving away a Best-selling Sprout Collection to one lucky winner! Read on to enter and learn more about sprouting.

What are sprouts?

Sprouts are tiny immature plants grown without soil. We offer them in a wide array of flavors for a multitude of versatile culinary uses. Some varieties, like Alfalfa and Sandwich Booster Mix make delicious greens for sandwiches and salads, while others, like Crunchy Bean Mix and Ancient Eastern Blend are perfect garnishes for soups and entrees. Still others, like our best-selling Mung Beans, are essential ingredients in Asian dishes such as Pad Thai. Visit our Sprouting Seed page for more recipe ideas!

Why grow sprouts?

Sprouting at home offers a unique opportunity to produce your own fresh greens indoors, and can be done even where space and light are very limited. It’s so quick and easy to do that it makes a great activity to do with kids. Just soak, rinse, and harvest your fresh sprouts in 3-5 days! Sprouts are exceptionally nutritious, and when you grow them at home they are literally the freshest food available. Plus, homegrown sprouts are more affordable (and the results last longer) than store-bought sprouts. Need more reasons to choose our sprouting seeds? They’re the only 100% certified organic, Non-GMO Project Verified sprouting seeds in North America, and the only ones in the US being packaged according to Federal food safety standards.

How are sprouts grown?

Growing sprouts at home couldn’t be simpler – all you need is a clean wide mouth quart jar, a sprout jar lid, seeds, and water! Once you have your materials, it’s as easy as one, two, three:

  1. SOAK – Place 1-2 tsp sprouting seeds in your clean jar and cap with sprout jar lid. Soak your sprouting seeds in cool fresh water for 2-12 hours (follow the recommendations for individual varieties in the package instructions)
  2. RINSE your sprouting seeds with cool fresh water every 8-12 hours for 3-5 days. Place the jar upside down in a bowl at an angle after each rinse to allow water to continue to drain. On the last day, place the jar in indirect light to “green up” your sprouts.
  3. HARVEST (and eat!) your finished sprouts after 3-5 days (use time recommended on package). Sprouts can be stored in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 1 week.

Want to see the process step-by-step? Check out our How to Grow Sprouts Video!

NEW! Special Edition Best-selling Sprouts Collection

This collection includes:

1 packet of Alfalfa sprouting seeds

1 packet of Sandwich Booster Mix sprouting seeds

1 packet of Mung Bean sprouting seeds

1 Sprout Jar Lid (fits wide mouth canning jars)

Sprouting seeds in this collection are packaged in re-closeable zippered pouches that include detailed instructions for each variety.

Our Best-selling Sprout Collection is a great value, saving you 20% , and we’re giving one away to a lucky winner!

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, December 11 and ends Thursday, December 18 at midnight EST. Good luck, have fun and be sure to check out this post for more gift ideas!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Posted in Beginner Gardeners' Guide, Growing Tips, Health and Wellness, Kids and Gardening, Variety Highlights | 120 Comments

The Gift that Grows ~ Eco-Friendly Ideas for the Green Thumb on Your List

Do you have a farmer or a gardener on your holiday gift list? Here are some of our favorite ides for sharing the gift of growing with your loved ones.

Gift Box Collections

Want to give a gift of seeds, but don’t know what to choose? Our themed Gift Box Collections offer something for everyone! Each collection includes 3, 5, or 10 packets of seeds, a helpful planting directions card and a refrigerator magnet. Each collection is enclosed in a beautiful kraft paper box for the perfect finished gift (and don’t forget to include a gift message at checkout!)

We love the Kid’s Garden Collection for younger gardeners. Mammoth sunflowers, purple carrots, striped pole beans and more make for a magical garden they’ll never forget.

The urban gardener in your life will be happy to receive a Container Garden Collection, which includes edible herbs and flowers, plus easy-to-grow vegetables that will thrive on a porch or patio. This collection of 10 packets includes all the garden favorites like tomatoes, peppers, kale, peas, cucumbers and more.

Beginner gardeners will love the Garden Starter Collection, which includes 10 varieties that can be direct-sown outdoors. Your beginner will simply prepare their garden beds, sow the seeds, water in and watch them grow – no transplanting required.

NEW! The Best-selling Sprout Collection is the ultimate holiday gift for gardeners who want to get growing now. Sprouts are fun and easy to grow (you don’t need to have a green thumb!), and allow you to grow your own food indoors, all year round! The collection includes our best-selling Alfalfa, Sandwich Booster, and Mung Bean sprouting seeds, plus a sprout jar lid that fits wide mouth jars. Simply soak, rinse, and harvest fresh greens in 3-5 days!

 Hats & T-Shirts

The High Mowing Seedster in your life will love our organic hats and t-shirts. Our shirts feature artwork by Vermont artist Marcia Brewer, are 100% certified organic and are printed with environmentally friendly vegetable-based inks.

Our organic cotton hats feature the High Mowing logo and are available in black or wheat.

 

Seed Starting Kits

Our basic Seed Starting Kits offer everything you need to get started growing your own transplants! And they make great gifts for gardeners who want to take their skills to the next level. Complete with a closed bottom tray, a cell tray, germination dome and high quality organic potting soil, our seed starting kits make terrific gifts for anyone getting serious about gardening!

Gift Certificates

Can’t decide? Give the freedom of choice with a Gift Certificate!

Posted in About High Mowing Organic Seeds, Variety Highlights | 2 Comments

Savor the Rainbow with Indigo and Artisan Tomatoes

INDIGO TOMATOES feature eye-catching deep blue skin coloring, derived from wild tomato cultivars discovered in the Galapagos Islands and Peru. The color comes from elevated levels of anthocyanin, a powerful antioxidant. We are pleased to offer something for everyone this year with grape, saladette, and slicing-sized fruits. Note: Let ripen for most aromatic flavor; Rose and Apple are ripe when black with red undersides.

NEW! Indigo Cherry Drops 65 days

OP • Indeterminate • Prolific • 1 oz.

Tremendous yields of cocktail-sized deep red fruits with purple shoulders and excellent sweet flavor. Grafting will increase already-impressive yields of hundreds of fruits per plant. Bred by Dr. Jim Myers at Oregon State University (OSU). PVPAF

NEW! Indigo Apple Tomato 70 days

OP • Indeterminate • Resists cracking • 2-4 oz.

Beautiful and early variety with fruits that start deep purple-red and turn nearly black in the sun. Sweet, rich flavored fruits resist cracking and sunscald. A larger Indigo tomato with exceptionally high anthocyanin content; firm, meaty fruits are delicious sliced on sandwiches. Bred by Brad Gates using an original cross made by PKS Heirlooms in Copemish, MI.

Indigo Rose Tomato 75-80 days

OP • Semi-determinate • Good container variety • 2-2.5 oz.

Stunning edible and ornamental tomato that ripens to jet black with purple-tinged foliage. Produces clusters of 6-8 firm ebony fruits. Vigorous and disease-resistant. Bred by Dr. Jim Myers through the high-flavonoid breeding program at OSU. PVP

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ARTISAN™ TOMATOES were created to provide farmers and gardeners with gourmet striped fruits and the delectable rich flavor characteristic of heirlooms. Fred Hempel has been breeding striped tomatoes in Sunol, California for nearly a decade and offers them through Artisan™ Seeds LLC, a breeding company focused on local/specialty markets.  They resist cracking and are well-suited to either field or greenhouse culture.

NEW! Pink Bumblebee Tomato 70 days

OP • Indeterminate • Resists cracking • 1.5” fruit

Extraordinarily beautiful rose-colored fruits with gold striping. Juicy and sweet with rich flavor perfect for caprese salads with basil, mozzarella and balsamic. Very versatile and sure to be a hit in mixed pints at CSAs and markets!

 

NEW! Purple Bumblebee Tomato 70 days

OP • Indeterminate • Resists cracking • 1.5” fruit

Lovely burgundy fruits with olive green stripes and superb rich flavor. Incredibly pretty in mixed pints – an instant hit at CSAs and markets. Versatile in the kitchen. An eye-catching color combination that will draw customers back for more.

 

NEW! Sunrise Bumblebee Tomato 70 days

OP • Indeterminate • Resists cracking • 1.5” fruit

All the colors of the sunrise in a sweet and tangy tomato! Lovely gold fruit marbled with pink stripes on the inside and out. Irresistible with Purple and Pink Bumblebees in mixed pints; exceptionally versatile in the kitchen.

 

Green Tiger Tomato 70 days

OP • Indeterminate • Prolific julienne-type • 2” fruits

Beautiful elongated green fruit with dark green marbling and gold undertones. Superbly flavorful and prolific in our 2012 trials! Chefs love the cylindrical shape for easy slicing. Ripe when yellow with green streaking.

 

Pink Tiger Tomato 70 days

OP • Indeterminate • Prolific julienne-type • 2” fruits

Elongated rose-pink cherry with radiant orange striping. Julienne-type fruits are prized by chefs for their superb bright, delicate flavor and ease of preparation. Heavy yields on slightly smaller plants than Green Tiger.

 

NEW! Blush Tomato 75 days

OP • Indeterminate • Prolific julienne-type • 2” fruits

Elongated sunset-colored fruit prized for its exceptionally sweet, juicy, tropical flavor. Prolific julienne-type fruits are ready when a pink blush appears over the golden yellow skin; ripens well off the vine. Unique flavor and convenient shape for easy slicing.

Posted in About High Mowing Organic Seeds, Commercial Growing, Growing Tips, Variety Highlights | Leave a comment

The Secret Garden: Our Web Exclusive Varieties

Looking for a variety you ordered last year, but don’t see it in the catalog this year? You’ve come to the right place! Each year some varieties don’t make the cut in our catalog – we may have decided to add a variety too late to be printed in the catalog; there may have been a crop failure and no more seed is available; there may be a newer, better variety available that replaced it; or it could just be that it didn’t sell as well as we’d like. Whatever the reason (and it’s not always bad!), you can find a treasure trove of old, new and rare varieties in the Web Only section on our website. Here are some highlights of our Web Exclusive varieties that you won’t find on paper…

NEW! Bush Delicata Squash

OP • PM-tolerant • Bush habit • 1.5-2lbs

Compact, tidy plants with sweet, oblong fruits. Delicious smooth, nutty flesh with hints of butter and brown sugar. Skin starts creamy white with green stripes and flecks, curing to striped light yellow. Compact plants spread only 4-6 feet. AAS winner bred by Molly Jahn and George Moriarty at Cornell University.

Silverado Chard

OP • Slow to bolt • Baby or full size

Glossy leaves are bright green and beautiful at full size or at baby leaf. More savoyed than Fordhook, with a narrower stem. Extremely slow to bolt and has shown field resistance to Cercospora leaf spot, allowing for a long harvest window.

 

Ocate Lettuce

OP • Slow to bolt • Resists Tipburn • DM (1-21, 23-26, 28), LMV

Lovely pale green oak leaf lettuce with strong disease resistance. Ocate’s attractive, compact shape compares favorably to Panisse. Very pretty heads of loosely lobed, buttery leaves are slow to bolt and not susceptible to tipburn.

 

NEW! YellowFin F1 Zucchini

HYBRID • Compact habit • Uniform • PM, CMV

The first organic yellow zucchini with PM resistance! Uniform, cylindrical fruits with pure gold color provide great color and buttery flavor at market. Compact, nearly spineless plants have an open habit for ease of harvest. Strong resistance to Powdery Mildew and intermediate resistance to Cucumber Mosaic Virus for a reliable harvest even in challenging field conditions.

Magenta Spreen

OP • Versatile micro or salad green • Re-seeds easily

A beauty in the field with sparkly green leaves and a pink powdered center. Known not only for its densely packed nutritional value but also for its ability to color the lips pink. Use steamed like spinach, or for an addition to salad mixes like amaranth and orach, or as a micro-green. Mild flavor is nutty and fresh. Take caution – plants reseed easily and can become weedy.

 

Falcon F1 Eggplant

HYBRID • Uniform and productive • 6.5” fruit

A hybrid Italian eggplant for organic growers! Compact plants set fruit early and continue setting throughout the season, resulting in higher yields. Fruits are deep purple with glossy sheen and moderately sized bright-green calyx. Great variety for field crops or high tunnels.

Annelise F1 Hybrid Tomato

HYBRID • Truss-type • 2 oz • TMV, LM (1-5), VW, FW (0,1), FCR

Perfect trusses of bright red, cocktail-sized fruit. Annelise has excellent disease resistance and is widely adapted to growing in a heated greenhouse, high tunnel or open field. The earliest maturing variety in our 2012 tomato high tunnel trials, with cascading trusses of 2 oz fruits. This is a classic truss type with 10-12 fruit on a truss. Fruit measures 2-2.5” in diameter and holds well to allow for ripening of the entire truss. Indeterminate

Golden Chard

HEIRLOOM • Improved

Emerald green leaves against deeply golden stalks make a striking combination. Leaves are savoyed with moderately thick stems. This strain was rescued by the Abundant Life Seed Foundation and has been improved for color and vigor by seed producer and breeder Frank Morton.

Click here to see all of our Web Exclusive varieties!

Posted in About High Mowing Organic Seeds, Variety Highlights | Leave a comment

A Year of Giving


Ester Minani, a New Farms for New Americans trainee in Burlington, VT received seeds through the Vermont Community Garden Network

Each year High Mowing donates organic seeds and produce to a vast array of recipients. From school gardens to seed libraries, from food banks to senior centers, our donations have far-reaching impacts across the country. Through our Donation Program schools, community groups and non-profits are building healthier communities, encouraging organic gardening and healthy eating habits, and reducing community dependence on less-than-fresh food with high mileage.

High Mowing is proud to donate seeds and produce in three important ways:

Seeds

Each year we donate thousands of packets of seed to schools, community groups and non-profits all over the country. Through a simple online form, organizations can request a donation of up to four bundles of 25 seed packets each (up to 100 packets!) Each mixed bundle includes a variety of vegetables, plus some herb and flower seeds to provide a well-rounded assortment for any garden project.

High Mowing donated over 63,000 packets valued at more than $170,000 to school and community groups in 2014 – a 17% increase over our 2013 donations of 54,000 packets!

When we donate seeds, we know that they end up teaching the food system leaders of tomorrow. We know they help create a more peaceful, well-fed world. And most importantly, we know we are investing in the future we want to see.


Carson Daly plants High Mowing seeds donated through the National Gardening Association at a new school garden in Brooklyn

Harvested Produce

One of the best things about working at High Mowing is the staff CSA. From May to October, we have a walk-in cooler overflowing with the bounty from our breeding plots, trials fields and showcase plantings. Our trials crew takes the measurements they need to evaluate the vegetables, then loads them into the cooler. The staff takes home as much as they like, and then the remaining produce is picked up by the Vermont Foodbank, conveniently located right across the street from our offices. The Foodbank works to ensure better food security in our state through a variety of food distribution, training and education channels, with the ultimate goal of ending hunger for the roughly 86,000 Vermonters currently depending on emergency food assistance.

The Foodbank hauled away more than 5,900 lbs of produce from our farm in 2014!

Gleaned Produce


Volunteers with Salvation Farms harvested over 500 pounds of sweet corn from our fields this year!

After planning, preparing, planting, weeding, covering and uncovering, and finally harvesting our crops on the farm, it’s no surprise that the farm crew doesn’t always have the time or energy to harvest everything. And this is true on many farms, both here in Vermont and beyond. In response to this problem of too much food, not enough time, both the Vermont Foodbank and a wonderful organization called Salvation Farms have stepped up to the plate—by gleaning.

Salvation Farms’ mission is “to build increased resilience in Vermont’s food system through agricultural surplus management.” Director Theresa Snow and her team of volunteers glean produce from farms that have more produce in the field than they can harvest. They then clean and sort this produce either at the Southeast State Correctional Facility, where inmates give back to their community by helping volunteers process the produce. Now this is where things get really interesting – while smaller volumes are packed at the Southeast State Facility and shipped directly to the Foodbank, food shelves, and community kitchens, the largest volumes are cleaned and packed at the Vermont Food Venture Center, just down the road in Hardwick, VT, where they become part of The Vermont Commodity Program.


Salvation Farms volunteers processing acorn squash from High Mowing

The Commodity Program provides low-cost local produce to institutions like schools and hospitals – and in turn, the money they saved by purchasing the Commodity product instead of produce from a distributor goes directly toward purchasing more local food. In this way the Commodity Program doesn’t compete with the for-profit marketplace, but actually supports the purchase of additional Vermont farm product. Salvation Farms is hoping to further expand the program to include meat products and a larger processing facility in the near future.

Salvation Farms came to High Mowing twice this year and gleaned over 4500 lbs of sweet corn and acorn squash from our fields.

Giving Back

It makes us feel great to know that our local communities benefit from the healthy produce we grow on our farm. Our local community helped us grow into the company we are today and is at the core of everything we do. Whether it’s through our Seed Donation Program, produce donations, or even the free Community Seeds box in our front office, giving back when we can is a way of saying “Thanks” to all the people in our community who believed in us and supported us from the very beginning.

It gives us great pleasure to be able to “pay it forward” to the non-profits and community groups across the country who benefit from our seed donations. If you’ve received a donation from us, we want to say “Thanks” to you too—your work empowers communities to achieve food security, supports better nutrition, and helps build the food system we want to see. Thank you for all you do!

Excited about giving back this season? Here are some fulfilling ways:

Register as a volunteer gleaner with the Vermont Foodbank to get email updates about gleans in your area, Send a Holiday Card or Make a Donation

Register at the Gleaners Interface to volunteer with the Vermont Gleaning Collective and Salvation Farms, or Make a Donation

Feeding America served meals to over 46.5 million Americans in need this year. No matter where you are, you can help reduce hunger in your community this season. Make Thanksgiving Special with a matched donation ($1 = 20 meals!), Find Your Local Foodbank, Host a Virtual Food Drive, or Volunteer your time!

Posted in About High Mowing Organic Seeds, Farm Ethics, Philosophy | Leave a comment

Conquering Mildew with Vitalis Organic Seeds


The Enza Zaden/Vitalis Variety Showcase held at their research facility in San Juan Bautista, CA

Vitalis Organic Seeds is a family-owned Dutch seed company that focuses their breeding work and organic seed production primarily on leafy and fruiting crops such as lettuce, spinach, tomatoes and peppers. These crops are subject to a host of disease problems, and the highly-resistant varieties they’ve developed address significant challenges in organic production.

Downy Mildew in Lettuce and Spinach

The Vitalis lettuce and spinach breeding programs in particular have made important contributions to our selection of professional quality seeds. Lettuce and spinach are unique in that they are highly susceptible to Downy Mildew (DM). DM has historically been classified as a fungus, but new evidence suggests that although it is similar to fungi in the way it absorbs nutrition, the highly specialized parasites are actually more similar to algae. DM colonies generally first appear in periods of cool temperatures (58-72°F) when the relative humidity is over 85%.


Downy Mildew vs. Powdery Mildew on Grape Leaf, Photo: Extension.org

Symptoms and Treatment of Downy Mildew

Symptoms of DM include small yellow spots on the upper surface of the leaf that die off, forming brown, greasy-looking spots with a bluish-white fuzzy growth on the underside of the leaf. Many strains of DM, like those that affect spinach and basil, can survive cold climates on plant debris or in the soil. The best methods of organic control are to remove and dispose of infected plant debris, ensure good air circulation, avoid overhead irrigation during cool weather, scout for infected plants, and of course, choose varieties with resistance.

The Arms Race for Resistance


Areas with the densest production, like this spinach field in California, are the first to develop new races of DM.

DM has so far evolved 31 different races that affect lettuce and 15 that affect spinach. Breeders are always trying to stay ahead of the game, looking for new resistant material as the fungi overcomes earlier disease resistances. So far, DM has been winning the arms race, while breeders remain fully engaged just trying to keep up. The new races always first appear in areas with the densest production of the crops that host them, spreading outward over many years. Lettuce production, and therefore DM, is most concentrated in the Salinas Valley in California. Every 6-18 months or so, a new strain of DM is discovered in California, but these strains often take decades to reach the East Coast. Vitalis breeders are always working to breed resistance to these newest strains of DM into their varieties.

 


Eleonora Basil

Conquering Mildew with Resistance from Vitalis

All regions of North America have some strain of this disease, and by using the most resistant varieties farmers can rely on genetic resistance rather than spraying fungicides. Through our relationship with Vitalis Organic Seeds we have been able to offer mildew-resistant commercial grower favorites like Corvair F1 Spinach, Mirlo Butterhead Lettuce, Roxy Red Butterhead Lettuce, Lovelock Redleaf Lettuce, Coastal Star Romaine Lettuce, Breen and Rhazes Mini Lettuces, and great mildew-resistant cucumbers like Tyria F1, Picolino F1, and Socrates F1.


Pomegranate Crunch Lettuce

We are pleased to offer more NEW mildew-resistant Vitalis varieties in 2015, including Eleonora basil, Ansar, Arroyo, and Pomegranate Crunch Romaine Lettuces, Encino Green Oakleaf Lettuce, Shelby F1 spinach, and Paraiso F1 Cucumber.


Paraiso F1 Cucumber


Encino Lettuce

Posted in About High Mowing Organic Seeds, Breeding / Research Program, Commercial Growing, Growing Tips, Plant Diseases, Variety Highlights | Leave a comment

The Story of a Seed: from Pollination to your Plate

Honeynut Butternut Squash

 

Have you ever wondered how the seeds in our packets got there? Some varieties, like Honeynut butternut squash, have particularly unique stories. We couldn’t resist sharing the remarkable journey of this little squash and the vital farms and faces that have shaped it along the way.

 

 

1. The Market

New market opportunities from Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) and farmer’s markets in the late 1990s created demand for new and novel vegetables, such as smaller-sized varieties that are more manageable for small families. Disease resistance is also very important to commercial organic growers, who depend on it to ensure their plants survive to ripen fruit and store well.

 


Michael Mazourek and grad student Lindsey Wyatt

2. The Breeder

This sweet, robust open-pollinated variety was bred from a cross between butternut and buttercup squashes made long ago at Cornell University. Dr. Michael Mazourek, plant breeder at Cornell, developed the variety with the funding of USDA and the support of Jack Algiere and High Mowing Organic Seeds.

 

3. The Seed Grower


Katie T. rinsing Honeynut seeds

Katie Traub is the Farm Manager at High Mowing and she and her team grow and harvest the Honeynut seeds in our packets. She selected it for three years to get the quality up to our standards after we first received the stock seed. Katie loves the sweetness of these little squash and makes sure all of our staff knows it. She ensures none of the high-quality flesh goes to waste after seed harvest by partnering with producer Pete’s Greens to process it for soup and pie base.

 


Pete Johnson cutting up Honeynut for processing

4. The Processor

The sweet, high-quality Honeynut flesh from our seed crop goes to good use at Pete’s Greens, a neighboring farm in Craftsbury, Vermont. After removing the seeds, the squash are dumped into their kettle and pulping machine. The raw squash is cooked and pureed into a high-quality frozen product sold through winter CSA shares and to local institutions.

 

 

5. The Seed Company


The Staff at High Mowing, September 2013

High Mowing began in 1996 with 28 varieties and the goal of leveraging organic seed to make our world a better place. To this day, we remain true to our roots and continue to grow many of the varieties we sell, including Honeynut, on our 40-acre organic farm. The rest of our seeds are produced by organic seed breeders and organic farmers. The seeds are extensively tested for quality, then packed and sent to farmers and gardeners across North America. We believe that connecting the dots in our food system by listening and encouraging collaboration can bring new varieties to market that achieve multiple aims for consumers, farmers and retailers. And we love discovering and supporting high quality open-pollinated breeding! We are proud to contribute a percentage of each Honeynut seed sale to Cornell to support their future organic breeding work.


Melanie collecting seed for testing

6. The Third Party Certifiers

Our seeds have always been Certified Organic and now they’re also Non-GMO Project Verified. We work with the Non-GMO Project to put our seed through additional rigorous testing and inspections to ensure that our seeds have not been contaminated with genetically modified organisms (GMOs). Even in crops that do not have GMO counterparts yet (like butternut), this process, along with other preventative measures we take, ensures that we are always improving our seed supply chain and identifying all the risks in advance. At right, our Quality Control Manager Melanie Hernandez extracts a seed sample for testing. Learn more about our Non-GMO Project Verification.

7. The Farmer


Jack Algiere teaching at Stone Barns Center

Jack Algiere oversees vegetable production and seed saving at Stone Barns Center, an educational farm in Pocantico Hills, NY. In 2006 Cornell’s breeding program offered Jack seed for the unnamed butternut variety that, after years of trials, would become the Honeynut. Jack has been growing it each year, turning to chef Dan Barber of Blue Hill at Stone Barns for his expertise in evaluating its flavor.

 


Moxie enjoying her first Honeynut

8. The Consumer

As the sustainable food movement grows, people are becoming concerned about where their food comes from. For more and more people this interest extends to seed—because good food starts with good seed. It is important to know the farms and faces you are supporting, because behind every bite of organic food is a story. But it doesn’t end here! Your feedback is what shapes the future of seed, helping us select varieties that yield well in the field and taste great in the kitchen.

Did you enjoy this story? Download our Story of a Seed Infographic! (And here’s a high resolution printable 11×17 poster version


Our “Story of a Seed” Infographic – Click to download!

Posted in About High Mowing Organic Seeds, Breeding / Research Program, Commercial Growing, Trials, Variety Highlights | 3 Comments

Increasing Production with a Whole Foods’ Local Producer Loan


Pumpkin seeds drying on screens in our hoophouse

Here at High Mowing we are always on the lookout for new ways to produce more high-quality organic seed. The exciting news is – this year we found three! With the support of Whole Foods’ Local Producer Loan Program, we’re making great strides in increasing seed production on our farm.

Our Tools

Many of the tools we depend on in our harvest and curing processes are simple ones we built ourselves, like basic drying racks made of wire mesh stretched over wood-framed tables. Some of the tools we use are beautiful antiques that work just as well as when they were new, like our 19th century corn sheller. Many have been custom-built for us, like the machine that packs seed into our full color photo packets. And occasionally, when we are very lucky, we are able to purchase squeaky clean equipment that is brand new.


Charles operating the corn sheller, Photo: Justine Hand

Because we rely so heavily on our hand-made and customized equipment for seed cleaning, it’s very exciting when we get something truly new. Working with older or custom equipment means that when it’s working properly, everything goes smoothly. But when it fails or breaks down, it can mean many hours of additional hand-labor, which is both expensive and presents logistical challenges when you have a short season like ours. In order to keep up with the growing demand for certified organic seeds, it’s important to keep upgrading our tools so that we can produce larger quantities of higher-quality seeds.

WFM’s Local Producer Loan Program


Our current wet seed extractor is used to harvest squash and cucumber seeds

To address this need, we applied to the Whole Foods Market Local Producer Loan Program – and we got the loan! The Local Producer Loan Program has pledged to grant up to $25 million in low-interest loans to local producers, and has already supported over 200 local vendors with more than $14 million in funding. The fixed, low-interest rate loans help producers pay for capital expenditures that increase their production capacity. The Local Producer Loan Program has awarded us a $75,000 loan to pay for three great technologies that will increase our production of organic seeds and enhance their quality.

The Wet Seed Extractor and Dryer

If you’ve been keeping up with us for the last few years (we know it’s not easy!) you’ve probably seen pictures of us harvesting wet-seeded crops like squash and cucumbers into a huge contraption with a turning drum. This is the wet seed extractor we currently use, and it works pretty well – the crew tosses mature fruits into the hopper at the top, a grinder mashes them into small pieces, and everything ends up in the perforated drum, where the seeds and juice fall through the holes and are collected.


Our new wet seed extractor (left) and dryer (right) about to be delivered!

The only problem is that our current extractor doesn’t get the seeds very clean, meaning that they need to soak in water for a while afterwards to separate them from the fruit pulp. With the new extractor that we’ve been able to buy through the Local Producer Loan, there is more flexibility. We can run the machine at different speeds, allowing us to adjust it and clean the seed much better on the first pass. The new machine can also accommodate different seed sizes better than the old one, allowing us to produce more seeds with greater efficiency and less waste.

Finally, and perhaps best of all, the new extractor comes with a seed dryer! This is the first time we’ve ever had a tool to replace spreading the seeds out on screens to dry. Now clean, wet seed can go straight into the dryer, where it is gently air-tumbled to quickly and uniformly dry the seed. This technology will enable us to dry more seed much more quickly, and with fewer losses to the mold that can grow on seeds when they’re drying over a long period on screens.

The Greenhouse


Our new Harnois greenhouse under construction

We were also able to purchase a new greenhouse with the Local Producer Loan! The new greenhouse was manufactured by Harnois in Canada, and will provide a robust environment for cold-season production and overwintering seed crops. It will serve to significantly extend the season, allowing us to grow varieties that we currently must purchase from other producers because they will not survive the severe winters here in northern Vermont. The greenhouse has another added benefit, which is that it allows us to refine our techniques for preventing cross-pollination, an essential component of producing quality seeds.

Advancing the State of Organic Seed

We are very grateful to have the support of Whole Foods in developing our capacity to produce high quality organic seeds. These investments will allow us to increase on-farm production of our seeds in step with the increase in demand for them, and in turn advance the availability of organic seeds nationwide. We believe that organic seeds are the most powerful vehicles for developing the healthy food system of the future, and we thank Whole Foods for helping us get the tools we need to improve quality and productivity as the movement grows.

According to Whole Foods, “We are happy to be able to provide this loan to High Mowing Organic Seeds to help enable them to advance the important work they are doing with organic, non-GMO seeds. They have an outstanding product that our customers really love.” – Kimberley Rose, Vice President of Purchasing for Whole Foods Market’s North Atlantic region.

Read the press release: http://www.highmowingseeds.com/whole_foods_market_local_producer_loan_announcement.html

Posted in About High Mowing Organic Seeds, Greenhouses, Winter Growing | 1 Comment

Winter’s White Gold: Forcing Belgian Endives

It’s time to start forcing Belgian endives! If you missed it, check out our post from this spring, Winter’s White Gold: Planning Ahead for Belgian Endive Harvest. This previous post outlines the first part of the Belgian endive production cycle, specifically cultivation of the roots. Now we’ll talk about the second part of the production cycle, known as forcing, which produces the delicious chicons we eat as Belgian endives.


Harvesting Belgian endive roots at High Mowing

If you started Belgian endives this past spring, you should have ended up with a big bag of roots in your cooler. The roots are ideally around 1.5” in diameter, trimmed to 8” or so long, with the leaves trimmed to about 1” above the crown. Inside the cooler or refrigerator, your roots have been going through vernalization– you’ve been convincing them it’s winter. So when you take them out of the cooler, they will of course think that it’s spring. This is called forcing, when the change in temperature causes them to sprout chicons.

 

 


Planted endive roots ready for forcing, Photo: growingwithplants.com

When you’re ready to start forcing, anytime between a week and several months after storing (but ideally no later than January), take your endive roots out of the cooler and plant them (you can also store them in the cooler pre-planted). The roots can be tightly packed into deep containers – “long tom” terra cotta pots, sap buckets, or 5 gallon buckets work well.

Next, simply fill in around the roots with sand, light potting soil, or peat. Do your best to fill in all the gaps, leaving just the trimmed tops sticking out above the sand or soil. Then cover your buckets and place in a warm, completely dark place, ideally around 68⁰F. You can cover your pots with black plastic garbage bags or simply put them in the cellar or a closet. Just remember – any light that gets in will cause the creamy white chicons to turn green (and tougher). If you use a plastic bag, cover loosely and check your pots every few days for mold. Water lightly so that the soil is kept moist to the touch (but not sopping wet).

 

 


Ready-to-eat endives, Photo: growingwithplants.com

Within 2-3 weeks, your chicons will be ready to harvest! And don’t throw out your roots after the first harvest – if you keep conditions right, you may get a second flush of smaller chicons a few weeks later.

Excited to try Belgian endives, or have some advice for other growers? Let us know what you think, and check out our Totem F1 Belgian Endive seeds.

Not sure how to eat them? Try using the raw leaves as tiny serving dishes  filled with fruit, nuts, and cheese for an attractive appetizer, in an Endive, Apple, and Walnut Salad, or like the French do, as an Autumn Vegetable tarte tatin.

 


Autumn Vegetable Tarte Tatin, Photo: mimithorisson.com

Posted in Ask The Expert, Beginner Gardeners' Guide, Growing Tips, Winter Growing | Leave a comment