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

The Seed Bin - December 2009

Farmer Paul's Row  - The Joys of Front Mounted Forks
Katie's Kitchen - Sweet Vegetable Desserts

Greetings From Tom

The time of
Tom Stearns year for seed catalogs has arrived! You should have gotten your High Mowing catalog by now. Also if you are a regular customer then you will want to be sure to take advantage of our Community Supported Seeds program. You can save 10% on your 2010 seed orders, no matter how big, by basically pre-buying a gift certificate for yourself anytime before 12/31/09. It helps us and helps you - just like a CSA.

Many of you have also been following our progress with the lawsuit that we filed against the USDA regarding GMO sugar beets. Earlier this fall we got the great news that we had won the case! You can read more at our website and thanks again for your continued support. We are hoping that this upcoming year will bring better weather and less disease to all of us - 2009 was a tough growing season for many across the country. With the continuing surge of interest in local and organic vegetables the market has never been better. At High Mowing we all feel truly blessed to be able to serve all of you in such important work as growing food for yourselves and your communities. You are on the front lines of changing the way this country thinks about food. And because food connects us all so much, your work is also helping build strength in your community as well. As your organic seed supplier, we are ready to continue serving you with the seeds you need for a terrific year.
Tom Stearns, President & Founder

Recommended by the NY Times! High Mowing is offering three special holiday seed collections to nurture the green dreams of the gardener in your life. Each collection comes in an attractive gift package and includes detailed planting instructions. Choose from Kitchen Herbs, Heirloom Vegetable Lover's or The White House Collection. Free Shipping until Dec. 16th, 2009!
Join our Community Supported Seeds program by December 31, 2009 and receive 10% off seeds for next season! Put your seed dollars towards supporting a family-owned company committed to meeting your farming needs with high-quality organic seeds! Read more about this exciting program!
People all around the country are being inspired to expand their gardens or start one for the very first time. They are concerned about where their food comes from, rising fuel costs, and nutrition. Having a High Mowing Organic Seeds Seed Rack in your store will encourage this “growing” movement!

Organic Seed Alliance Questionnaire

High Mowing Seeds would like to introduce you to Organic Seed Alliance - a nonprofit that supports the ethical development and stewardship of seeds. Organic Seed Alliance’s education, research and advocacy programs are founded on the belief that organic food integrity begins with seed integrity.

Organic Seed Alliance is working with organic farmers, processors, seed companies, advocacy groups and others to create a “State of Organic Seed Report” that captures a snapshot of the successes, obstacles, opportunities, and risks in organic seed systems. This report will be public, and used as a discussion document to create organic seed action plan at the State of Organic Seed Symposium in La Crosse, Wisconsin on February 25, 2010 (in cooperation with MOSES conference). If you are a farmer, we would like to encourage you to fill out the seed questionnaire (linked below) that has been created by Organic Seed Alliance. It should take about 10 minutes of your time.

The purpose of the questionnaire is to help better assess certified organic growers' attitudes and perceptions regarding organic seed and categorize obstacles that restrict their usage of organic seed. A national questionnaire of this type has never been done. Obtaining feedback from certified organic growers is vital to the assessment process. Let your voice be heard.

Your responses are voluntary and will be held confidential. Responses will not be identified by individual or farm; all responses will be compiled and analyzed as a group. This information will not be used for marketing purposes and is intended to improve the organic community's understanding of the organic seed situation.

If you have any questions or concerns, please contact Matthew Dillon by email at matthew@seedalliance.org or by phone at 360.385.7192. Please also contact Matthew if you are interested in attending the February symposium in Wisconsin, or for more info go to: http://www.seedalliance.org/Advocacy/

Link to Questionnaire (please DO NOT FORWARD this link; it is specific to High Mowing Seeds customers.)

We encourage you to learn more about OSA at www.seedalliance.org and consider giving a tax-deductible donation to support their work. 

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Notes From The Fields - Heather Jerrett, Research & Development Trials Manager

Experimenting with Cover Crops
As the frost rolls in it's hard to believe our 90 days of summer are already come and gone. This is true not only because we had only a handful of days that actually felt like summer but also because the season went by so quickly and now all of our fields are all cleaned up and ready for spring. There are always new and fun varieties and growing techniques being discovered in the trials, but this year we focused heavily on using as much cover crops in our gardens for not only soil building but erosion control and weed control. Our intention is to create the healthiest environment for our plants rich in organic matter and nutrients as well as keep harmful weeds such as Galinsoga and Bindweed at bay.

Cover Crops We were able to use more cover crop than in the past by orienting double plastic rows with a wide row spacing of 12' and planted a peas/oats mix in between the sets of double rows. In some areas a two-season medium red clover was used to add more biomass with a good dose on nitrogen. The medium red clover was planted in early summer, mowed once in late summer and will be mowed and incorporated into soil early next summer right before plants go into full flower. Where we had crops in bare beds, we were able to immediately harvest and clean up the area, and then use a winter rye/peas mix so that the cover crop would grow longer into the season. We harrowed over the rye/oats mix once in mid-October to weaken plants so that the over-wintering rye would not be as difficult to incorporate in the spring when we need to prep beds as early as possible. Overall, we were able to increase our biomass and incorporate soil nutrients without having to section off any one area of our fields. The secondary hope is also to eliminate the weed bank. By suppressing weeds in the field and avoiding weed seed production we have less weeds year to year. Lastly, by using wide row spacing we can simply shift our double rows to the right or left and still maintain a three year rotation in the same area.
Late Blight Update
People everywhere were talking about the Late Blight this year. It was as if you couldn't hide from it - whether in your field or at the corner store - even at my garage the guys out back wanted to know what was happening.  Most folks I spoke with lost entire tomato or potato crops, so when we started seeing spots on our tomatoes in late July, we took quick action. We had about 800 row ft of field tomatoes, 100 row ft of greenhouse tomatoes, and 100 row ft of potatoes. We decided our first action would be to have our crew walk the rows for a half hour every day and remove leaves with the characteristic grey blob. We also decided we needed to spra
y intensively. We were already on a 14 day schedule Late Blight photo from Cornell Universityalternating between sulfer and copper to protect the leaves mainly from early blight, but we needed to take stronger action. After reading newsletters and speaking with our handy extension service we learned that a Storox/copper mixture would be best. Storox is hydrogen dioxide and is used to quickly kill any spores living on the leaf surface, but is only active for the few moments until it dissipates. Copper is used as a preventative, and targets any new spores that land on leaves. This accompanied by four to five weeks of extremely dry weather made it possible for us to have a successful tomato season after all.

As organic growers, there is a tendency to not use organically accepted sprays because well, we are organic! The basic fundamentals of the organic philosophy is to create and nourish natural systems that create stronger plants that will inevitably be more resistant to disease. But with so much already invested in tomatoes before they even reach the field or greenhouse it can be devastating to lose a crop at such a late stage for both the belly and the pocket book. By knowing all the facts and making responsible decisions, our organically-minded pesticides can be put to good use when needed. But what is the future for the garden tomato? Will we be rid of Late Blight in 2010? These are questions to be answered. Please encourage everyone to dispose of infected plant material appropriately. For more information, read a Late Blight article by the National Sustainable Agriculture Information Service and/or check out more photos.

We called out to you, our faithful newsletter readers, for your tips and variety comments. Here are a few we received by email:

"I grew a number of different heirloom tomato varieties; some seeds from High Mowing others from elsewhere. Many of my plants were completely devastated and produced nothing. The San Marzano Paste variety that I got from High Mowing has definitely shown some resistance. I had 6 plants planted in close proximity to a number of other varieties that were completely devastated. While the San Marzano did get infected, the plants still are producing a substantial amount of healthy fruit. I also have some Reisentraub Cherry (sourced elsewhere) that seems to be somewhat resistant."

"I've been hit by Late Blight pretty hard. My most resistant Tomato varieties have been: Green Zebra, Matt's Wild Cherry (no evidence of any infection), Marglobe, Ingegnoli Gigante e Liscio, Striped German, and an unknown Currant variety."

"I lost almost ALL of my tomatoes to late blight except for Matt's Wild Cherry. When I went to pull my affected plants (approx 50), I noted that I didn't see any sign of the disease on Matt's Wild. I left them in place. I have seen a few of the tomatoes rot since, but most are fine and I don't see any on the plant itself. Start breeding that crazy little sucker. "

"We got late blight about a month ago (on my potatoes), Red Pontiac died, but Satina and Butte have held up. On Sand the tomatoes resisted better. I sprayed Kocide 2000. It seemed to help."

If you have more comments about late blight or varieties you love send us an email and we will use your information to help others find their favorites.

HMS Farm Report - Jodi Lew-Smith, PhD, Director of Research and Production

Almost all of the seed crops are indoors by now, and so far we’ve had good germination rates on just about everything – which is always the key measure. A couple of the brassica seed crops need a few more weeks to break dormancy, but the seed looks really fat and pretty, so we’re confident they will make it. The last of the squash and melon crops were still outside with the hard freeze we just had, - which makes harvesting them a lot harder, because they turn to mush. But it doesn’t usually damage the seed.

Harvesting cucumber seedsRegarding seed yields, one of the cucumber crops had a surprisingly crummy seed yield and we think it is because they did not get pollinated well enough during the endless rain we had earlier this summer. The wild bees will fly in the rain, but the rented honeybees are so finicky that way.  Other crops did surprisingly well, though. The watermelons had beautiful seed yields, and also the peppers – both of which are typically considered “warm weather crops,” and we certainly did not have a warm summer. At least not before September. But we are wondering if the added moisture they had from all the rain was what they needed to set better fruit. We do not really know, but it was a surprising outcome from a surprising year.

We are still very curious to see final germination results on the tomatoes and peppers, most of which are still dribbling in to the seed mill from multiple harvests. Also the squashes are still being extracted out in the field, particularly the long-season squashes such as the butternuts. Those are almost always the last to be harvested. But we are hopeful that this nice turn to warmer weather has helped the seed mature a bit more, and will yield nice healthy seeds.

Pretty soon it will be time to hose away all the slop from seed rinsing and shut down the greenhouses…

Here are some points on specific crop groups:
  1. Brassica crops mostly all yielded well and seed quality was good – they had a good year.
  2. Tomato crops yielded poorly but seed quality was better than we have seen for a while.
  3. Squash crops yields were just OK or down, possibly due to shortage of pollinators - but quality was mostly good.
  4. Cucumber crops seemed most affected by shortage of pollinators when the rain kept them in – there were a whole mess of immature seeds in the fruit.
  5. Watermelon yields were stellar – higher than we have ever seen, and we are speculating that it was all the water in June and July, or else the heat in late August and September.
  6. Biennial onion crops really need cover in the second year (the seed year) to do well here – their season is too long to fully mature outside without too much fungal interference.
  7. Sunflowers can do well here if we spray for weevils in August. But the seed can have dormancy issues, so should probably be grown a year ahead.
  8. Corn crops have been very consistent from year to year and are not all that weather-dependent - as long as we transplant them - and yields are mostly dependent on raccoon-control.

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Farmer Paul's Row - Paul Betz, High Mowing Seeds' Sales Associate

Farmer Paul Betz I have always been a man of many favorites. Ask anyone who comes to our stand at market looking for the perfect potato. I have lots of favorite tools on the farm as well. I have a new one.

My set of front mounted forks has changed my life.

My love of implements is generally strong. I have a back that acts up occasionally, and have always been a fan of mechanizing when it’s appropriate. I still remember getting my first tractor with a bucket loader. It seemed that everything could be or should be moved with a bucket. An incredibly handy tool for sure. I have worked on a farm that had a rear mounted hydraulic fork lift; also very cool, but it seemed a little big for my farm. My smaller tractor lacked rear remotes anyway, so it was never really an option. After our fire, I knew that my need for moving things was going to change dramatically, so I had my bucket converted to quick detach and bought a set of forks right away. My bucket has hardly been back on the tractor all summer.

Forklift Everything can be palletized. Our standard picking container is a bulb crate, which fit rather nicely. I built up a little side on the pallet to hold the bottom course, and now I can bring carrots right into the barn for washing. I can also load bags out of the field and then lift them up to truck height for easier loading. Once I pour a slab in the greenhouse, next year’s winter squash will get picked directly into bins and handled once.

Our plan for next year includes an outdoor wood boiler for heating our greenhouses and barn. Last summer we cut, split and stacked 15 cords of wood. Next year, all that wood will be put onto…. You guessed it, pallets, so I can cut my handling in half. I also plan on making a two tiered rack for moving lots of flats of plants out to the field.

TillerI use a small, walk behind rototiller for lots of jobs on the farm. I used to put it in the bucket and strap it in. I have since made a carrier for it that allows me to pick it up and go in a few seconds. There’s even room for a tool box and a can of gas. It’s secure over the road and it puts no stress on the machine. Something was always rubbing before when I would carry it in the bucket.

So far I have saved close to $15,000 by not having back surgery, a true bargain, and saved more time than I could have imagined. Even if you are a small grower, consider this tool. I can’t imagine not having it.

Pies For The People

Collaboration and Local Food: A Community Feeds Its Community

pies for the people Butternut squash from High Mowing Seeds - harvested by University of Vermont (UVM) students, transported to Craftsbury's Pete's Greens for processing, baked into pies in the Sterling College Kitchen, and delivered to the Hardwick Food Bank - quite a remarkable path for squash whose original destiny was compost.

The Center for an Agricultural Economy, (the Center) based in Hardwick, VT, has organized the Pies for People project - delivering healthy local food to people in need during the Thanksgiving and Christmas holiday seasons. Following in a long tradition of the Hardwick community helping each other out, the pies project brings together Vermont agricultural businesses, UVM students and Sterling College students and faculty - all donating ingredients and services to bring the local harvest to the community. Read the entire article (Sterling College website).

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Katie's Kitchen  - Katie Lavin, Wholesale Sales Manager

Sweet Vegetable Desserts

Maybe it’s all of the holiday treats in the front office candy bowl at High Mowing I’ve been absentmindedly eating, but I have homemade dessert on my mind.  Using vegetables. Vegetables in desserts?  Not so weird.  Carrot cake is ubiquitous.  But carrots are not just for cake, and cake can deliciously support more than carrots. Vegetables add moisture and sweetness to baked goods.  There are a lot of junky shortcuts out there, with instant pudding and imitation whipped cream, but save the junk food for the office candy bowl or the harvest morning donut run and mix up a yummy organic vegetable dessert made with real ingredients!

Butternut Bread Pudding
Easier than pie, and as cozy as a fleece blanket.  Any type of winter squash or pumpkin puree will work (even if it’s from a can)


5-6 cups of bread, in 1 inch chunks (a good use of stale bread)
2 cups of milk, half and half, or soymilk
3-4 eggs
¾ cup honey or 1 cup sugar (more or less depending on the sweetness of your squash)
2 cups cooked winter squash puree
1 cup raisins/and or nuts (optional)
3 TBS butter, melted
1 ½ tsp cinnamon
½ tsp nutmeg
1 tsp vanilla extract

Directions: Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Butter a large oblong baking pan.

Mix bread and milk in a bowl.  In a separate bowl, mix the rest of the ingredients well.  Add to the bowl with the bread and milk and combine.  Pour into your pan and bake uncovered for 50 minutes.  Serve with whipped cream or ice cream if desired.

Mexican Chocolate Beet Cake

The earthy flavor of beets goes undercover in this moist cake.  We bake this in honor of a future filled with acres of non-genetically modified sugar beets and a safe seed supply. 


2 cups beet puree (1 lb or so fresh beets)
2 sticks unsalted butter, melted
2 ½ cups organic granulated sugar
½ cups flour
3 eggs, slightly beaten
 ½ cup of warm water
¾ cups unsweetened cocoa
2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp vanilla extract
½ tsp salt
1 tsp cinnamon
¼ tsp cayenne pepper

Before you bake prepare your beets: Boil whole, trimmed, scrubbed beets for about an hour until completely tender.  Cool until you can comfortably handle them and then rub under running water to easily remove skins.  Process in a food processor until smooth and pureed (add a LITTLE water if needed). 

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Butter or oil two 9 inch cake pans or one oblong baking pan.

Mix butter, sugar, eggs, vanilla, and water together until smooth.  In a separate bowl, mix flour, baking powder, salt, spices, and cocoa powder together.  Add a third of the dry ingredients to the wet, mix; repeat two more times until combined (do not over-mix—that is bad for cakes).  Fold in the beets and mix slightly until blended.  Pour into pan(s) and bake for 40-60 minutes (less time for the smaller pans).  Check center with a toothpick or fork; if it comes out clean, your cake is baked!

Frost, glaze, or top with something delicious…or eat it naked….

Compost Cookies (makes 2 dozen)

With their cocoa background, flecks of carrot and coconut, and chunks of dried fruit and nuts, these little brown treats taste better than dirt.

1 cup flour
1/3 cup cocoa powder
½ tsp baking powder
¼ tsp baking soda
¼ tsp salt
1 cup sugar or ¾ cup honey
1/3 cup butter, softened
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 egg
½ cup raisins, dried cherries, or dried cranberries (or combo)
½ cup chocolate chips (optional)
½ cup shredded carrots
¼ cup shredded coconut (optional)
½ cup chopped nuts (optional—you choose)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Mix sweetener and butter together; add vanilla and egg and beat.  Mix dry ingredients together.  Add dry to wet and stir.  Fold in your extras (carrots, dried fruit, nuts, etc).  Drop spoonfuls onto a baking sheet and bake for about 10 minutes. 


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