The History and Philosophy of High Mowing Organic Seeds
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High Mowing Organic Seeds began in 1996 with just 28 varieties. After tilling up a portion of his backyard and turning his shed into a seed packing area, founder Tom Stearns had no trouble selling the seed he grew that first year. Suddenly, what had started as a hobby became a practical business pursuit, as Tom realized the growing and unmet demand for organic seed. This demand allowed Tom to expand the business beyond his backyard, renting parcels of land to produce the seed he was selling through a hand-made catalog. By 2001, business had grown to such an extent that Tom began to contract with other local farms to grow seed, in addition to continuing to produce seed himself on High Mowing's own 5 acres.
High Mowing Organic Seeds has grown exponentially, and what started as a one-man operation is now a thriving business making available to home gardeners and commercial growers over 600 heirloom, open-pollinated and hybrid varieties of vegetable, fruit, herb and flower seed. True to our roots, High Mowing Organic Seeds continues to grow many of the varieties we sell on our 40 acre farm, setting us apart from the majority of other seed companies.
As we've grown, we have continually worked to produce, develop and sell only the best quality organic seeds for varieties selected for their exceptional performance in organic conditions. We have expanded the selection and availability of organic seeds, we've reached out to other farmers, locally and across the country, to produce seed for us, and we've established partnerships with wholesale seed companies that have made commitments to develop and produce organic seed. In our own operation, we’ve implemented the highest quality standards for seed testing and invested our on-site lab and Quality Control department, we have purchased state-of-the art seed cleaning and sorting equipment, we have built a knowledgeable customer service team – many of whom are or were farmers – to answer customer questions, and we have created a trials and breeding program to assess and develop varieties that thrive in organic conditions.
"Tom Stearns loves seeds. When asked what it is about seeds that makes him so passionate, he replies, “I see seeds as one of the best educational tools. For me, I’ve seen myself as an educator more than anything else. I see my work focusing on helping people rebuild their local food systems. Seeds are an important, yet easy, tool to recognize the importance of these systems, and seeds are one of the mediums by which this message can be conveyed.”
Livin’ Magazine MAY | JUNE 2008 - by Cheryl Bruce
At High Mowing Organic Seeds, we believe in re-imagining what our world can be like. We believe in a deeper understanding of how re-built food systems can support health on all levels – healthy environments, healthy economies, healthy communities and healthy bodies. We believe in a hopeful and inspired view of the future based on better stewardship for our planet. Everyday that we are in business, we are growing; working to provide an essential component in the re-building of our healthy food systems: the seeds.
The People at High Mowing
All of us at High Mowing Organic Seeds are passionate about food and farming. Some of us run our own farms. Some of us have farmed in the past. Most of us grow some of our own food. We are a fun-loving group with diverse interests, brought together by our common love of growing, on whatever scale, appreciation for the importance of sustainable agriculture, and tolerance of a cold climate.
What's In a Name – Our Company's Place-based Identity
When the early European settlers came to New England, they brought with them their livestock-based agriculture. The practice of mowing hayfields and storing winter feed was well-established, and became even more important when they encountered the long winters in northern New England. But instead of calling such a field a “hayfield” like we do today, they called it a “mowing”. These fields, or mowings, were usually further identified by a descriptor referring to location: the “back mowing” was behind the farm, the “low mowing” was in the valley, and the “high mowing” was up on the hilltop. In northern Vermont, where small rivers wind their way through mountainous and hilly terrain, nearly all mowings are “high mowings”. A hundred years ago, farms on these hillsides had names like “High Mowing Farm” or “High Mowing Acres”. When our seed company first started, we not only liked the sound of “high mowing”, but it was an old, regionally specific, agricultural term that fit the kind of seed company we are: farm-based and rooted in a place.