The Story of a Seed: from Pollination to your Plate
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.
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 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.
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
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.
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.
7. The Farmer
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.
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.
This story was featured as the centerspread of our 2015 seed catalog.