Work slowed little here on the farm this winter. In early January, Loren and I pored through seed catalogs, decided what varieties we wanted to offer our customers, and plotted out over half an acre of garden beds. Bundles of seed packages began arriving in February, and soon after we planted hundreds of veggie starts in our greenhouse.
Being a certified organic farm, we follow strict guidelines established by the USDA through their National Organic Program (NOP). Therefore, we only purchase non-treated non-GMO seeds through companies who have taken the Safe-Seed Pledge.
Essential to organic farming is understanding the type of seeds available. Do we want to grow hybrids, open-pollinated, or heirloom seeds, and what distinguishes one type from others?
Hybrids, known as F1seeds, are when two varieties of the same type of plant are cross-pollinated. Hybrids may have improved production, flavor, and greater disease resistance. The drawback is you cannot harvest seeds from the fruit and grow the exact same plant next season.
For example, the highly desirable Albion Strawberries, in high demand at local farmer markets last year, are a hybrid. When we searched for strawberry plants, we wanted a variety with a history for sweet flavor and prolific plant runners that would produce new root stock. We selected the tried-and-true Fort Laramie and Eversweet, both offer excellent flavor, quality fruit, and vigorous runners.
After doing tons of reading and gaining understanding of the nature of seeds, Loren and I decided to focus on growing open-pollinated and heirloom plants. While we offer a few F1 flowers and ornamentals, of the dozens of certified organic veggies grown on our farm only two are hybrids, requested by a wholesale customer. The rest of our produce is the way God created it—open pollinated.
Open pollinated means you can grow a specific fruit or veggie, harvest seeds at the end of the season, plant that seed the following year and grow the exact same variety, true to the parent, such as we did this year with our snow peas and French breakfast radishes.
While collecting seed can be time consuming, it does save on out-of-pocket costs. Not to mention, there’s a certain level of comfort in knowing if the supply chain experiences shortages, like in 2020/21, we can harvest our own seed to grow nutritious produce for both our family and yours.
This year we also ventured further down the storied path of heirlooms. These seeds are always open pollinated and carry a documented history greater than fifty years. As we discovered, much of what we already grow falls under this category, such as Ruby red chard, early wonder beets, and dwarf blue curled and Nero Toscana kales. And since my 4th great-grandmother was Kickapoo, I was thrilled to discover Cherokee Purple Tomatoes, and Lakota Squash, available this summer from the online farm store on our website.
Among the other heirlooms added this year, we’re excited to offer our customers Costata Romanesco zucchini, lemon cucumbers, and sugar pie pumpkins. Carrying a rich history just like you and I, why not add some heirlooms to your family’s culinary experience? Fresh from our farm to your table.