Why do I grow and sell seeds?
Growing up my mom grew a small market garden. She taught me how to grow food in the garden. She taught me how to sow seed, how to hoe weeds and how to transplant my seedlings into the beds. While I helped her grow lots of things, my first personal crop was melons. My mom didn’t care to grow them, but I loved melons. I was about nine years old, and although it took a few years of trying, I eventually succeeded growing sweet, juicy melons.
As I grew up around the market garden, I would sometimes get paid $1 to do a little planting or weeding. I eventually decided that I wanted to make more than $1, and fortunately my mom was willing to turn her small salad greens business over to me. I seeded, weeded, and harvested salad greens. I would then wash them in an old bathtub we set up in the backyard. Once or twice a week my mom took me around town in her station wagon, and I’d go in and deliver fresh greens to stores and restaurants.
Through all this growing I noticed things in the garden. I took note of the plants that grew better, had more vibrant colors, or stood out in other ways. Once again, my mom already was a seed saver, and she encouraged me to do the same. Using my observation to select from the diversity that naturally occurs in the garden, it was easy and felt natural. It also fit with another value that was instilled in me by my parents: self-reliance. My mom would say: “Why would you send away for seed and buy it each year when it’s so easy to save it yourself?”. It seemed obvious to her, and now me, that if you grow things you should also save the seed.
There is something powerful about seed. Seeds' intrinsic power is awe-inspiring and guides my work with seeds. If you ever look at a big maple tree, and look at the seed from whence it emerges, you must be amazed that something so big and complex can come from such a small seed. As modern science in the modern era can explain many of the natural phenomena around us, there are still some things that feel magical, and seed is one of those for me.
Hayley, my life partner, has become my co-pilot in this seed adventure. Together we knew we wanted to create something in collaboration. We have a shared passion for plants, and both independently had a dream of starting a seed company. In the past four years we have learned and grown a lot together, in plants and in ourselves. It’s fun to watch each other, these plants and this little seed company take root and thrive.
Growing plants is limited by the power of the seed, and the quality of that seed is mostly a direct result of the work of past seed stewards. The selection and breeding work that our ancestors performed created the food crops we enjoy today, and all of the wonderful variation. People have been a part of this process for thousands of years. I couldn’t imagine a life in which I was not moved to participate in this process of creation, the seed saving and selection work, and the resulting plants that the seed will grow.
In the past, many more people used to participate in growing food and saving seeds. As fewer individuals participate in this work today, the seed saving work has moved to the wheelhouse of larger companies that may have different goals than growers like you or me. The more diverse a group of seed growers is, the more diverse group of interests we can all grow seeds for. As I live in Western Oregon, I want seeds and plants that perform here in the Pacific Northwest. That doesn’t mean that they won’t work well in lots of other places, but it does mean that I can cater the varieties we carry to what works for us here. We can work on selecting varieties that thrive in an organically-managed environment, are disease resistant, are easy to grow and are exceptionally delicious. I can select things that are especially beautiful and unique, and feel confident that they will excel where I live and grow. From my roots as an organic market farmer, I know the power of good seed and good genetics in producing a vigorous, beautiful, and resilient plant.
Growing seed compliments and pairs well with the work of a market farmer, which is what I do when I am not working on the seed company. The big push for market farming is in the summer, the big push in a seed company is in the winter. While growing the seed can compete for our limited time in the summer, the cleaning, packet filling and selling seed in winter and spring pairs perfectly with growing food and flowers for markets in the summer.
Someday I will pass on. The weeds I pulled will grow back, the fences I built will decay or be replaced. The fields I farmed will be farmed by others or return to the wild.
What will I leave behind?
Hopefully, I will play a small role in the biological web of this world. I will leave a little bit of my own preferences through the selection of genes of the future plant world. Maybe a generation or two down the road, someone will add to my work and save seed from a plant that I once saved the seed from. If not, if that seed I once saved from is lost or forgotten, or devolves back to its former self, that’s okay too. Hopefully, if nothing else, we don’t leave the world in much worse shape than we found it.