Paula Manalo: Seeds galore…


From PAULA MANALO
Mendocino Organics CSA

“You want to try a new eggplant variety? Look at this one – it’s marbled”

“We’re not growing that one variety of cucumber that was s**t last year. F**k that.”

“This greenhouse tomato is resistant to all these diseases. And this other variety comes in organic.”

“Oh, good, we still have a lot of that seed from last year so we don’t have to buy any.”

“Well, if we grow two rows of cucumbers and two rows of tomatoes in the greenhouse, let’s do basil in the fifth row.”

That’s what the office conversation is full of when we’re preparing our annual giant seed order. With seed catalogs, lists, calculators, pens, and papers around us, sitting on the floor, we get to envision our fields and future harvests. It’s rather exciting. Some farmers and gardeners compare seed catalogs to porn. Leafing through the pages of colorful produce, herbs and flowers, you can’t help salivate over the contentment of a bountiful harvest in the growing season to come. Agronomic info and variety descriptions only enhance the flavor of this vision.

Our hand-drawn maps may be out of proportion on pieces of scrap paper, but with accurate calculations, feedback from CSA members, and mostly experience, we’re able to figure out what seed we need to buy. We’re a bit anxious because cash flow is almost stagnant this time of year, and we know that popular varieties, particularly organic ones, sometimes sell out quickly. We have to act fast and just get the order in. A late catalog in the mail or “seed crop failure” of a favorite variety can be a source of consternation.

After about a month of pouring over our maps, thinking about how we want to rotate our crops, looking at field histories, checking remaining seed inventory, thinking about our different markets and potential new markets  – with catalogs in hand, we were able to list out our vegetable seed order. We’ve put in our largest seed order to one vendor, and when we are more flush, we’ll put in the next two. For now, until those spring seeds come in and we start seedlings in the greenhouse or direct sow in the new high tunnel, we’ll keep flipping through the colorful catalogs and carrying the vision of a good growing season.

Farm Fact for the Week:

As organic vegetable producers, we have to use organic seed. We’re only allowed to use non-organic seed if it’s organic equivalent is not commercially available. If we use non-organic seed, we have to provide documentation that we searched at least three sources for its organic equivalent. So, not only do we have to keep good records of our seed orders/searches for our own bookkeeping and future reference, but also for our organic certification.
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One Comment

I’ve often wondered about the orthodoxy of “organic”, even though I fully support all things “organic”, “biodynamic”, etc. Why would a naughty seed, one that had “sinned” in some way, not be capable of “healing its ways”? I mean, let’s say (GMO aside, of course – there’s a fatal flaw from the get go) a seed that had been compromised in some way, eg the source was not organic, either through certification issues, or some spray had been used in generating it, whatever: is there no redemption for the resulting plant, if the plant and the farm growing it, did everything right? What say ye, Paula, and Dave? Perhaps there’s a regulation that says, if that plant goes to a second generation via seed, is it forever doomed to certification damnation?

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