Farming in the Foothills
I will admit: there was a time, back in the beginning, when saving seed was really hard. I clearly remember trying to clean our first batches of lettuce seed and, after hours of shaking and winnowing, still being left with chaff in my seed. I remember cleaning hot pepper seeds and all the unspeakable places we burned, or the freezing hands scooping out squash seeds in November.
Looking back on these memories from nearly 15 years ago I see we have come a long way. I often remind my daughter when she is frustrated to embrace a growth mind-set and that practice is a cornerstone of success. Now those same batches of lettuce seed are cleaned in 10-20 minutes thanks to our many years of practice, refining techniques and better equipment.
I believe farming, specifically seed farming, chose us. Never, as a teenager or in my university years did I think, “I’d like to be a farmer!” Meeting my husband, who comes from a livestock farming background, and becoming garden curious in my mid-20’s pushed us to seek out a lifestyle that would be compatible with our ethics. For us, that meant living rurally on land.
In 2005 we found land in the foothills of Lassen Peak in northern CA. The Manton valley runs east to west, originating at Lassen Peak and opening into the California northern central valley. This region traditionally falls in Yana territory and we see evidence that many people populated this valley prior to white settlement in the mid to late 1800s.
The land was completely burned in a forest fire in 2005 just months before we purchased it. During our first years we worked with a USDA grant to replant 11 acres of conifers, many of which are thriving nearly 15 years later. Through carbon sequestration, 100% solar power generation and maintaining natural habitat we strive to walk softly here and protect this 40 acres for future generations.
The seed business officially began in 2009 after years of dabbling in seed saving and growing seeds on contract for other companies. Seed saving has grown on us, excuse the pun, and has become an all encompassing way of life. Most of the seeds in our collection were grown on our farm with a handful purchased from other small scale organic farmers. Our farming practices include crop rotation, interplanting, cover cropping, no-till and water conservation.
We seek out heirloom and open pollinated varieties that will perform in our Mediterranean climate, characterized by hot dry summers and cold wet winters. We keep in mind the high mountains, hot valleys and coastal climates with many heat tolerant and short season varieties. Our seeds are all Certified Organic by CCOF and are open pollinated meaning gardeners can save their own pure seed from our stock. We support independent breeding work and are pledged to the Open Source Seed Initiative.
Over time our family has expanded to include two children, one dog and a succession of cats. As my hair slowly is laced with silver and we step into being middle aged farmers I continue to realize that each season still schools us. This seedy dance is an evolution and we are always learned new tricks and ways to improve how we operate and the seeds we offer.
Sincerely from our garden to yours,