Friday, March 31, 2006

Farm Meeting Notes March 31st

This is the farm meeting on March 31.
Present; Ashley M, Ashley L, Courtney, Sascha, Ben, Bobby, Erika, and Alicia


Goat fence
Potting soil
Goat Milk and milking
Tractor work
Work party schedules for april
CSA members payment stuff
Student Group
Barn Party (and cleaning for)
Scheduling and work shifts

Goat Fence;
Ladies fence, that is. We need to make a new one. We should schedule a day to do it with the tractor.
Do we want to enlarge their fence?
Inner perimeter stock fencing and electrified grazing area, which will be enlarges. But the stock fenced area doesn’t need to get bigger, and could even get smaller. Put electric fence in areas that are already clear and maintain the electric fence line – mow, weed whack. We have to baby proof the inside perimeter fence. Maybe flip the stock fencing upside down
So we’ll create work days based around that. There shall be a little meeting the night before the work day to work out the details.
Some say that at least six people should work on it together.
Erika says we should put a fence line from the corner of the banty shed so that they have a fence, to keep away large predators.

There are holes in the plastic, because it got stapled above the wood brace.
Until it ripped it was working great!
Things are staying warm.
Whoever wakes up first in the morning, go turn the space heater off.
The potting soil mix we made sucks. Too much sand, no water, plants aren’t growing. We’ll buy potting soil at Macenroe’s tomorrow. We’re talking about buying some compost now. Turning the idea over. Sounds like maybe we ought to do that. So we’ll get one cubic yard of potting soil and one cubic yard of compost.
We will still continue the search for horse manure.

Ashley M.’s proposal is that we dump everything we have and re-seed.
Okay, we say.
That will be a major priority this week.

Hoop house; ---

Goat Milk and Milking;
Now we’re milking once a day. We could potentially start milking at night.
What are we going to do with the milk?
More people need to get trained in milking.
If you are the last person to use the milking stuff, wash the milking utensils right away.
Ben can milk. Lots of people would like to learn. We’re also going to have another milking goat soon. Maybe there could be a couple people to a goat. Or, say, Ashley and Erika could be ‘primary milkers’ and others could fill in a couple times a week as needed.
Okay, no night milkings yet.
Court wants to make cheese a couple o tmies a week, and we’ll make yoghurt often and we like fresh milk, and we don’t have that much milk anyway right now, so that’s easy.

Tractor work;
Now we’re talking about what trees to keep or cut. The big ones by the road cast lots of shade and are very unhealthy. The two little ones ought to come out based on cutback in space that we will have tilled.
We’ll take a field walk tomorrow after lunch.

CSA Members payment stuff;
Ash has some edits to make of the pamphlet and then she feels we are ready to widely distribute that info.
As for city folk, they will get back to us by mid-week next week after they’ve met. Bobby will be at that meeting.
Ashley’s talking about scaling back.
So maybe just ten shares – five shares for tortuga and five sold locally. Linda at TSL wants to have a meeting. (She’s down with our proposal.)
Ash proposes that locally we do 10 shares. Plus 5 for Turtuga.

Who’s working on researching deer fencing?
Bobby will do it.
8 foot.

Friday, March 24, 2006

Farm meeting March 24th, 2006

Farm meeting
Friday March 24, 2006
Present; Ashley M., Ben, Courtney, Sascha

Soil amendments
Work party this weekend
Seeds – watering, re-seeding brocolli, organizing

Court will water the seeds for the weekend
Ben says “If we seed anything, put the seeds in the ‘started seeds’ manilla envelope, so that they are easier to find if we need to re-seed”.

What needs to be finished is we need to stretch mesh over the existing benches and additional benches need to be built in the front of the greenhouse and they need to have mesh put on them. Then we need to prep the frame for the plastic – wrap rusty nails that are sticking out so that it won’t rip the plastic. We need to attach plastic at the top with wood strip screwed into the shed. We need to add horizontal rafters to attach plastic to between vertical pieces of the frame.
How are we going to be heating it?
Ben has a little heater with a fan. Or space heaters.
We also have to run electricity into that shed – whether it be extension cord or adding a line coming from house’s power source. Look into that one.
The blower’s in the potting shed and it’s all wired up. We need to build a box for it.

Soil Amendments;
PH was 6.1, which is a little bit acidic.
What we need is
Jersery green sand, Rock phosphate, lime (we can get that from the cement company across the river – but we don’t actually need much lime). We need seasoned compost. Manure (try to get the number for the horse farm we got manure from a couple of years ago). For some crops we need kelp or fish emulsion or chicken manure.

Plowing – we have to finish clearing the field. Deal with the stumps out there – backhoe? We should call Ken. We’re talking about pushing our readiness back a week.
Wednesday four of us are going to work on clearing the field. Also, new moon planting will happen.
Three of us will keep clearing the field on Thursday.
Figure out the chainsaws ahead of time.
Tuesday is greenhouse day.
Wednesday is new moon planting. So, soak peas Tuesday afternoon.
Monday Ben is going to work on tracking down compost sources.
Saturday (tomorrow) is manure pickup and greenhouse building.
Sunday is goat fence building day.
House/Farm meeting Monday morning.
Friday Ben is going to go pick up soil amendments.

Weekend work party;
Tomorrow is greenhouse building day.
Sascha and Bobby will get people started on the greenhouse tomorrow morning.

Sunday is goat fence day. We need yellow brackets for electric fence – the ones you can nail into a cedar post. We need some electrical fence tape.
Oh man, we just looked up the weather for the weekend. It’s supposed to rain and snow. Darn.
Okay, if people want to come for a work party, we shall tell them to come on Sunday.

Thursday, March 23, 2006

Nestled among the tidal Hudson and the rising Catskills our small community is bustling with activity as we plan for the coming spring. Through brainstorming sessions, over potlucks, during meetings and at work on the land, we are borrowing and learning from the old while forming unique ideas and notions anew.
For a rural community to thrive in the 21st century, we need to work within traditional models of self-sufficiency while simultaneously cultivating local and regional relationships to share with one another the fruits of our labor. We want to create a physical space and a forum for community sustainability.

Our 60 acre collective farm in Germantown aims to connect with and support our local and broad community through projects based in sustainability and creativity. We have been a functioning collective for a bit less than a year and work in symbiosis with our sister community, the Bob, 20 miles away. We are examining the intersection between the cultivated and the wild, working to implement more simple and sustainable systems. We are building a greenhouse, pruning the orchard, and setting the cogs in motion for our farm project. A community space is developing, our barn and land being used for events, performances, classes, skill shares, workshops, art projects, community dinners and more. People from all over are learning about the project and coming to help out and help dream of what's to come.

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

some pretty photos (there are so many more...)

Monday, March 20, 2006

Planting Schedule
weeks of March 13th - 27th
start in house/greenhouse: onions, leeks, asian greens, kale, lettuce, chard, chives, tomatoes, peppers, tomatillos, eggplants

weeks of March 27th - April 10th (new moon march 29th)
first weekend in April: direct seeding weekend
direct seed: peas, kohlrabi, chard, mustard, radishes, favas

weeks of April 10th - April 23rd (4 - 6 weeks before last frost date)

start brussel sprouts, broccoli, cauliflower
start 2nd plantings of lettuce, kohlrabi, chard
direct seed: root crops: beets, turnips
start in greenhouse: fennel, basil

week of April 24th - May 7th (new moon April 27th)

direct seed: carrots, potatoes!
second week: start summer squash

week of May 8th - May 22nd (May 20th frost date)

second week: start cucumbers,

week of May 22nd - June 3rd (new moon May 27th)
direct seed: dill, melons, edamame, cilantro

weeks of June 4th - June 18th
direct seed 2nd cuke (pickler) planting, beans

Sunday, March 19, 2006

Dear Tortuga and friends,
We have worked out some of the details of our estimated costs, crops, and desired contribution. Hopefully not too late, we are really excited about our many forms of collaboration, if any of you or potential Buyer's Co-op members would like to submit anything for our publications, submissions for the Spring issue are due on May 1st!

As for the food part of our urban-rural interchange, here is what we are thinking......
You can expect 20 weeks of produce (June 1st - November 1st)
We will be growing the following crops....

late spring/early summer:
seedlings for your gardens in the city!
asian greens, lettuce, chard, peas, kohlrabi, mustard greens, arugula, radishes, favas, fennel, beets, turnips, scallions

mid-late Summer Harvest
chives, onions, kale, collards, lettuce, brussels sprouts, broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage,
tomatoes, peppers, tomatillos, eggplants, carrots, potatoes, summer squash, cucumbers,
dill, edamame, cilantro, melons, beans, corn

Fall harvest
melons, leeks, onions, tomatoes, peppers, tomatillos, eggplants,
brussels sprouts, broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, lettuce, kohlrabi, chard,
kale, collards, beets, turnips, parsnips, carrots, potatoes, winter squash, pumpkins

We will give you about five shares worth of produce, to be divied up as the buyer's co-operative decides.
We would like for everyone involved in the buyer's co-op to make it up to the farm at least once during the season and that a collection of folks come from the city for a work day at least once a month.
In exchange for produce and your help with distribution, and fundraising a financial contribution of $2,000 would enable us to make it financially viable.
This is our revised expectation of expenses:

• $1,500 Farm truck maintenance (fuel, repairs, insurance, grease conversion)
• $1000 Fencing (Stock Fencing, Gates, Ratchets, Corner Posts, Wire)
• $800 Hardware, tool maintenance, misc
• $700 Irrigation and Aquaculture (pumps, hoses, drip line)
$600 Tractor maintenance
• $500 Seeds
• $500 Tools (pruners, hoes, harvesting knives, rakes, seeder, soil blockers, digging forks etc.)
• $500 Soil amendments (Rock Phosphate, Jersey Green Sand)
• $400 Small Tractor
• $325 Re-may, and other row cover materials
• $300 Chicken expenses (coops, feed, chicken tractor)
• $300 Gravel (Parking area, Roadside Stand, Greenhouse Floor)
• $300 Harrowing Tractor Rental
• $250 Greenhouse Plastic
• $200 Perennial Plant Starts
• $200 Trellising Materials
• $200 Carts and wheelbarrows (could easily be made from bike parts and salvaged materials)
• $200 Greenhouse Materials (Blower, Bench Construction, Rebar)
• $200 Sheds and processing stations
• $200 Roto-tiller rental
• $150 Soil (for seed starting)
• $100 Legal Advice and LLC
• $100 Scales and containers
• $100 Mulch Straw and Hay
• $35 Business license
• $30 Soil Test
Total: $9,590
Your $2,000 would go to the most immediately necessary things on the list (potting soil, Fencing, Tractor rental etc.)
Also. if anyone is interested in specialized work contributions (i.e. website design, garden cart building, plumbing, electrical, carpentry, legal advice, plastic surgery etc.) We are still figuring out the idea of a bread share, which would be something like a loaf of organic bread (made with locally grown ingredients, and freshly milled flour) each week for an additional cost (which is yet to be determined), but Don the baker is into it. We'll let you know when we find out the price. Let us know whether there are any questions that remain unanswered! Can't wait to see you all again! We'll send our latest farm update along soon.

We're like a seed bomb, dude.

From the New York Times THursday Home and Garden Section.

March 9, 2006
Inviting Anarchy Into My Home

Greensboro, N.C.

ON Aug. 1, 2002, I left behind the comfortably roomy semicircle marked "married-couple household" on the Census Bureau pie chart and slipped into an inconspicuous wedge labeled "two or more people, nonfamily." Having separated from my husband of 28 years the day before, I opened our three-bedroom 1927 Colonial Revival house to a group of men and women less than half my age. Overnight, the home I had lived in for 12 years became a seven-person anarchist collective, run by consensus and fueled by punk music, curse-studded conversation and food scavenged from Dumpsters.

Thoreau famously said that he had "traveled much in Concord." I would venture to say that I've traveled just as much, and maybe more, without ever leaving my house.

It happened like this: My husband and I had come to the end of the line, as married people sometimes do. We had helped each other into adulthood and careers (Bill is a high school English teacher; I'm a freelance writer). We had raised two daughters together, but with Isabell and Margaret grown and both of us entering our 50's, it was clear that our hopes and goals for the next couple of decades were diverging.

Bill longed for quiet and solitude; I wanted noise and movement. To complicate matters, I had become the court advocate for Justin, a 15-year-old runaway from a foster home who had been in and out of juvenile detention since he was 12. After a year of trying to find a workable home for him, I had concluded that the only recourse was to be his foster mother myself.

Now, faced with the prospect of becoming a 52-year-old single mother to a teenage boy and the challenge of supporting us both, I panicked. Trying to imagine how I could make it work, I found my mind turning to a collective house in Oregon where Isabell, my older daughter, had lived the summer before, and to a group of young anarchist artists and musicians in Greensboro whom I knew through both of my daughters.

After Isabell came home from college an anarchist herself, I began to put aside my preconceptions about these people — as disorderly, violent and destructive — and to see them as a community dedicated to replacing hierarchy with consensus and cooperation. (Isabell once described them as Quakers who swear a lot.) Over time I found myself drawn to their hopeful view that people know best what is best for them and to their determination, naïve or not, to build a better world right away. Anarchism, at least as practiced here, seemed to be more about building community gardens and making your own fun than about black bandannas and confrontations with the riot police (although it was about those things, too).

Amid the chaos of my own life I wondered if this approach to living might have something in it for me. Unconventional as it was, I figured it couldn't be any worse than struggling to pay the mortgage and being Justin's mother on my own.

So Justin and I entered a microeconomy in which it is possible to live not just comfortably, but well, on $500 a month. When we pooled our skills in our new household, we found that we had what we needed to design a Web page, paint a ceiling or install a car stereo. Sharing services and tools with people outside the house saved us thousands of dollars a year. If there is a historical model for the way we live, it is not the communes of the 60's or the utopian experiments of the 19th century, but the two-million-year prehistory of our hunting-and-gathering ancestors. Looked at through that lens, the life of our miniature tribe feels a lot like the way people were meant to live.

That account, of course, leaves out the terror I felt through the summer of 2002 as I prepared to open my house to anarchy. Also the occasional awful days and nights early in the experiment, like the evening that began with Justin's skateboard at the bottom of the stairs and that ended with shouting, slammed doors and the skateboard flying out a second-story window. Then there were the guests who wouldn't leave; the short-lived but horrifying rat invasion (brought on, I suspect, by boxes of food from Dumpsters on the back porch); and the friends who drifted out of my life, baffled by my new living arrangements.

I still own about two-thirds of the house, sharing the title with two young women in the collective, Mackie Hunter, a 25-year-old full-time political activist who had an insurance settlement to invest, and Stef Smith, a 26-year-old drummer with a never-to-be-used college fund. Their investment, and my refinancing of the house, allowed me to buy out Bill after we divorced two years ago, and gave them about a third share of the property. Since I do not want to profit from the collective as its landlady, I have decided that the portion of the equity that builds up from my housemates' monthly rent will not go to me if the house is sold or refinanced, but will serve to help keep the collective going. In essence I've converted my capital from the house to the household. Twenty years from now, when I'm in my mid-70's, I may regret giving up my equity in return for time and community, but I don't think so. I'd rather take my retirement now.

The ages in the house span 50 years, from Jodi Staley's 6-year-old daughter, Skye, to me. Justin, now 18, moved out more than a year ago to live with his girlfriend; he hopes to go to a music conservatory. (He turned out to be one of those children it takes a village to raise, and he not only thrived under the group's care but rebelled into surprisingly mainstream respectability.)

None of us work full time. We support ourselves by painting houses, typing legal depositions, teaching (as substitutes), subjecting ourselves to medical studies, cooking in restaurants and writing. The time I save allows me to help care for an elderly relative, cook for a free meal program, spend time with friends and work on a book.

On paper we look like paupers. The monthly cost of living in the house comes to $160 to $245 a person, based on the size of one's bedroom. That includes the mortgage, property taxes, household insurance, utilities (we have an unlimited long-distance plan) and wireless Internet. In addition we each put $30 a month into a house fund that pays for bulk food like rice, beans, olive oil and spices, and supplies like toilet paper, light bulbs and laundry detergent.

As for produce, a typical evening of hunting and gathering in various grocery store Dumpsters brings in plenty of food: cartons of apples, oranges, potatoes, bananas and red onions, slightly soft or spotty perhaps, but still fresh and edible.

Every Sunday it is someone's turn to fix dinner while the rest of us sweep and mop, with Al Green or the Pixies blasting from the kitchen stereo. Since the dining room has been turned into a bedroom (as have the downstairs study and a small upstairs room that was my office), we eat on the screened-in side porch or in the backyard under the crape myrtle tree when the weather is warm, or around the kitchen table or in the living room when it is cool.

On Tuesday night we hold the weekly house meeting. It is surprisingly helpful to know who has a headache, who just fell in love, who is sleepy. More than one set of roommates have blown apart over dishes piled up in the sink and wet towels left on the bathroom floor; then again, so have quite a few nuclear families. We talk things out.

Though our daily activities are a lot closer to the Waltons than to the Weather Underground, we keep "In Case of Police Raid" instructions posted by our front and back doors. It is a reminder that houses like ours in other towns do get raided.

In spite of the stigma attached to the word "anarchist" and the scrutiny openly anarchist households receive, the number of such houses is growing. Anarchists are no longer just in college towns and big cities; there are now thriving anarchist communities and houses like ours in places like Lake Worth, Fla.; Machias, Me.; and Springfield, Mo. The online directory maintained by the Fellowship for Intentional Community lists more than 1,000 collective houses, ecovillages and co-ops in the United States, compared with about 400 in the 1990 directory. Although not all of them identify themselves as anarchist, more than half make their decisions by consensus. Even that number is clearly low: none of the five collective houses I know of in Greensboro, for example, are listed in the directory.

It is a rare week when we do not have at least one guest in residence. One winter we had a Danish filmmaker living in the garage. On a rainy night last spring an entire old-time string band showed up on the doorstep. The musicians had been hopping freight trains around the country and gotten stranded; they played fiddle, banjo and musical saw in the living room and left the next day. Another guest walked from Maine to North Carolina, the first leg of a trip home to Oregon. He stayed for a week, mended some rips in his backpack, then walked off down the driveway due west.

I have friends who tell me they could not live the way I do. I believe them. The constant sound of footsteps on the stairs, the coffee cups in the sink, the mysterious things in the refrigerator that no one claims, the sheer intensity some days of so many personalities rubbing up against one another, is not for everyone. But then neither are more conventional living arrangements. For me, a household of friends — more loosely bound than a family but tied together by loyalty, affinity and shared space — satisfies a need for kinship and companionship that did not end when my family did.

The old house's former incarnation as a middle-class, nuclear-family household still rises up in my mind now and then. Someone will ask about an umbrella or a bottle of aspirin or a pair of needle nose pliers, and I'll picture so clearly the place where the object used to be that for a moment I'm there instead of here. It is not an unpleasant sensation, just a little strange.

For the most part, though, my memory keeps up a pretty sturdy firewall between the time I have come to think of as "before" and now. Where I live now is not utopia. What it is, though, is fun. It is fun to hear people laughing on the porch; it is fun to dance in the kitchen; it is fun to go out on a Wednesday evening Dumpster run. As messy as it is, to my mind it is a lot more interesting than utopia could ever be.

here was kaya's mom's response

March 11, 2006

To the Editor:

In reference to “Inviting Anarchy Into My Home” by Liz Seymour, Essay, House and Home Section; Thursday, March 9, 2006:

“Anarchy” is often considered a dirty word in the media, usually appearing in the same sentence with “chaos” and “destruction”. But like my fellow baby boomer Liz Seymour, I have discovered there is an impressive network of “self-styled” anarchists out there. These resourceful young people are dedicated to old-fashioned values such as building community and standing up for justice and personal responsibility. They carry forward our generation’s legacy of the civil rights, peace and environmental movements. Their biggest crime is refusing to participate in the energy-gobbling and soul-robbing consumer culture. They should be considered our brightest hope for survival into the future.

Melissa Roberts Weidman

Saturday, March 18, 2006

Community Supported Agriculture

CSA Brochure:
Community Supported Agriculture
What is a CSA?
A CSA is a model of farming that directly connects the farmer and consumer. By joining a CSA, a member pledges support to a farm operation by paying for a 'share' of the farm at the beginning of the season. Members receive fresh, local produce every week throughout the growing season.The farmer and the CSA members share the risks, and bounty of a growing season. We all depend on one another, CSA's recognize the interdependence of farmers and consumers. It is an oppurtunity for the members to connect with the land and the source of their food, and an oppurtuniy for the farmer to connect with their community!

About Germantown Community Farm
Germantown Community farm exists on 60 acres of farmland, orchard, and woodland. We are in the process of restoring our old orchard (someday CSA shares may include apples!), and expanding growing operations to give more people access to healthy food. This will be our first year offering CSA shares! By sharing our produce, skills and seeds locally, practicing sustenance farming, local marketing and the CSA model, we hope to move forward as a thriving community that serves the local and global community with food, education, connection and inspiration. our other projects?

How We Farm
People and Community Structure
We operate on a collective model, and use egalitarian and concensus-based decision making processes. We share responsibility. We have individual commitments and responsibilities some of which are fixed, some of which rotate. The only way our non-heirarchical structure functions is through consistent and thorough communication. Throughout the growing season, we will have weekly field walks so that everyone involved in the farming project can have a clear idea of how the crops are doing and we can work efficiently together.

Growing practices/philosophy
Diversity is strength. It creates healthy soil, healthy cultures, and healthy people. As stewards of our natural resources, our practices are sustainable and pesticide/herbicide free. We incorporating methods of organic soil improvement such as cover cropping, mulching, compost tea, and perennial polyculture borders. We find the tastiest and highest quality produce to be that which is grown with a reverence for the land. We are passionate about growing high quality heirloom varieties.

Why We Farm
As an alternative to agribusiness, small farms stimulate community growth.
A healthy relationship between people and the source of their food is essential to a conscious community and culture.
In the face of the escalating global seed crisis, genetic modification, and food privatization, the basic ability to be a part of what you eat is increasingly difficult. statistic here about agribusiness! when the average bite comes from X miles away and x seeds/farms are owned by x corporations.....
The process of growing food and learning about how to grow food enables people to develop the connections and understanding that is at the root of sustaining healthy communities. Germantown Community Farm aims to connect with and support our local and broad community through projects based in sustainability and creativity. For a rural community to thrive in the 21st century, we need to work within traditional models of self-sufficiency while simultaneously cultivating local and regional relationships to share with one another the fruits of our labor. We want to create a physical space and a forum for community sustainability.

Supporting a First Year Project
Becoming a member of our CSA means that as well as being a part of the process of growing vegetables, you will have the oppurtunity to be a part of our farms growing process! We will be looking to this years members for feedback and suggestions for subsequent years. The risks of a first year project are mostly in the vegetables, tomato blight, and flea beetles, but we are confident that our members will receive a full season of delicious produce.

Numbers, Dates, and Dollars
Our base price for shares this year will be $500
You can expect 20 weeks of produce June 1st- November 1st
Members can pick it up on _________ between _-_ or __________ between __-__
We require 15 hours of work for the season because we want to know and work with our members. This translates to 3 hours per month or 2 full days at some point during the season. Members can sign up for work days when they come to pick up their produce.

What's in a Share?
late spring/early Summer:
asian greens, lettuce, chard, peas, kohlrabi, mustard, arugula, radishes, favas, fennel, beets, turnips, scallions

mid-late Summer Harvest
chives, onions, kale, collards, lettuce, brussel sprouts, broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, tomatoes, peppers, tomatillos, eggplants, carrots, potatoes, summer squash, cucumbers, dill, edamame, cilantro, melons, beans, corn

Fall harvest
melons, leeks, onions, tomatoes, peppers, tomatillos, eggplants, brussel sprouts, broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage
lettuce, kohlrabi, chard, kale, collards, beets, turnips, parsnips, carrots, potatoes, winter squash, pumpkins

Bread share: For $80 ?????? you can add a loaf of organic bread from Wild Hive Farm Bakery to your weekly box. (Locally milled and grown organic grain)

Becoming a Member
payment philosophy
our share
special shares

Friday, March 10, 2006

Seed Saving at Germantown Community Farm

Heirlooms, Hybrids, Corporate Seed Monsters,
and Protecting Our Collective Agricultural Heritage

When people talk about “heirloom vegetables” just imagine them like an heirloom anything else: something so good they’ve been passed down from generation to generation, seeds saved and replanted, preserved and cherished. When people talk about “open-pollinated vegetables” they are talking about populations of adaptable plants whose seeds can be saved and replanted the following year. Up until pretty recently, most farmers and gardeners saved their own seeds and the plants they grew adapted to the local soil and weather and pests and diseases.

When people talk about “F1 Hybrids” they’re referring to the offspring of two distinct varieties of open-pollinated plants whose genetic base has been selected and reduced to be so narrow and sparse that when they’re crossed the resulting mix of genes in the new seeds creates a plant that’s incredibly productive and uniform for one season, but whose seeds are all confused and useless for farmers when planted the next season.

If I’ve lost you with the awkward scientific language, just remember this part: farmers who use hybrid seeds need to buy new seeds every year because they can’t save the one growing in their field. Hybrid technology changed the whole face of the seed industry because it turned seeds from a natural resource and part of the life cycle of the farm into a marketable commodity. Back in the 1970’s all the old regional seed companies in this country were bought out by global petrochemical companies who already owned the fertilizer, herbicide, and pesticide factories. If you think about it for a second it doesn’t make any sense for fertilizer and herbicide and pesticide companies to own the seeds we use: what incentive would they have to breed seeds to be healthy or resistant to pests and diseases? It’s a really bad idea.

But it just gets worse: in the 1990’s the petrochemical companies merged with the pharmaceutical corporations and now call themselves the Life Science Industry and spend enormous amounts of money trying to figure out how to suck the life of vegetables and sell them to us as expensive pills and how to genetically engineer their seeds to be dependent on their chemicals. (And they spend just as much money trying to figure out how to convince us that these are really good ideas that we can’t live without!)

Last year, 2005, Seminis, the largest vegetable seed company in the world, was bought by Monsanto Corporation for $1.4 billion. Monsanto is the leading proponent and practitioner of genetic engineering. Monsanto seeds and biotech traits account for 88% of the total acreage of genetically modified seed planted worldwide. The whole thing is such a big disaster it makes my head spin when I think about it too much. So growing open-pollinated and heirloom seeds, saving their seeds, and then teaching others how to do it is one way of retaining some degree of self-respect and autonomy from these corporate monsters.

While it has become way less common in this country as our agri-cultural roots disappear into the monoculture, farmers all over the world have been saving and trading their seeds for ten thousand years and most farmers in the world still have the skills to save their own seeds. Here in the United States there is a small but growing movement of farmers and gardeners who are actively saving their seeds, adapting them to their local environments, and working towards a vision of community controlled agriculture that is completely independent from the corporate seed barons. Here at the Germantown Farm a number of us have some experience saving seeds and we’re really excited about learning with each other and drawing upon the knowledge of our fellow seedsfolk here in the local area and around the country.

Here on our farm we feel privileged to be getting our seeds from the wonderful folks at FEDCO up in Maine, as well as our friends like Frank Morton from Wild Garden Seeds and the Kapuler Family from Peace Seeds out in Oregon. We’re honored to be participating in seed trials through NOFA-NY, and well as have neighbors like the biodynamic farmer folks at Turtle Tree Seeds. We feel blessed that there are existing national networks like the Seed Savers Exchange, and support organizations like the Organic Seed Alliance that are helping our movement to grow. We’re very inspired by the work of pioneers out on the West Coast like Dan Jason of Salt Spring Seeds, Susanne Ashworth who wrote Seed to Seed, Dr. Carol Deppe who wrote Breed Your Own Vegetable Varieties, Raoul Robinson who wrote Return to Resistance: Breeding Crops For Reduced Pesticide Dependence, David Theodoropoulos from J. L. Hudson Seeds, George Stevens from Synergy Seeds, and the folks at the Bay Area Seed Interchange Library in Berkeley, California.

On our farm in the Hudson Valley of New York we’re planning to build a healthy library of seeds, teach seed saving workshops to people in our community, and spend the coming years stewarding heirloom treasures, adapting new varieties, and sharing the magic of our harvests with friends and strangers alike. This is truly our collective heritage and we understand how important it is that we do this work together.