As the saying goes, "hindsight is 20/20," and the year that sometimes felt like a century is now in our rearview mirror. Can memory clearly reflect such a complicated, difficult, and bittersweet year?
Here at The Hudson Valley Seed Co., it feels almost quaint to look back to last January when we had no real inkling of what was on the horizon. We were prepping the greenhouse for first sowings, our annual catalog was hot off the press, and we were excited about new products like Sunchokes, Dahlias, and Everlasting Flower Mix.
But soon, 2020 itself would seem “everlasting” as we experienced a barrage of bad news from Covid-19 to wildfires and everything in between–including deep political divisions and unbearable examples of racial injustice.
Fortunately, work brought structure and purpose to our days and we could avoid the extreme isolation experienced by some. As a seed farm in Upstate New York, we were deemed an “essential business,” and the entire crew stepped up as more and more orders poured in through spring. With much uncertainty in the air, the demand for seed was high; people all over were thinking about food security and worried about supply chains. Watching favorite food items and toilet paper disappear from supermarket shelves, it's easy to see why.
To meet the demand for seeds while following the latest CDC guidelines, we staggered our shifts and spaced out as best we could, learning to read each other’s eyes for a hint of a smile. Some of us had to juggle childcare while working from home; others came in at dawn to find shipping bins piled with envelopes packed by the evening staff; farm crew wore masks in an increasingly hot greenhouse; and then we moved our entire headquarters–production, shipping, and office–to a new location a few miles from home base.
There were also moments that felt like a return to pre-pandemic innocence: looking out at a field of Torch Tithonia against the deep blue sky; the hum of bees collecting pollen from Silverleaf Sunflowers; the refreshing crunch of a Mexican Sour Gherkin still warm from summer sun; tiny Amaranth seeds scattering at our feet... It goes without saying: farm life is hard work but nothing beats the scenery.
Describing moments like these, Farm Manager Stevens says: “Synchronicity and magic happen in silly and simple ways on a farm. It’s little tidbits of connection and interconnection and luck. It’s a mourning dove sharing the day with us planting garlic or a group of robins pecking at freshly tilled soil. It’s the exact right amount of bags of potting soil to finish the job. It’s the weather saying guaranteed rain and it not raining (when you don’t want it to). The weather saying no rain and it pours (when you do want it to).”
In 2020, we watched Victory Gardens make a big comeback, and helped newbie growers place their first seed orders. Working closely with our customers and wholesale partners this year, Ayelet says, “I appreciated how patient our customers were with us as we were figuring out a very new reality with the business. I felt a strong sense of community. Even though all of us were struggling for similar and different reasons, we shared a collective desire to connect with the earth and grow beautiful flowers and delicious vegetables."
Through our regular donation program, we connected schools, community groups, and others to open-pollinated seeds that they can save and re-grow year after year. We also continued our support for those helping to increase land access to Black farmers including: The Northeast Farmers of Color Land Trust, Wildseed Community Farm, Soul Fire Farm, and National Black Food and Justice Alliance.
As our customer base grew, we found our most widely-read blog posts were on Growing for Food Security, Planning a Diverse Organic Garden, and Gardening with Kids. In fall, more people were learning about Winter-Sown Flowers and Growing Poppies from Seed.
With help from artists across the country, we ushered brand new art into the world, softening 2020’s edges just a bit. These images graced our Art Packs, Calendar, Note Cards, and Prints. Seed Art Manager Jen was moved by the professionalism of the artists we worked with this year and heartened to see “that it was still possible to create incredible work under such extremely challenging circumstances.”
And, of course, we now have our very own brick-and-mortar retail space where we get to showcase original art each month from our permanent collection. (For local orders, we're back to curbside pick-up for the time being–see here for details.)
As intense as this year has been, we had beauty, serendipity, seeds, and each other to see us through.
Here’s to a boring 2021! And if not, then more flowers will have to do.