Dripping with Irony

by Ken Greene

The good news is the new Farm Bill pays a little bit more attention to small farms. We just got word that we're receiving a USDA grant to put in a drip irrigation system on the farm! Ironically, we have not had to water at all this season; in fact, we’ve been desperately missing those dry days of wishing for rain. Hopefully, the USDA engineers will be able to address irrigation, water conservation, and our flooding issues all in one waterways plan.  We'll be working with the engineers this fall and hopefully begin excavation and installation next summer.

The bad news continues to be the weather. Governor Patterson and Senators Gillibrand and Schumer have all requested disaster relief aid from the federal government after touring New York State farms. Our farm, like many in our region of New York, is not glowing with the fruity red ripeness typical of this time of year. As many of you know, it’s not easy to grow vegetables in an off season like this. It’s already difficult to grow seed in the Northeast even without the weird wet weather, which is why so much of our seed comes from less humid parts of the country with longer growing seasons. Although we can usually mitigate some of the climatic obstacles for seed growing, this year’s rain and resulting insects and disease have been impossible to avoid.

It can be depressing to walk out to the seed gardens and see our hard work and high hopes shriveling away. When I’m wondering if it’s all worth it I try to remember that the Seed Library is more than a business and Seedy Farm is more than a small plot of arable acreage. Our long term vision of a more just and sustainable food system depends on small farms like ours struggling through these difficult times when most of our food and seed comes from agribusiness giants and profit driven chemical companies. Seeing how dependent we are on the weather has shown us the importance of interdependence between people. We count on the gardeners and locavores, the foodies and artists, the activists and civil eaters, and especially the Seed Library members to accept our struggles as part of the challenge of changing a powerful but broken food and farm system.

My other big inspiration continues to be gardeners, especially the beginners. One of last year’s artists, Carrie Scanga, recently told me a story about our nasturtiums. She had given her sister our Variegated Nasturtium Art Pack. The marbled leaves and multicolored flowers are now growing in front of her sister Sara’s house. An elderly neighbor, who Sara had rarely seen leave her house, came across the street to admire the flowers and tell Sara she had not seen this variety since they were grown in her mother’s garden. When we grow seeds with history we are cultivating green tendrils of connection between generations and creating new stories of our own. Your emails, photos, and kind words at our events keep us growing. We compost your supportive scraps and dig into them when we need a fertile boost.

It's interesting to note that small diverse farms like ours will always have some plants that are doing well while others are suffering. In our case, the tomatoes and peppers are our biggest disappointments due to flooding, cold, and blight. I try to steer my gaze away from the dying plants and instead focus on the misty green and white sea of cilantro, the tall lettuce crowned with yellow flowers, and the plump seed pods of the Piracicaba Broccoli. Next year we may not have as many home grown tomato seeds, but we can continue to increase the diversity of heirloom plants being grown in home gardens and the number of caring gardeners thinking about where their seeds and food comes from.

Next year we will still offer a diverse, hand selected catalog of organic and untreated heirloom seeds for you to grow. You can trust that all of our seeds are sourced from responsible, independent growers and companies.  Thank you all for your incredible support in our first year as full time farmers and seedsmen. We still have much to learn about balancing farming with running a seed company. We promise to continue to strive to create beauty, diversity, and good food for our community through developing a regional seed saving and growing network.

Nasturtium Nasturtium