Well I currently farm in Williams,Oregon with my wife and our 2 sons (2& 6). This is our 13th season farming here. We grow certified organic vegetables, fruits, berries, seeds, sheep for wool & lamb and poultry. We manage 40 acres of which 3 acres are in row crops, 3 acres in berries and orchards, 6 acres in pasture/hay, and 28 acres in managed woodlot forest. Our fruits and vegetables are sold through a local farmers market and a coopoerative CSA with 150 members. Of our row crop land, about 2/3rds is used to grow seeds for commercial contract to Seeds of Change, Johnny's, Fedco, Turtle Tree Seed, High Mowing Seeds, Uprising Seeds and Renee's. Seed growing and plant breeding have dovetailed into our vegetable farming nicely because we are able to gather multiple harvests from the same crop in many instances. For example, when growing lettuce for seed we will plant 3 rows on a 4 foot bed, harvest the middle row and any that need to be culled for various reasons and sell them through our CSA; then the remaining 2 rows will mature to seed, growing to about 4 feet high and occupying the space left from the first harvest. We sell many onions through the CSA that were culls from a plant breeding selection project. Being culls for genetic reasons, their "issues" generally have something to do with shape, size, color or another trait which doesn't impinge upon their table quality.
For years we have gotten requests from local growers to sell them seed direct, which we had declined to do because we lacked the infrastructure to sell direct. We decided to fill this important local seed supply niche after the untimely passing of Al Vanet (SOW Organic Seeds) who was one of the early pioneers that led to the founding of Seeds of Change. 2009 represents the first year for Siskiyou Seeds, a smll packet and rack sales seed company focused on bioregional seed security, hence, no web site. Our goal is to sell the varieties which have proven themselves as performers through a dozen years of Siskiyou mountain farming and homesteading. This endeavor enables us to further diversify our workload an income streams through the year, so we don't have such a crunch period at one point in the fall. It will also help us to focus more directly on doing the necessary work of selection and breeding for organic systems.
2009 also represents the first year for a new growers cooperative looking to sell seed direct to growers on a national scale, the Family farmers Seed Cooperative. A group of 10 prominane and successful seed growers are spearheading this effort to increase the availability of QUALITY organic seed that is bred for organic systems.
Another aspect of seed growing which mates well with our fresh maket farming is that seed crops take longer to mature, so the effort is concentrated into planting early season, maintainace mid-season and harvest in later season. This spares us from the treadmill of constant marketing, harvesting and selling that is truck farming. However, we have honed our production for our cooperative CSA (www.siskiyoucoop.com) to focus on the early season crops to carve out more time in September and October when the seed crops demand our attantion. An important aspect of seed growing that makes our farm economy work is that we can prearrange contracts early in the Winter and go into the growing season with income figures to budget with, similar to the way a CSA ensures the grower up-front cash. However, with seed crops, the farmer doesn't get paid until the seed is harvested, cleaned, and germination tested, which means tha ofeten we don't receive payment until January or February. So, for us, having some fresh market income is cruicial to keeping cashflow happening year round. We have learned to work around the late payment for seed crops by budgeting it as our start up money for the year.
Currently, only about 2% of the seeds used on organic farms is grown organically. Clearly a huge opportunity exists to meet this hole in our organic farming community. I view seed growing as an exciting challege to learn more about the plants we work with. It also helps to support the ecology of our farm as it retains more carbon on the farm as we only export a small percentage of the plants' biomass. Also, many of the by-proucts of seed crops can be used to feed livestock on the farm. Most importantly for me, growing seeds has provided an engaging challenge and enabled us to support a cruicial link in community food security in a meaningful way.
Seven Seeds Farm