Many of us are poring over gardening catalogs at this time of year. It, admittedly, is a fun exercise, this paper gardening: such potential! Such success, if it’s all on paper! And not to knock all those catalogs that come in the mail, most unbidden, but…have you considered the alternative? You know, seed houses that are either so small they haven’t a catalog, and/or seed houses that are actually trying to do the world a bit of good by preserving diversity?
The longer I have lived on this farm the more I do try to walk the walk: I am a seedsaver, but I am not yet entirely self-sufficient in seeds. This year I am doing a bit of seed-trading with some local gardeners, so I anticipate new additions in the form of both seeds and rootstock from these trades. But there are a few other outfits that I think should get more traffic because of what it is they are trying to do.
Into growing the grains for your daily bread? The Heritage Wheat Conservatory both sells grain and is a great advocate for the preservation of heirloom grains. Recipes included!
The child and I experimented with leather breeches beans last year with a usual green bean variety that I grow. Trouble is, this variety is not grown to be preserved this way! Beans are a vastly varied species of edibles, and the average seed catalog barely budges beyond green beans and the occasional heirloom dried bean. I will purchase some creasy (greasy) beans from Sustainable Mountain Agriculture Center this year. The objective of this organization is to recover and encourage Appalachian heirloom tomatoes and beans.
Nobody beats the Sage of La Honda for preserving seed and plant biodiversity. His catalog is a botanical education.
Sand Hill in Iowa is a family-run organization that preserves rare seeds and poultry. I will be getting our Chantecler chickens from them this year, but their seeds are also quite notable. Don’t be put off by their byzantine ordering process.
NativeSeeds Search aims to preserve the seeds and foodways of the American southwest.
Amishland Heirloom Seeds is a one-woman seed store based in Pennsylvania Dutch country. She’s stingy with her quantities but her heart is true: you are to preserve the entirety of your first crop for next’s year’s seed. Word of warning: she hasn’t updated her catalog for 2009 so I have no idea if she’s even still doing what she’s doing. UPDATE, 1/8: seems she’s just a little slow getting her website running!
This year, I think I will give my beloved Fedco a pass and order all of my seed needs from Turtle Tree. This company, based in upstate New York, suits both my latitude and growing expectations and is ALL open-pollinated, a necessary step in my own adventures of seed saving. They also have forage crops for the expected four-legged additions for the farm this year.
And finally, there is one fruit tree company you should all know about. They’re local to me so I do have a bias, but their catalog is much deeper than either Fedco Trees or Trees of Antiquity. The problems he has had with an embezzling employee are over, so he’s back to providing the best fruit tree diversity in the country. Shop Southmeadow Fruit Gardens!