planting seeds: good, bad, ugly

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IMG_2698 IMG_2701Seed catalogues for 2013 are now out.  The Willamette Valley is one of the richest seed-producing areas of the country, so we’re fortunate to be able to have close and intimate relationships with several farms and businesses cultivating seed crops.  Seeds that are adapted to Northwest gardens or heirloom varieties from maritime cool climates elsewhere in the world that grow well in our fair state are plentiful.  I’ve listed my favorites, and welcome your suggestions for others.  You also might want to be aware of vegetable hybrids that are owned by Monsanto.

Monsanto-owned brands (these may be distributed by other seed companies, so look at names of particular varieties):

Northwest-friendly, bred in Oregon:

  • Territorial Seed (Cottage Grove, OR): This is the big boy in the crowd, but still a solid local business.  They’ve stopped stocking Seminis seeds as of a few years ago, so the rumors of a Monsanto connection aren’t true.
  • Adaptive Seeds (Sweet Home, OR): Also Open Oak Farm, specializing in beans and grains and roots and all kinds of wonderful things for the PNW.  The pictures above of cool vintage farm equipment and the field used in their seed operation were taken a couple of months ago during a tour of the farm.
  • Wild Garden Seed (Philomath, OR): Also Shoulder-to-Shoulder Farm and related to Gathering Together Farm, specializing in lettuces and flowers, too.  Farmer Frank Morton developed my favorite variety of kale, White Russian.
  • Log House Plants (Cottage Grove, OR): excellent plant hybridizers responsible for the grafted tomatoes and a range of unusual seeds; check out their new Drunken Botanist collection.
  • Nichols Nursery (Albany, OR).  “New and Unusual” features sugar beets and a great romanesco-type zucchini.
  • Siskiyou Seeds (Williams, OR): Also Seven Seeds Farm.  Lists a number of cooperative seed growers locally and in WA and northern CA, too.

Others:

  • Chinese/Japanese/some Thai produce: Kitazawa Seed Co. (Oakland, CA): These are often sold in big Asian supermarkets on the West Coast.  I’ve seen them in Uwajimaya in Beaverton, but not around Eugene.
  • Italian produce:  Seeds of Italy (Italy): Absolutely gorgeous range of Italian varieties of vegetables and herbs.  Be careful on the growing seasons for some of the hot weather crops.

And if you’re thinking about learning more about gardening by volunteering, check out the Food for Lane County Gardens Program, which reports a record-breaking year in 2012. 190,000 pounds (their largest yield ever) of produce distributed to meal sites and pantries!  Contact Jen Anonia, Gardens Program Manager, janonia@foodforlanecounty.org or 541-343-2822.  Or just donate to FFLC!  There’s a terrific 1-for-1 matching program for the month of February.  All donations will be matched by an anonymous donor.  We’ll be interviewing Executive Director Beverlee Hughes this Sunday on Food for Thought on KLCC.

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the last thing we need: gmo canola oil in the willamette valley

Edited to add:  Sign the signon.org petition here!

Attention kale lovers and anyone who grows cole crops!  From the farmers and seed saver entrepreneurs at Open Oak Farm/Adaptive Seeds comes a disturbing call to action.  A coalition of organic and other small farms in the Willamette Valley are joining together to fight an ODA decision to greenlight canola, a commercial, often GMO-seeded crop that cross-pollinates with other brassicas and will thus destroy the pure seed cultivated in our valley. Until the past few months, we’ve had a canola exclusion zone in the WV; let’s work to keep it that way.  Read more here.

Your haste is appreciated: write to the legislators listed below by Friday, August 10.

We here at Open Oak Farm are not big on sending out mass e-mails, but have made an exception today: There is an immediate threat to our food supply because the Oregon Department of Agriculture has fast-tracked the approval of canola production here in the Willamette Valley of Oregon.

As many of you may know the Willamette Valley is one of the top 5 places in the world for growing and supplying specialty seed and maintaining seed diversity. Seed grown here not only is sold by local Oregon companies, such as Adaptive Seeds, but is also bought by other seed companies such as Johnny’s, Fedco, and lots of others both nationally and internationally. Basically, seed grown here supplies the world with food.

One of the specialty seeds that the Valley is perfect for is brassicas, which includes broccoli, cauliflower, arugula, rutabaga, turnip, radish, kale, cabbage, etc. Canola is also a brassica but spreads rampantly and cross pollinates with a lot of other brassicas with detrimental effects. Oregon State University has conducted research proving that canola will cross pollinate with many different crops including turnips, broccoli raab, some kales, rutabaga, and possibly radish and broccoli. Meaning the presence of canola production in the Willamette Valley will definitely contaminate and destroy those other seed crops. Without doubt.

The Oregon Department of Agriculture (ODA) has previously maintained a canola exclusion zone in the Valley. However, in the past few months there have been a series of meetings held behind closed doors to change this zone to allow canola (including genetically modified canola) to be grown in the valley unchecked and with disregard to existing seed pinning map isolation guidelines. ODA only just released a press release on Friday, August 3rd saying they will grant a temporary rule to allow canola this Friday, August 10th. By issuing a temporary rule the ODA is avoiding the requirement for public comment and therefore behaving unilaterally with only special interests in mind. Not only does this decision harm seed growers but GM canola cross pollination will also potentially threaten the livelihood of any of the certified organic growers in the area. There are good reasons why canola has been banned in the Willamette Valley by ODA up to this point, and pressure on ODA to lift these bans needs to be countered.

Please contact the ODA and Governor Kitzhaber yourself and make your voice heard! It does not matter if you are not an Oregon resident, this decision effects everyone in a huge way and they need to be reminded of that.

And spread the word!

ODA phone number: (503) 986-4552
ODA Director Coba: KCoba@oda.state.or.us

Governor Kitzhaber: (503) 378-4582; or email [on his website form.]

Remember, we only have until this Friday, August 10th to change this decision!