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Upcoming Pre-Conference Seed Saving Event at VABF

threshing okra

Seed Saving School!

40th Anniversary Regional Seed Savers Exchange Meet and Seed Swap

Thursday, January 28, 2016, 11 a.m.–4:30 p.m.
Virginia Association for Biological Farming Conference, in Smith Mountain Lake, VA.

Register Now: vabf.org/conference/seed-saving-school/

Join us for this one-day seed saving pre-conference intensive to celebrate 40 years of Seed Savers Exchange members working together to preserve the diversity in our food crops through saving heirloom seeds!

  • Learn more about the importance of using open-pollinated seeds to preserve plants for their historical significance and their value as a recurring food supply.
  • Explore techniques for seed saving, maintaining seed purity, and ways to ensure your seeds will last in storage.
  • Informative lectures will alternate with practical demonstrations of small scale seed saving, cleaning, and storage tools.
  • Meet other seed savers and participate in our community seed swap.

Everyone will leave the workshop with new knowledge and some heirloom open-pollinated seeds to grow in your gardens. You will be ready both to continue your seed saving and to share with others. Help us to build more more independent and resilient seed systems in our communities!

Workshop leaders:

  • Tor Janson, Collections Curator at Seed Savers Exchange
  • Ira Wallace, Education and Variety Selection Coordinator at Southern Exposure Seed Exchange
  • Rowen White, Native American Seed Keeper of Sierra Seeds
  • Rosalind Creasy author of “Edible Landscaping”
  • and Seed Savers Exchange board members

Breeding Peppers and Tomatoes

Continuing our summer road trip adventures!   We visited two individuals doing exciting vegetable breeding work.  While lots of universities and other institutions do great work with agricultural research and breeding, valuable information and great new varieties can also come from individual farmers and backyard gardeners.  If you’re thinking about doing your own breeding, you might be interested in our books Breed Your Own Vegetable Varieties by Carol Deppe or Breeding Organic Vegetables: A Step-by-Step Guide for Growers by Rowen White and Bryan Connolly.

Craig LeHoullier is well known to tomato fans.  Starting in the ‘90s, he introduced many heirloom tomatoes through SESE, including Cherokee Purple.  A more recent project that Craig and tomato breeders from all over the world have been involved with is the Dwarf Tomato Project – using great-tasting heirlooms in breeding new, shorter tomatoes (2-4 feet tall) that are easier to trellis and to grow in containers.

We stopped by Craig’s house in Raleigh, NC to see Craig’s garden.  This year Craig is growing out all 36 dwarf tomatoes that have been released so far.  Craig cautioned us before we visited that with the heat and rain and all, his tomatoes were starting to get some diseases, but we thought that was great – a nice chance to see how the different varieties handle disease!  We already carry one of the dwarf varieties, Rosella Purple, and as we tasted our way through the dwarf tomatoes, we were taking notes for our wish list of more dwarfs to grow for seed crops.

Craig grew these plants in straw bales in his driveway!  A great gardening technique is to add some compost to the top of a straw bale and plant into the compost; as the plants grow, they’ll reach their roots into the straw, and since straw bales hold a lot of moisture, the plants won’t need much watering in between rains.  It’s a great way of growing tomatoes in containers without actual containers – Craig’s writing a book about it, look for it sometime this next year!

Craig’s book Epic Tomatoes came out last December, and he’s been busy giving talks and doing book signings for it.  He’ll be at this year’s Heritage Harvest Festival at Monticello, giving a special pre-festival talk on Thursday, September 9th as well as giving talks on Friday and Saturday.  Many of the tomatoes featured in Craig’s book will be featured in this year’s tomato tasting at the festival, so expect to see Craig hanging out there as well!

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Pittsboro, NC farmer Doug Jones is an passionate about pepper breeding.  If you’ve ever been to the Carolina Farm Stewardship Association conference, you’ve probably seen him at the Seed Swap table, sorting through his peppers, checking each for taste before he takes the seed out to save.

The photo below shows pepper seed from different fruits spread out for drying.  Doug bred Sweet Jemison, a long yellow pepper, which we now carry; he’s a big fan of long Italian bell peppers!

Doug farmed for many years at Piedmont Biofarm in Pittsboro.  Here’s a photo from November 2011 of Irena with 10 foot tall peppers in their high tunnel!

This year Doug is dividing his time between The Farm at Penny Lane and Paz Farm, where he’s also doing pepper trials for Johnny’s Selected Seeds and continuing his pepper breeding work.  Hot, wet weather had him going along the rows to prune off infected pepper leaves to keep Bacterial Leaf Spot at bay; as Doug himself described it, wet weather had him despairing that the disease would get out of hand, while a few days letter dry weather had him optimistic that the peppers would pull through…