It is now seeding season, the beginning of new growth and a sign of spring! It is a lot of fun to watch what we have put so much work into, grow and become food for lots of people.
Recently I was talking to someone who made a joke that organic farming was throwing seeds on the ground and hoping everything worked out. After about a three-hour conversation that we both enjoyed, his mind was blown! Many people do not know the extent of knowledge and research that goes into the organic food on your table. Down to minor things like what color ground cover produces the biggest sweet potatoes. That was a two-year experiment.
For an organic farm like ours, the seeding process is anything but simple. We have to consider many things. Keep reading if you want to learn more about what goes into even just one bag of spinach that you buy from us.
It starts with the seed search and purchase. This process involves many steps including:
- Checking leftover inventory
- Accounting for problems last season with specific varieties
- Ordering the right amount of seed to expand yearly
- Researching new seed varieties
- Making sure the seeds ordered fit the organic regulations
- And looking through many catalogs and websites to find specific seed varieties
We also have to make sure every seed distributor has their certificate for organic distribution or the certificate that the seed is non-GMO and untreated. When we have our farm inspection, we will be asked to have proof of the certificates and to prove that the seed is organic.
We grow a lot of different types of vegetables each year and there are many varieties of each to choose from. That means we have to comb through hundreds of different choices from many different distributors to find exactly what we want to grow. It is a science and we thank Kirsten Livingstone, one of the owners of the farm for doing this tirelessly.
Planning and Timing
Timing is everything. Last year our crops came in later than we planned, so this year everything is being seeded a week earlier.
Each seed type has a different number of days until it’s ripe, so we have to seed with that in mind. A lot of our planning is based around the summer box program. We need to have enough vegetables and variety ripe in time for each box delivery.
We use an extensive google sheet for seed timing and amounts that we have been updating and developing for many years now. This makes it easier to plan each new year based off the last one.
The Process of Seeding
Surprisingly this is the easy part! The basics of it are, fill the trays with dirt, seed the seeds and cover them.
There are some hidden complications though. Before filling the tray, we need to decide what size tray to use, and how deep. Each variety needs a certain amount of space. For example, peppers are seeded in a 288 tray, herbs in a 144 tray and leeks in a 288 tray, deep. Organic nutrients have to be mixed into the soil to sustain the little sprouts and we also have to decide how many seeds will go in each opening. And lastly, what to cover them with vermiculite or soil. The vermiculite helps keep the seeds moist longer and is a lighter covering than soil.
After we seed, we have to record exactly how much we seeded and where it came from. This is necessary because when we have our organic inspection, we have to show how much we seeded, how much we harvested and how much we sold of each crop and the numbers have to match up. This way we can prove to the inspector that we did grow everything we sold and that it is organic. It also helps if we have a problem with specific seed, like germination problems. We can track it back to where we bought it from and report the problem.
After they are covered and watered, the seeds need a warm place to sit until they sprout. Our greenhouse is heated but not enough for germination. Until they sprout, they are put in our office. This is not a wonderful solution but until the weather warms up, it’s the only one.
After they are germinated, they need space and sunlight to thrive. They are moved up to the greenhouse and put on benches. Here we keep a close eye on them to avoid problems, like aphids and malnutrition. Often, we have to buy beneficial insects that eat the aphids. We cannot spray chemicals to kill the bugs because we are organic so beneficial insects and strong plants are our main defense.
Once they are big enough, we transplant them.
From beginning to end, we do everything we can to produce strong plants and delicious organic food for our customers. We also want to share the process because it is interesting the whole way!
If you found this interesting feel free to share it and if there is anything else you would like to learn about the farm, leave a comment on the Facebook post and we will try to cover it in another blog. Thanks for reading and we hope you enjoyed it!