Last week, while visiting my sister in California, I had an extra special day. I went to the Petaluma Seed Bank; a beautiful 1920’s era bank building that has been turned into a seed store by Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds. The bank building (that had been scheduled for removal), beautiful in itself, is packed with wooded bins with hundreds, maybe thousands, of packages of heirloom seeds. There were also seed potatoes, onion sets, books and magazines for gardeners and a good assortment of tools. I was delightfully reminded of stores from my childhood in Nebraska.
Stacy Dermont, Dan’s Papers Senior Editor, had given me a catalogue from Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds. It is a beautiful catalogue to look at and it is loaded with an amazing amount of heirloom seeds for vegetables, flowers and herbs with very interesting commentary about each one. Most importantly, this catalogue is produced by a young man and his wife, who are vigorously devoted to heirloom seeds and to making them available to all.
They began with a farm in Missouri where, at the age of 17, Jere Gettle issued his first catalogue. Today the company offers the largest number of heirloom vegetables, flowers and herbs in the country. In addition to the Seed Bank in Petaluma, they have purchased the Comstock Ferre Company in Wethersfield Connecticut and are in the process of restoring the buildings and the seed production aspects of this, the oldest seed company in the United States.
I was thrilled to see the Seed Bank but more importantly, the story of this couple is the thrill, as they are an exciting part of an expanding group concerned with food production in this country. This subject can seem an overwhelming topic upon examination. Food production in this country involves politics worldwide and locally, the environment, real estate issues, and immigration laws, banking policy, land-grant schools and agribusiness just to begin. But there is a growing group of farmers, seed and plant producers, young people in college and other people who are taking it upon themselves to address the food issue by growing. We see some of these people at our local farmers markets and at our local CSAs (Community-Supported Agriculture units).
You may be about to join these people by growing a vegetable garden! If that is the case, you may want to grow some heirloom vegetables, flowers or herbs. There are catalogues that have hybrids and heirlooms mentioned in this column in previous editions; my favorite being Johnny’s Selected Seeds. For the beginning vegetable gardener it is beneficial to plant some F1 hybrids that have qualities designed to accommodate specific growing and harvesting circumstances and prevailing diseases, but trying some heirlooms is very exciting. You could grow something that Thomas Jefferson grew or purple carrots or black tomatoes!
For tips on a wedding flower garden see next page.
For gardening discussion call Jeanelle Myers at 631-434-5067.