New Year, new chances. What will you do differently? What will you give to the world? What seeds will you sow ?
Viroqua Food Co+op Blog
Tags: Plants & Seeds
Assistant Produce Manager
Spring circles around again, and as we have for thousands of years, we plant seeds of hope for our future. The seed is the beginning of the cycle and also the end. These days, as we vote with our dollars, we can choose to continue supporting the return to a clean planet by buying seed that was grown organically.
This year the Viroqua Food Co-op happily carries mycorrhiza products again. You’re probably asking yourself what in the world is mycorrhiza? Mycorrhiza is important soil fungi that works with plant roots to facilitate nutrient assimilation. Studies show these organisms improve soil structure, seedling vigor, root and plant growth, and lead to increased yield.
Written by Arwyn Wildingway, VFC Plants & Seeds Buyer
Sometimes when I look out and see the irresponsible, irreverent way we humans have structured this modern life, I can feel hopeless about our future. But an experience like the Seed Savers Exchange annual conference in Decorah, Iowa verifies my belief that we can get along and live harmoniously with nature.
This was my first conference as a new member of the Seed Savers Exchange, so I didn’t know what to expect, but I was drawn to attend by its relevance and importance for our survival. Not to mention some of my heroes of organic agriculture were there.
Eliot Coleman of Four Season Farm in Harborside, Maine feeds his family and his community fresh food year round in a climate as northerly as ours. He gave a 2 hour demonstration of greenhouse techniques. He utilizes all hand tools, some of which he designed himself (and markets through Johnny’s Selected Seeds) because he believes in the power of human determination and work, which throughout history has supported our growth. In his keynote speech, Eliot noted how starting in the woods, with soil pH of 4.6, they simply applied already documented organic gardening techniques and amendments, with complete success. They have to be intensive as they only have 1½ acres, and they admire the spaces and natural fertility of our area. (Remember, we are lucky!)
Eliot’s wife Barbara Damrosch illustrated the bounty of their endeavors with a beautiful slide show, and pointed out that the colors and vibrancy of fruits and vegetables call out to us because our DNA requires them. She gave some cooking ideas, including battering and frying celeriac rounds, which I can’t wait to try.
Both Maine residents encourage everyone to extend their intake of homegrown foods throughout the year by planting cold hardy greens like mache, claytonia, spinach, and lettuce on both ends of the regular growing year, and by bringing into your home pots of herbs, celeriac, and brassicas for greens in the winter. Also both have written books which I refer you to for more in-depth information.
My favorite speaker was Mike McGrath, former editor of Organic Gardening, and current radio show host on WHYY in Philadelphia. His humor brings light and ease to the perceived difficulty of organic gardening, and all kinds of questions are answered on his website YouBetYourGarden.org. (Check it out!) He spoke on seven secrets of successful heirloom gardens, which was very common sense and enlightening at the same time. I’ll write a summary of that in a future post. His answer to all problems is shredded leaves -- because they feed the worms, whose castings are now proven beyond a doubt to be more nutrious than even compost itself. And he shared that the highest quality compost, made of shredded leaves and coffee grounds, burns a hot pile that scientifically proves itself to cure and prevent bacterial and fungal plant diseases, besides being perfect in N, P, K, and Ca.
I appreciated that the Seed Savers Exchange gave the conference such an organic bent – I think they know it’s the way for the future to thrive, as is their work of saving 2,500 varieties of heirlooms. During the weekend we had the opportunity to tour their fields and orchards, visit their flocks and herds, and admire their new facilities for seed processing, storing, and germinating.
I wished I could have attended every workshop as they all looked interesting. Too many details to relay here, but get yourself a copy of Seed to Seed by Suzanne Ashworth to learn lots. We all can and should contribute to the health of our biosphere by saving some seeds. It’s an ancient activity, like many things largely forgotten in modern times, enjoying a resurgence as humanity wakes up again to what’s real.
Also, next time you’re in downtown Decorah, visit the Porter House museum near the courthouse. The rock wall surrounding it is so beautiful I felt completely blown away. My world is changed for seeing it!
by Arwyn Wildingway, VFC Plants & Seeds Buyer
Tags: Plants & Seeds
Viroqua Food Co-op Conducts Community-Wide Challenge to Eat Local from August 15 to Sept. 15
Eating local is not just for foodies anymore. Whether it’s “60 Minutes,” the New York Times or the Vernon County Broadcaster, more and more media are talking up eating local. And, more shoppers are walking the talk, both as a way to become more mindful eaters and to support the local economy.