Who will get my money this year? That is the question of the night. Looking at a pile of seed catalogs made me think – “They are getting an early start this year!” And it is probably true, seed companies were one of the only sectors of our economy to grow through this last recession. People got hit hard: work furloughs, lay offs, rising commodity prices, and sky rocketing fuel prices forced many people into a change of lifestyle. One of those changes, and in my mind a very positive one, was the return to gardening. It only makes sense – when you have less money to spend on evermore expensive goods and services – start growing a portion of your own food. People from all walks of life put this idea into action. Apartment dwellers with window boxes, roof top gardens in containers, backyard homesteads and community gardens, and rural self sufficient types together revitalized a stagnant industry. My gut tells me that this is not just a trend either, gardening is here to stay. With the rise of the acceptance of peak oil, together with an economy that still seams quite fragile, people have realized that food, and where it comes from is a very important topic to discuss and do something about. Seeds are cheap, and with a little bit of time and energy, that small investment turns into something wonderful and delicious. Most of us know the difference between a tomato fresh from the garden, and one shipped 1,500 miles to your local big box grocery store. Seed companies can help us to start down that path. Now anyone who has been reading this blog for awhile will know, I am all about saving your own seeds, it is free and in my mind a right that all humans deserve to share in. Seeds have been with us a long time, and the majority of that time, gardeners and farmers have saved and passed down those seeds to their families and communities. However the craft of seed saving has become something of a dying art due to multi-national-global, seed companies. They have taken our plant heritage away, tinkered with their genetics, and now sell us back inferior plants. For as big and powerful as these corporations are, they are not the only game in town, and that is what I would like to spend the rest of the time talking about. There are still seed companies out their that employ people from their communities, offer up quite a few varieties of open pollinated seeds (non-hybrid seeds that can be saved year, after year), do not allow genetically modified organisms, and follow organic growing methods. Starting with my favorite, Seed Savers Exchange is not just a seed company, but also a seed protector. Based in Iowa, they have one of the largest collections of heirloom vegetable seeds in the world, along with apple varieties, herbs and flowers, and ancient cattle. Here is an article I wrote last year about Seed Savers Exchange that will give you a little more information and history. Coming in a close second is Baker’s Creek. Talk about a seed catalog that is like porn for gardeners – the photos in a Baker’s Creek catalog are astounding and beautiful. They also offer a huge selection of heirloom seeds and tend to be a little cheaper than Seed Savers. Jere Gettle, the founder and owner of Baker’s Creek has just come out with a book entitled The Heirloom Life that promises to be an interesting and informative read. As for other seed companies that offer some heirloom vegetables, flowers, and herbs, here is a list of a few more: Abundant Life Seeds, Burpee, Johnny’s Selected Seeds, Territorial Seed Company, and R.H. Shumway’s. I have ordered from Territorial before, but the rest are all new to me. Abundant Life Seeds has a nice selection of books, garden tools, and equipment, and R.H. Shumway’s has an awesome, old time feel to it’s catalog. The last three catalogs I will tell you about are for those of us who are addicted to trees, specifically fruit trees. Raintree Nursery is who I have always ordered from in the past. We have purchased a number of apple trees, one plum tree, and roses and have been pretty happy with what we received. Due to the fact that they are in Washington, the shipping rates to Minnesota tend to get a little expensive, but they have varieties that you can’t get elsewhere – so I guess it is worth it. Two new catalogs that I have received this year are One Green World and Jung Seeds and Plants. One Green World is out of Oregon so once again the shipping for me will be a little expensive, but most likely worth it. They have an apple named Amere De Berthcourt that is grown strictly for cidering that I plan on ordering along with two Cornelian Cherries. And at Jung Seeds and Plants (which is in Wisconsin) I plan on ordering two Russian hybrid Mountain Ash trees – Ivan’s Beauty and Ivan’s Belle. One is crossed with Hawthorne and the other with Aronia and both are high in vitamin C and can be used in wine, preserves, jams, and dried for teas. This year I plan on spending more money on fruit trees than on veggie seeds for two reasons: 1) we have gotten pretty good at saving certain seeds, so we have no need purchasing more than we need, and 2) fruit trees are a long term investment that will feed us for years to come. One other thing is that I am starting to get into permaculture and want to create more edible food forests, hence the apples, cornelian cherries, and hybrid mountain ash. I have the luxury of having some space to work with and while time still allows me to splurge on extra plants for the homestead I will. I suppose the next step is learning how to propagate my own rootstock, learn how to graft, and then start my own nursery. We will see! Cheers!
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