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Seed Production
Articles about producing or saving seeds

Roberta Bailey's 'Lutz' beet seed crop
Roberta Bailey with 'Lutz' beet in full seed production. Rob Lemire photo for the Fall 2010 Maine Organic Farmer & Gardener.

Articles

‘Klari Baby Cheese’ peppersWhen people first visit my farm, many are surprised by how little space it takes to grow seed crops. On the home scale it can be quite small. Erase the vision of acres of dry beans or fields of wheat. Picture a 10-foot row of garden peas or a trellis of morning glories, 10 tomatoes or peppers. On the farm scale, rows of seed crops can be intercropped with market crops.

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Roberta Bailey with 'Lutz' beet seed cropHave you noticed that you can't buy ‘Lutz’ beet seed anymore? ‘Lutz’ was the victim of a few seed company mergers and a lack of attention in the seed industry to low-profit, open-pollinated varieties. A few companies listed it, but the variety was not truly ‘Lutz.’ One company is said to have a true strain.

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Chives grown for seed at High Mowing FarmFinding reliable sources of quality organic seed continues to challenge farmers, and market development for organic seed has been slower than anticipated. At the 2009 Farmer-to-Farmer Conference, seed producers and consumers discussed issues of organic seed quality and availability.

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This is the fifth in a series of five articles covering some of the most commonly produced and potentially most profitable seed crops currently being grown by small-scale organic and biodynamic farmers in the Northeast. Ask any small-scale grower in the Northeast what types of crops tend to be popular, profitable, and yield the most per square foot, and invariably that list will include flowers. Our culture adores flowers in the landscape and on the table, in many colors, shapes and sizes, and our climate is well suited for a huge variety of species; thus, most vegetable farms have at least a small patch or garden with at least a small selection of flowers for market.

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This is the fourth in a series of five articles covering some of the most commonly produced and potentially profitable seed crops being grown by small-scale organic and biodynamic farmers in the Northeast. Our culture uses many varieties and types of plants within the brassica family, from broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower and radishes, to old-time favorites such as turnip and rutabaga, to contemporary favorites such as arugula and many of the Asian greens that are common in mesclun mixes (such as tot soi and mizuna).

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This is the third of five articles covering some of the most com­monly produced and potentially profitable seed crops being grown by small-scale organic and biodynamic farmers in the Northeast. The seed growers I visited generally agree that lettuce is a very rewarding crop, though with its own set of challenges. Lettuce is well adapted to our region, is very popular for gardeners, farmers and consumers, and the relative ease of saving seed makes it a good choice for small farm seed production.

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This is the second of five articles covering some of the most commonly produced and potentially profitable seed crops being grown by small-scale organic and biodynamic farmers in the Northeast. Here in the Northeast, many experienced seed growers think highly and talk fondly of crops in the cucurbit family (winter and summer squashes, melons and cucumbers). These are very popular seed crops. All of the growers that I visited in my research, and most farmers who have tried any type of seed growing, have usually tried something in this family.

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This article is the first of five covering some of the most commonly produced and potentially most profitable seed crops being grown by small-scale organic and biodynamic farmers in the Northeast. Many Northeastern organic seed producers agree that tomato seeds seem to be one of the most profitable of the seed crops.

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Seed saving has become a popular pastime and passion for many gardeners and farmers, primarily on a limited or experimental basis, and usually just for their own use. Yet an increasing number of small-scale, diversified farms are growing and marketing vegetable, flower and herb seeds as a cash crop, and finding that these efforts can be integrated into a profitable venture.

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Seed saving is rapidly becoming a national craze, hot on the heels of football and baseball. Well, not quite, but it is gaining popularity. Grassroots seed savers are maintaining nearly twice as many varieties as the entire mail-order garden seed industry in the United States and Canada. The statistics are heartening in that people are taking control of their seed resources, but they also tell of a lack of interest by seed companies and plant breeders toward the far less profitable open-pollinated or non-hybrid varieties.

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