Monday, February 10, 2014

Seeds are ordered!

At the end of January, the farmers of Fresh Start Farms did what farmers all over New England do with great anticipation and excitement each winter: they ordered seeds. A farmer with a seed catalog is like a kid in a candy shop. The farmers poured over the beautiful pictures, cross referencing the descriptions of vegetable varieties with their own historical memory of how each variety actually produces on his or her unique plot of land. Bit by bit, variety by variety, a seed order is built, hinting at the mosaic of edible vegetation that will emerge from the work done on this cold winter day.

Batula and Seynab debated the attributes of two types of parsley, finally deciding to grow both varieties as a means of comparing them in real time. Their conversation about parsley was followed up by a treasure hunt through the pages of a catalog to find a picture of a vegetable they saw at another vendor's stall at their Kennebunk Farmers Market last year. They found it at the same moment: "aha! this one!", they said, fingers pointing to a burgundy red bunch of culinary dandelion greens. Mohamed ordered 8 varieties of tomatoes he has never grown before, two because of their excellent disease resistance, 6 because of their sheer beauty. Omasombo's seed order contains Giant Kossak kohlrabi and Miyashige daikon radish, both of which will be fed to students enrolled in Portland Public Schools this fall. Jesus and Hilda discovered Central American herbs like papalo and epazote that they will grow and sell to their own community in Portland.  Asli's seed order includes 4 varieties of bok choi because she wants to know which sell best at different farmers markets, which are preferred by CSA members, and which will be the favorite of Camp Chewonki in their weekly stir fry. 

Our world here in Maine still feels drenched in endless winter, but the farmers and support network of Fresh Start Farms promise that summer has already begun on the pages of a seed catalog.

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