Victory Seed Company News

What's Happening Around the Farm as well as a Soapbox for Victory Seed Co. founder, Mike Dunton

Harvest in a Hurry

As nearly everyone around the United States will attest, it has been a very odd year weatherwise.  The week before last I was lamenting the early arrival of cool, wet, Fall weather and then this week we were setting record high temperatures.  But judging from the forecasts, it looks like our hot days are now behind us and wet weather is returning.

This creates many challenges when attempting to harvest the seeds that you all are counting on for your gardens next spring (and that we count on to support our continued seed variety preservation work).  The optimist in me is thankful that we are looking at impending periods of showers and not freezing temps.  We can put on rain and mud gear and continue our work . . . it is just not very fun.

All of this aside, we have all hands busily doing the harvest dance.  John is out in the field picking and documenting, the main part of the crew is squeezing tomatoes into containers to ferment, and I am trying to keep up with the washing, drying, and preparing the seeds for storage in preparation of germination testing and getting them ready for packaging.  And that is jut the tomato seed harvest.  Everything else is being picked and hauled into buildings and put on screens to finish drying.  It is always an exciting time bustling with activity.

A group of my immediate family members and cousins working on harvesting tomato seeds.

A group of my immediate family members and cousins working on harvesting tomato seeds.

I have posted several more harvest related photos on our Facebook page - Click Here. Folks at most other seed companies probably will find it funny how we do everything by hand.  Yes it is expensive and laborious.  But it is the only way that I can come up with to maintain our quality standards and maintain so many diverse varieties.  If folks think it is silly that we toil manually, I look at it this way, I do not have to pay for a health club membership and I think of the product we produce as something akin to a craft beer or a limited edition,, reserve or boutique wine. :)   Small batches, all by hand.

My break is over, the sun is finally breaking through the clouds, and it is time to get back out and wash tomato seeds for several more hours!

~Mike

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Summer is Here . . . Time to Plant a Fall Garden!!!

Summer is finally here and you know what that means?  It is now time to plan and start getting our fall and winter gardens planted!

This can be a bit confusing to a new gardener.  After all, don’t you plant a summer garden in the summer?  Well, no.  You did that back in the early spring.  The way to look at it is that your garden is labeled by the season in which you harvest.  So you are now likely enjoying the fruits of your springtime work from your summer garden.

Folks living in very harsh climates (say high in the Rockies, the high desert, or the far North) can’t expect to raise much out in the bare, exposed soil in January.  But with some well made seed choices combined with various combinations of physical protection like cloches, row covers and hoop houses, you may be surprised at what fresh produce you are able to enjoy this winter.  For people in milder climates, the sky is the limit.  Bottom line is, you won’t know what is possible until you start trying.

I am the first to admit that I have been pretty lax about my personal winter gardening efforts over the past few years.  As a seed farm, we end up working really hard to get the harvest done from late summer well into the fall.  This often is happening with the added stress of racing against threatening weather.  It is all we can do to finish, get the gardens cleaned up, compost piles built, all of the posts, trellises and tomato cages put away, the ground tilled, and cover crops planted.  It then takes weeks to months to get all of the seed harvest cleaned, tested and readied for sale.  This not only takes most of our time, it leaves us pretty burnt out.  After a spring and summer of gardening, I am sure that you know what I mean.

However, the reality is that fall gardening requires much less effort than in the early spring.  The ground is already cultivated and usually just waiting for seeds.  The larger areas that we don’t plan on using over the winter are tilled and planted in a green manure cover crop

Like many of you, we are very interested in controlling what we are putting into our bodies.  We enjoy eating fresh produce, but don’t buy the stuff that has been shipped from parts unknown.  The only real answer is to keep our gardens as productive as possible, all year round.

To give folks a starting point, we have been working on improving a newly created educational resource site.  I am organizing the information by region starting with the United States.  You can see what I have assembled so far by visiting www.WebGrower.com.  If you find broken links or have suggestions for your areas, please shoot me an email.

Something else that we decided to do was to resume a practice that many of the 19th and early 20th Century seed houses did . . . publish a Fall Garden Catalog.  You can download a copy of it at http://www.vintageveggies.com/catalog_req.html.  To help select suitable varieties, a new category section can be found at http://www.victoryseeds.com/fall-garden-seeds.html.


 

New Web Site Feature
Victory Points™ ProgramGet Rewarded When You Shop! Click here for more info on how to be rewarded for your support!I am kind of excited about this announcement.  Victory Points™ are a way for us to thank and reward those of you who choose to partner with us by supporting our seed variety preservation work and using our Victory Seeds® in your gardens.  This is something that I have wanted to do for a very long time and finally got it off of my “to do” list!There is nothing special that you need to do to join or enroll or subscribe.  Simply log into your customer account every time you shop and automatically earn Victory Points™.

Shop like you
always do.
Automatically earn
one Victory Point™
for every
$1 you spend.
Redeem your points
for future
purchases.

For all of you who are just getting to know us, and as a reminder to our longtime supporters, if you are interested in keeping closer tabs on what is going on around here at the Victory Seed Company, check out our Facebook page, Twitter, YouTube channel, Pinterest board, and our blog. Please join in the conversations. More information about these opportunities is located on our web site and at the end of this newsletter.

Until next time, gardening success to you,

  

posted by Mike in Company News,Farm News and have No Comments

Ramblings on History, Traditions and Autumn Customs

If you have read other things that I have written over the years, you know that I have a tendency to reminisce (and ramble).  I am not the sort that dwells on or lives in the past, but I actively use memories and experiences, as well as lessons from general history, to better understand the present and help me to plan for the future.  I believe that this is a healthy behavior for people to practice.

Over the past couple of weeks while preparing the farm for the long winter months ahead, many of the tasks are so routine that I am allowed the luxury of performing them without much thinking and thus allowing my mind to wander. (I blogged about this topic a while back.)

Some of the Fall tasks on the farm include harvesting our seed crops, preparing the fields for a winter rest, pressing cider, hauling firewood to the cellar, picking up nuts, canning and drying food, turning off water to outside faucets, storing hoses and irrigation parts, cleaning out rain gutters, and a list too long to go into here.  While doing these things, I began to think about how I got to this point in life, how many times I have done this same Fall routine, and whether it now constitutes classification as a habit, a ritual, or a tradition?

Although Denise was raised on a farm and I had strong connections to my family’s, we didn’t get to start our life together on acreage.  Out of economic necessity, we first settled into a life in the suburbs and went to work acquiring knowledge, experience and some working capital.  Even though the “eat local” and “slow food” movements were still decades away, “health food” was common and organic gardening was a grassroots phenomenon.  We saw great value in raising as much of our own food as possible and began developing a “homesteader attitude”[1] when it came to choosing our personal lifestyle.

When we were able to buy our first house, we fell in love with a little “starter home” in a fairly new housing development in Petaluma, California (Petaluma is where we both grew up).  Although it was small on the inside, it had a large garage where I set up my workshop and it was built on a large lot on a quiet cul-de-sac.

We immediately began to “homestead” the yard by altering the landscape for optimal productivity.  We removed most of the lawn and replaced it with low maintenance beds and areas where we could establish vegetable gardens. We planted fruit trees, berries, artichoke, grapes, hops and various perennial plants served double-duty as ornamentals and edibles.

Planting our 1986 Suburban Garden

A photo of a much younger, and slightly thinner, "yours truly" getting an early start on our 1986 garden in the 'burbs.

Like so many other developments in the area, the land underneath ours was once dairy pasture.  Its dark, adobe soil was rich but difficult to work.  It was heavy and dense, sticky when wet and hard as concrete when dry.  Once amended with (literally) tons of composted mushroom mulch, it grew just about anything we wanted to experiment with.  This great soil paired with Petaluma’s awesome climate made for the best location that I have ever had the pleasure to garden.  It is no wonder that 100 years prior, Luther Burbank chose this region to establish his horticultural career.

Although our “farm” in Petaluma was only a quarter-acre city lot, the skills that we learned prepared us for purchasing my family’s farm in Oregon, without hesitation, when the opportunity arose in the late 1980s.  The seed for what eventually grew into the Victory Seed Company was sown in Petaluma.

This brings me back to the present day and to my contemplation at the beginning of this blog post.  Humankind’s survival has always been dependent on how well we made our plans during the winter months, how those plans were implemented in the spring, how hard we worked in the summer and how much bounty was harvested and stored away in the fall.

As the fourth generation to work the land on this farm, I often find myself wondering, “What would Great-grandpa think about me doing this?” or “What would Grandma think about us doing that?”  I feel a profound connection to my ancestors and I understand that everything that I do is simply building upon the foundation that they quite literally laid.  I trust that my descendants will someday share this experience.

So whether these seasonal behaviors that we practice have been learned from books or the internet or videos or our ancestors, they are routines that are more than habits and more significant than going through the motions of empty rituals.  They are in fact traditions by the purest definition of the word.



1.
   One of my favorite books was given to me by my Dad back in 1973.  It is called, “Homesteaders Handbook” and was written by Rich Israel and Reny Slay (©1973).  It, along with the Foxfire book series and Bradford Angier’s, “Field Guide to Edible Wild Plants” (©1974), was the core of my childhood homesteading or self-reliance reference library.

posted by Mike in Farm News and have No Comments

Quick Update . . . And Big News

Just a quick farm update . . . We went from freezing weather to summer temps in three days.  It has been a nice week.  Plants in the greenhouses are a little on the small side but getting close to being ready to set out.  Ground is tilled.  May start planting by the weekend.

This year planting will be without the help of our son John – the first time since he was a young boy.  He is off at college finishing up his senior year, preparing to graduate in a few weeks, and getting married towards the end of summer.  He is planning on coming back to work here with new knowledge, some different work experiences, and (hopefully :) ) enthusiasm.

Today, after wrapping up office and order fulfillment related tasks, I got outside and worked on brush mowing around the trees along the perimeter.  With that accomplished, I turned my focus towards putting the finishing touches on the drip irrigation system.  Last year, we recruited the help of a young cousin to basically work all summer hand watering the recently planted trees to keep them alive.  This summer she wants to start helping with the seed crop work.  Hence the irrigation system.  Hopefully I have it figured correctly and the survival rate of this year’s planting will be high.

Visit us at booth 908

If you are an longtime supporter and have followed along with what goes on around here, you know that we have basically relied on your word-of-mouth recommendations as our primary form of  “advertising.”  With little in the budget for outreach, you telling your friends and neighbors about us, mentioning us in your blog or Facebook posts, or even writing the gardening editors of your local newspaper is still very important to us – and we greatly appreciate your efforts at promoting us.

But we are going to try something new (for us anyway) . . . this is the “big news” mentioned in the header above (yes, John graduating, getting married, and coming to work full-time here is pretty big too :) ).  We have decided to exhibit at the Mother Earth News Fair in Puyallup, Washington on June 2-3.   This event is just too close to home to not be a part of it.

The Fair is not a garden show.  Like Mother Earth News magazine’s content, this is shaping up to be a very cool mix of sustainable lifestyle related information.  There are tons of workshops, lectures and exhibitors.  I am getting excited (and a bit anxious) thinking about it.

You can learn more about what is being offered by clicking on the picture or by visiting the main web site at www.motherearthnewsfair.com.  If you are planning on attending, do stop by booth 908 and say hello.  If you have not already purchased your tickets, I have a small supply of $10-off coupons.  Email me if you are interested in a coupon . . . I will be sending them out on a first come, first served basis until the supply is exhausted.

posted by Mike in Company News,Farm News and have No Comments


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