Victory Seed Company News

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

Our Visit to the Molalla River Academy’s Roots of Responsibility Garden

Wow . . . What a surprise Denise and I received this afternoon!

Although the primary mission of the Victory Seed Company is to preserve rare seed varieties and to keep them available to gardeners, we also believe that by sharing a portion of our time, talents and property, we are helping to make our world a better place.  Charitable work is a primary part of our lives, both personally and as an organization.  Your orders directly support this work.  You can read more on this subject by clicking here.

One of the projects that we help to support is the community garden at a local grade school.  Normally, Denise takes care of getting seeds up to the school but this time we were asked to both come and at a specific time.  We were expecting a small meet and greet.

When we arrived, we were surprised to see that the whole school was waiting for us with a beautiful banner that was signed by all of the students thanking us.

Our Welcoming Committee

Our Welcoming Committee

After a photo op, some of the kids rushed Denise requesting specific seed packets.  They were on a mission and asked for broccoli, cabbage, lettuce, kale, basil, peas . . . all the things that they could get started now using their new seed starting equipment.

Denise passing out seed packets.

Denise passing out seed packets.

The students, packets in hand, ran off to tables that they had previously readied with the materials necessary to get their seeds sowed.

Concentrating on the task at hand.

Concentrating on the task at hand.

Cell trays were filled with seed starting soil mix, seeds carefully sown and covered, and plant markers put in place.

The smiles say it all!

The smiles say it all!

It won't be long until these gardens will be full of fresh veggies.

It won't be long until these gardens will be full of fresh veggies.

 We garden with ... Victory Seeds®

We garden with ... Victory Seeds®

What was really cool was that we got to keep the banners that the kids made and signed.  It is now hanging up in our seedhouse.

Some of the crew holding up the banner that the kids all signed.

Some of the crew holding up the banner that the kids all signed.

Under amazing leadership, Molalla River Academy’s “Roots of Responsibility” Garden program is thriving. Working in the garden with children is not only good exercise, it is a perfect setting for teaching.  The students are learning about biology, nature, weather, food production, healthy choices, a sense of accomplishment, teamwork, responsibility . . . Basically important, core life skills.

Garden-based learning is not only fun for kids, studies have shown that their hard work growing fruits and vegetables directly leads to an increased probability that they will actually eat them! And as every parent knows, getting children to try new things or to choose healthy snacks is difficult.

We were so happy to see how excited all of the kids were and look forward to our next visit!


Additional Information:

posted by Mike in Company News and have No Comments

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

Garden Time

For those of us in the Northern Hemisphere of the planet, it is not quite time to get out and start digging and sowing in the garden.  On nice days like we had here on the farm this morning, there are always garden related tasks that we can steal away to.  This morning we got some of the flower beds around the house cleaned up . . . weeds hoed out of the bark, various leaves, twigs and other debris raked up, etc.  But the greenhouses sit empty and the fields fallow.

However, we all know Tempus fugit, and it will not be long before we will be in the full swing of gardening.  What does this mean right now?  It is time to plan!  I have not started to actually lay out our gardens, but I have been figuring out the list of what things I need to be growing out to replenish stock as well as the new varieties that I want to trial.

For the home gardener, this is the perfect time of year to review your gardening notebooks from past years, noting your successes and failures, your favorite varietiess, and getting your seed orders submitted.

I can tell you that as I write this entry, we have no work backlog and are getting orders filled and mailed within a day or two.  Those of you that have been supporting our seed variety preservation work with your orders over the years know that we can get busy the closer we get to planting time.  This is just a heads up to folks who are in a position to take advantage of the slow time.

And once you do get your list of seeds made and ordered, there is still more planning you can do to be prepared for gardening time.

1)  You can start getting your pots cleaned and organized.  Most folks skip this step and I admit, I can be lax on this point when time is a factor.  But if you are ahead of the game, take the time to put a little chlorine bleach in a five gallon bucket of water and dip each old pot.  It is just another precautionary measure to help prevent soil borne diseases.

2)  Buy fresh seed starting potting mix.  This is actually pretty important.  Old potting soil will likely have lost any nutritional value that it might have had.  And depending on how and where it has been stored, it could be harboring insects and disease.  You want to give your seeds and seedlings the best possible conditions that you can in order to improve your odds of success.  A good, organic, sterile, seed starting mix is a good investment.

3)  Get your garden journal ready.  This is nothing fancy.  I use a three ring binder with clear plastic sleeves to store things like seed packets, garden layout drawings, and blank pages for keeping notes about things like weather, the emergence of various pests, when things were sown or planted, first maturity dates, harvest dates, what inputs were applied and overall summaries of how each variety fared.  This is great data to review when planning each future garden.

4)  Set up your seed starting location.  I have a small cabin on the farm that I heat and move a shelving unit into that I attach lights to.  If you use a spare bedroom, heated greenhouse or potting shed, etc. , now is the time to get an area cleaned up and ready.

5)  Draw up your garden plan!  I actually measure out the space and on graph paper, draw my gardens to scale.  It takes a bit of time up front, and I have been known to change my mind a bit when we actually set to planting, but I would never head out to a fresh garden space without one.

It would be like a painter starting a painting on a fresh canvas without the first thought or prior sketch of what they were about to paint.  Yes, they might end up with something beautiful, but you an bet there would be many revisions and a lot of wasted time and materials.

Plan!  Draw the outline of the space.  Make a reference to where south is and where the sun will be at the peak of your gardening season.  Use your list of seeds to decide where they will best thrive and remember to consider their height and girth at maturity when assigning them their locations.  If you are a seed saver, this is also a good time to consider isolation distances.

These are the types of things that we can actually control in our explorations into gardening and food production.  Of course, nature always has a few surprises to throw at us over which we have no control, but by planning and working with our knowledge of how nature typically acts in our location, we stand a good chance of achieving some level of gardening success.

And in closing on this subject of garden planning, the following is a news segment from a Eugene, Oregon television station.  It offers some tips and we really like the seed choices that the garden writer made :)

posted by Mike in Company News and have Comments (2)


Click for Heirloom Tomato Seed Selection Save Seeds - Victory Horticultural Library matersearch.com - online tomato resources