How we farm

In the best sense of the idea, we have always been organic.  The farm has been certified on and off since 1974 as markets for organic produce came and went, but for forty years, this farmer has always followed the foundational organic principles. Of course, when I have been certified, I have followed the NOP rules and regs. But I often go beyond the "letter of the law" to enhance growing conditions because of my passion and beliefs. For instance, I make what I call "earth juices" to feed the soil and to foliar feed plants. Ingredients for my concoctions come from a somewhat biodynamic pantry--I ferment "weeds" like nettle and medicinals like comfrey and use that "juice" to stimulate soil life when I transplant out to the field.

One of the legacies of reading Adelle Davis was the chapter in Let's Eat Right To Keep Fit titled, "Which Apricot Grown Where"? She made the point that if it's not in the soil, hoe can the nutrient be in the fruit of the plant--so not all apricots have the same nutritional value.

With that optimal health of the plant in mind, special attention to varieties that have been bred for higher nutrient content. The plant, its fruit, and its eaters, are ultimately healthier.

 Of course, we put love into the package for good measure.    


         I am so happy to know that these vegetables are grown in ways that provide maximum  nutrition.  -- Annette, Northbrook

I'm a seed saver and plant heirloom varieties. I'm a member of Seed Savers Exchange. As a shareholder you'll support seed saving along with me. Here are some of the reasons why saving seed at the farm is important.

As a veggie farmer I might plant out a hundred tomato plants of any one variety. Because of those large numbers, I have a better chance to observe, and then to propagate, positive traits like resistance, high yield, or vigor. The contrasts in large plant populations are more easily observed with so many plants. I can select the tomatoes for seed that exhibit the traits I'm looking for. This process of observation and selection is the way heirlooms, over thousands of years, through their relationships with their human caretakers got their unique shapes, sizes, colors, and tastes.

True to their parents, heirlooms are dependable--the "original" food security plan. We, as caretakers of this inheritance of seeds from our human history can continue those lines and even improve on them. We can leave GMO and terminator seeds to Monsanto technologies.

Some of the fun of working with heirlooms is in their unique names. Some are named for a place, like the Black Krim tomato from the Isle of Krim in Russia; some are named for the people who selected and propagated them, like Aunt Ruby's German Green.

Through their intuition, skill and their real need to survive, Aunt Ruby and others like her made sure the plants they valued survived and that they were safely saved for the future through their seeds. As you get them in your sharebox, we'll let you know the names and history of the heirloom tomatoes, lettuces, beans, and anything else heirloom.

The photos to the left represent the stages of seed saving. I started with the crate of heirloom tomatoes called Nepal pictured on the front page and the result was thousands of seed. Nature's pretty awesome.

There's a number of ways to save tomato seeds. My process is somewhat different from this one given below, but altogether, it's empowering and fun to continue the saving of seed. 


Cut the tomato into halves at its equator, opening the vertical cavities that contain the seeds. Gently squeeze out from the cavities the jelly-like substance that contains the seeds. If done carefully, the tomato itself can still be eaten or saved for canning, sun-drying or dehydrating.

Place the jelly and seeds into a small jar or glass. (Add a little water if you are processing only one or two small tomatoes.) Loosely cover the container and place in a warm location, 60-75° F. for about three days. Allow the mixture to ferment.

A layer of fungus will begin to appear on the top of the mixture after a couple of days. This fungus not only eats the gelatinous coat that surrounds each seed and prevents germination, it also produces antibiotics that help to control seed-borne diseases like bacterial spot, canker and speck.

After three days fill the seed container with warm water. Let the contents settle and begin pouring out the water along with pieces of tomato pulp and immature seeds floating on top. Note: Viable seeds are heavier and settle to the bottom of the jar. Repeat this process until water being poured out is almost clear and clean seeds line the bottom of the container. Pour these clean seeds into a strainer that has holes smaller than the seeds. Let the excess water drip out and invert the strainer onto paper towel or piece of newspaper. Allow the seeds to dry completely (usually a day or two). Break up the clumps into individual seeds, label and store in a packet or plastic bag.

                                                                    -- from  
International Seed Saving Institute