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Tis the season for seeds

May 14th, 2010 | Category: Features, Growing

An interview with local farmers Crystine Goldberg and Brian Campbell, of Uprising Organics, the first 100% Certified Organic seed company in Washington State.

interview by Becca Schwarz Cole
Crystine Goldberg and Brian Campbell, of Uprising Organics, have been growing fresh organic produce on leased acreage in Acme, in the South Fork Valley of Whatcom County, for several years. But in addition to their produce and low income, food stamp-based CSA, Crystine and Brian have been growing a catalogue of seeds, all grown specifically for the Northwest climate. While much of their seed is grown in the Acme area, they also partner with a network of growers, including farms in Washington, Oregon and Idaho. The first to offer 100% certified organic seeds in the state of Washington, Uprising Organics has approximately 40 new seed varieties this year. We recently caught up with them to talk about seed growing, farming and more.

Grow Northwest: How did Uprising Organics get its start and what are your backgrounds in farming?
Uprising Organics: We pretty much got into farming for the money. But really, like lots of people we have always loved our time in the garden growing food. Neither of us grew up on farms or anything, though we’ve both worked on them for many years, but at some point there was a somewhat romanticized notion of “wouldn’t it be great to do this for a living and live the farm ideal.” Even as the romantic ideas collided with a very hard working reality it is still a very deeply satisfying and grounding work.
Our strongest motivation has always been making really good food more widely accessible both through creating an EBT CSA model as well as beginning the seed business. We’re excited about people empowering themselves, growing their own food and discovering all that a single seed holds.
Like Wendell Berry said, “Eating is an agricultural act,” and we feel the same way and extend it into the seed world. What we choose to eat and to plant, whether we choose to see the direct results of poor food distribution and government policy and take some action is up to us.

GN: How did you begin growing seeds? When did you start?
UO: It all began about 10 years ago with dry beans. Seeing the amazing amount of diversity and rich history led us to where we are today.
As Market farmers we’ve also had the unique opportunity to really trial many different varieties and determine what we and our fellow eaters love; what performs and tastes best.
As seed growers we understand the importance of developing a relationship between grower, plants, and place. Seeds are full of stories and memories of place. The longer we have the opportunity to steward plants locally, the better they become adapted to growing here. We hope to play a role in helping to establish and steward a real wealth of locally adapted varieties to pass along to our (collective) kids.

GN: Do you generally offer the same seeds each year or aim for different ones?
UO: We always are trialing new varieties to see how we like them and how they perform in our unique climate, but once we decide we want to offer a seed our goal is to keep offering it. Sometimes we’ll find something similar that is a bit better and we’ll replace it, but there’s nothing worse than falling in love with a variety and no longer being able to get it. It’s happening all the time in the seed trade these days, we are losing such a genetic resource with all the consolidation in the seed business.
We are committed to keeping many of these great varieties growing. For example, I think we might be the only commercial source in the world for “Pokey Joe” Cilantro which was the best tasting in a variety trial last fall at a farm out on the Peninsula. It was just another variety that had been dropped from the trade.
Another example are the “Rockwell” dry beans. Grown near the Coupeville area of central Whidbey Island for well over a century it has not, to our knowledge, ever been commercially offered. Our seed stock came from Willowood Farm in Coupeville and performed wonderfully for this climate. And it is delicious!
We offer new varieties every year with approximately 40 new varieties in this year’s catalogue.
GN: Can you tell us about the seed growing process?
UO: The process for producing seeds really varies from plant to plant. Some like peas and beans are somewhat straight forward, others less so. Some don’t produce their seed until the second year like carrots, kales, and beets. (We thought it was really  sweet that someone last year said they had been cutting open carrots looking for seeds but couldn’t find any).
Part of the appeal of this work is that there’s this secret life that many plants live that many people are unaware of. Like when radishes become a become the size of a softball and sport a three-foot tall bush of seed pods or chard grows a foot over your head. We grow the majority of our seed crops at our leased Acme farm and maintain a couple of other small seed plots in the valley (for genetic isolation). We also have an excellent network of small family farmers in WA, OR, and ID that, thankfully, grow the rest.

GN: Where are your seeds available?
UO: They are available locally at Crossroads Grocery in Maple Falls, Terra Organica in the Public Market, both Bellingham Coops, the Skagit Coop and Christianson’s Nursery in Mt. Vernon. There’s a complete list on our website of about 20 stores from Eugene, OR north through OR and WA. Our full range of seed offerings including seed garlic can be found online at uprisingorganics.com.

GN: Does your son work alongside you and how does his presence impact/influence farming and seed production?
UO: There have been child labour laws in place for quite some time now.  But really, a farm seems like just the most perfect place for a child to grow up to us. We don’t live where we farm so it’s a bit different perhaps, but he really finds magic and a sense of wonder in it. He loves to participate for the most part, and sometimes he doesn’t, and those times can be challenging for us all. Honestly, what we do is what he knows and like anything else it’s not perfect and it’s not always easy but there’s always an underlying sense of belonging and identity… these are our words of course and to really understand his world we’re going to need to spend a lot more time down on our knees… the perfect place for farmers.

GN: Are there seeds that are more popular than others? Do you have a favorite?
UO: Lacinato (Black Tuscan) Kale, to our never ending surprise, continues to be our number one seller. As Brian just said out-loud, we sell all kinds of sexy vegetable seeds: watermelon, peas, tomatoes, crazy beautiful flowers, Celeriac (kidding)… Who’d of thought kale had such an underground?
As for our favorites, it’s like picking a favorite child…but Brian thinks that if forced to pick, well, Grandpa Admire’s Lettuce might be a bit more gifted. Crystine is choosing Black Cherry Tomatoes and Siskiyou Sweet Onions and dreaming of the month we can once again make Panzanella salad…And poppies, we love poppies.

Regional Seed Companies

(Editor’s Note:  This is not a complete list. These are just some of the seed companies and providers in the Northwest, most of which follow sustainable methods and offer seeds adapted to the Pacific Northwest’s climate and short season. Submissions should be sent to editor@grownorthwest.com)

Whatcom County
Uprising Organics
www.uprisingorganics.com
uprisingseeds@riseup.net
(360)778-3749it

Skagit County
Mt. Baker Seeds
Woody Deryckx
(360) 333-0054
Woody Deryx, of Concrete, has been collaborating with growers in the Northwest for years.

San Juan County
Greenheart Gardens
1153 Hummel Lake Road,
Lopez Island
(360) 468-3105

Jessica Anderson
sweettilth@gmail.com
Washington/Oregon
Abundant Life  Seeds
www.abundantlifeseeds.com
Saginaw, OR

Adaptive Seeds
25079 Brush Creek Road
Sweet Home, OR
adaptiveseeds.com

Ed Hume Seeds
www.humeseeds.com/
Puyallup, WA
Ed Hume has been supplying the Pacific Northwest with seeds and gardening advice for decades.

Nichols Garden Nursery
www.nicholsgardennursery.com
Albany, OR
(541) 928-9280

Peters Seed and Research
www.pioneer-net.com/psr/
Myrtle Creek, Oregon

Sow Organic Seed Company
www.organicseed.com
Eugene, OR
(888) 709-7333

Territorial Seed Company
www.territorial-seed.com
Cottage Grove, OR
(541) 942-9547
The Thyme  Garden
www.thymegarden.com
Alsea, OR

Lower British Columbia
West Coast Seeds
www.westcoastseeds.com
Vancouver, B.C.
(604) 482-8800

The Butchart Garden Ltd.
www.butchartgardens.com
Victoria, B.C.
(604) 652-4422

Nature’s Garden Seed
www.naturesgardenseed.com
Victoria, B.C.
(250) 595-2062

Salt Spring Seeds
www.saltspringseeds.com
Salt Spring, B.C.

VanDusen Botanical Garden
Seed Savers
Vancouver, B.C.
(312) 382-5990

One Comment to “Tis the season for seeds”

  1. Dr Tim Clark says:

    Ground Up Soil LLC is a small start up organic soil ammendmentment company whose compost and castings are OMRI listed and produced on a TILTH certified farm. Our ccastings are lab tested with guaranteed analysis and registration with Oregon and Washington Department of Ag. We produce our ammendments on Harmony Jack Farm which produces grass finished poultry, pork, goat, and beef.

    Our worm castings are plant based. We’d like to provide information via an article about our unique operation and wonderful soil ammendments to organic growers.

    The compost and castings are available at three establishments in Portland: Concentrates, Naomi’s Organic Farm Store, and Dean’s Innovations.

    Dr Tim Clark 541-409-8911

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