A few weeks back we visited the University of Santa Cruz. Apart from gaining the somewhat non-academic accolade of being ‘the most stoned campus on earth’ in an article in Rolling Stone magazine back in 2004, UCSC has a rather lovely 25 acre organic farm on campus. Each year the farm runs a six month apprenticeship programme, preparing students to go into horticulture using sustainable growing principles. We talked to a couple of ex-apprentices: Patrick from Vermont who is planning to go back and start a communal farm in his home state; plus our host, Michael’s housemate who had created some very productive raised beds in their back garden and would like to go into farming. It seems like a very inspirational programme, and cheap, by US education standards.
As we wandered around the immaculate acres of cultivation (this place is a showcase for what the attentive care and attention of 40 keen students can achieve!) I wondered how the farm sources its seeds. I started thinking about seed supply a while back, and it continues to be a subject that fascinates me.
I received the following reply from UCSC, which I think contains a lot of resources that are worth posting:
‘we are just developing a seed saving plan, with the ambition of saving lettuce, tomato, winter squash, fresh herb (basil, dill, cilantro), and dry bean seed in the next few years. We’ve been very inspired by the work of Organic Seed Alliance (Port Townsend, Washington) in helping growers learn how to save quality seed.
We buy as much organic seed as we can for the field — last year it was 80% organic (80% of $$ spent), including organic seed potatoes. Some of our main seed suppliers are: High Mowing Seeds (all organic), Johnny’s Selected Seeds, Wild Garden Seed, and Seeds of Change. Our Farm Garden Manager saves dry bean and small grain seed (quinoa, amaranth), and possibly more items.’
Budding farmer Patrick from Vermont said to me that he thinks ‘seeds will be more valuable than $$ in the future’ – an interesting concept. He may have a point.