Each fall I sit with the dying of the garden to lay out this carpet of welcome to you. This morning, fog scaling up as sun rises, revealing autumnal leaves in their full glow, I fill with a sharp pang of nostalgia: mono no aware, the beautiful-sad awareness of change. For as I prepare to leave Fedco after four decades, this is the last time I will welcome you in this way.
So I beg your indulgence to reflect on the changes we’ve seen during that time, not so much by hindsight, but with an eye toward what we sow for the future.
I have loved working at Fedco because it does good work in this world—with passion and commitment, principles paired with practicality, and a fidelity to relationship. Moreover, it offers substantive value: in the seed, in its cooperative foundation, and in an ecological consciousness. For a small company we have a large voice, inspiring others from our lead. I will miss my part in all of that.
With the turn of each season, the challenges that arise compel us to continually assess our impact. What does it mean to tend seed… seed on which the life of all depends? At the very least it means providing a hospitable environment for sustainable growth.
Within this catalog we have highlighted a few new endeavors toward sustainability, which we hope will inspire you, as they have us. The first centers around community collaboration: with a local middle school whose students are stewarding seed; with a talented breeder, whose resilient seeds and vast knowledge we could promote with our infrastructure; and with a band of other smaller seed companies, with whom we pooled resources to provide better seed for all our customers while more substantially supporting a seed farmer (see Marketmore 76 Organic).
The second endeavor centers around economy and invites consideration of what we support with our hard-earned cash. What is the worth of a seed that sustains life, that holds ancestral memory, that deeply nourishes and supports us? We’ve composed a portrait to illuminate the stories and the labor behind getting a single variety of corn seed into a packet, and ask you to determine this seed’s relative worth to you.
Often, when I see the low pricing of commodity seed, I am horrified. What other parts of our world are making up the shortfall? Recently, when I went to repair my car, I was told that the value of my car was not worth the cost of the repair. Yes, by the Blue Book valuation, this was correct. But what about the cost of mining metals for a new car—on the land, on the people, on the planet? These inquiries and choices surround us. How we respond shapes the future.
Penobscot leader Sherri Mitchell challenges us with the question “Why are we creating a world that nobody wants to live in?” As we look forward, this question becomes paramount. So I speak this question as my parting welcome, to engage your participation in a future created by us all with each and every choice. It is hard and diligent work, much like gardening, with the promise of a magnificent beauty to come.
May your assiduousness create the blessing of abundant beauty.
– Nikos Kavanya
This past July on a 90° day in Maine, where farmers historically depended on an inch of rain a week, I stood with a farmer as he drained the last of his irrigation pond to water parched transplants lying on the ground. During the Organic Seed Alliance conference last winter, we heard growers on the West Coast express their concern for the drought and water restrictions they knew were coming because of the lack of snowfall. We virtually witnessed the bone-dry irrigation pond and cracked soil on the farm of one of our growers in Oregon—after 23 years of farming that land, they have decided to sell and look for a place less threatened by drought and wildfires.
As climate chaos unfolds, farmers are noticing an overall trend toward drought. We can dig another well, drain another wetland, transport water from afar, but these are bandages on a hemorrhaging problem. We must find long-term methods to adapt to the changing conditions. Farmers are often the first to be affected by climate change and many are looking for solutions.
Seed crops farmed with little to no irrigation produce seeds that are more resistant to drought pressures, and over time, we can create strains of varieties that are more resilient. At Fedco we plan to expand our selection of dry-farmed seeds, and to work with our growers to help them in their efforts to adapt to drier conditions. (Learn more at The Dry Farming Institute’s website: dryfarming.org)
One dry-farmed variety in this year’s catalog is Mountain Spirit tomato, developed by Wild Mountain Seeds in Colorado and grown for us by a farm in central Maine that used no-till methods and did not water their crop, even in this drought year. (Although their dry-farmed tomato-seed crop was a success, they had to give up on their alliums and brassicas, which could not size up without irrigation.)
We are also offering six rugged (and tasty!) varieties bred by Carol Deppe, who is dedicated to breeding and maintaining varieties that thrive in the face of greater unpredictability. She is at the forefront of helping farmers and gardeners grow well in uncertain times.
To further support our seed growers as they work to adapt to climate change, we’ve created a Seed Farmers Resilience Fund (see below.)
By becoming better stewards of land and by learning more sustainable and resilient methods of living and growing food, we have a chance of moving into a bountiful future despite the inevitability of a world altered by climate collapse. Seeds will always be at the center.
– Emily Pence, Seeds Field Coordinator
We’ve set up a fund to help our seed farmers who are facing crop and livelihood losses due to climate disruption. This fund will allow us to provide tangible aid as the need arises, which will help sustain the symbiotic relationship between our co-op and our network of seed growers. You can contribute when you place your Fedco Seeds order.