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Small Farmer's Journal
PO Box 1627
Sisters, Oregon 97759
800-876-2893
541-549-2064
agrarian@smallfarmersjournal.com
Mon - Thu, 8am - 4pm PDT

The Peoples Seed

The Peoples Seed

A New Seed Economy Built from Inspiration and Loss

A seed is a fitting symbol for an organization inspired by a fallen trailblazer of the local, organic food movement. For most plants, a seed requires a period of darkness and rest during the harsh winter months. With spring comes warmth and light that results in the emergence of verdant green, an annual reminder that winter’s darkness yields to life.

The People’s Seed was founded by the late Tony Kleese who, despite the onset of a terminal disease, committed to his own period of reflection in order to understand the challenges of the organic seed industry. He saw that the funding for many public plant breeding programs (those funded by taxes we pay and resulting in publically available seed and plant material) has been hollowed out over the past decades. Prior to the 1950’s, universities were the primary source of new cultivars being released to the public free of charge, requiring an industry to “grow-out” these varieties to marketable quantities (which includes not just seed companies but also individual farmers and seed savers).

Since then, funding for plant breeding programs has shifted and now depends on corporate sponsorship in both university and private labs. In order to get a large return on investment, new varieties are often kept from being shared as breeding material for plant breeders at other institutions or strict laws have been enacted regulating the distribution of new genetic material. As large corporations merge and buy up smaller breeding companies, the diversity of breeders, cultivars and ideas continues to spiral downward.

Tony knew that this system of plant breeding negated opportunities for the development of new varieties good for all people, regardless of how much profit they could make. Traits like improved carbon sequestration, better biological nitrogen fixation or resistance to regionally devastating diseases are often ignored by the plant breeding industry.

Before Tony passed, he established The People’s Seed to be a fulcrum in leveraging a new funding and decision-making model for plant breeding in the Southeast. We will do this through working collaboratively with national and regional partners to establish community priorities and dispense funding to accomplish our region’s plant breeding goals. Our strategies follow a three-pronged approach:

1. Host an organic seed summit with a wide community of plant breeding stakeholders in attendance. We envision this to include not just breeders, but also the whole food supply chain including farmers doing trials, seed companies, food hubs, chefs, consumers and other folks who, undeniably, are part of the process from getting seed to farm to plate. This gathering will provide space to prioritize specific challenges in the Southeast but also determine which breeders (regardless of where they work) and regional support is available to reach these goals. The People’s Seed will offer grants to qualified breeder teams addressing these community goals.

2. Ensure plant genetic material is shared openly. Restrictive patenting standards strangle the free sharing of parent lines, diminishing the number of breeders able to improve crops for the public good. Our goal is that all varieties developed through The People’s Seed’s partnerships or funding will be shared widely with minimal restrictions for other plant breeders.

3. Educate and engage the public through intuitive and clear information about organic, public plant breeding. We envision a marketplace where new varieties from Artemesia to Zea Maize are available on the shelves of cooperative grocery stores and other suppliers dedicated to educating consumers on the importance of seed to fork. Chefs are also an important ambassador for new varieties, helping us spread the word to audiences far and wide that breeding for taste in addition to yield and disease resistance is an imperative to the future of plant breeding.

Tony’s life was marked by planting many intellectual and literal seeds, through both good and bad times. His legacy is encoded into the DNA of our organization, a reminder that good work, or shall we say traits, can be passed down through careful stewardship of thoughtful ideas cultivated over many years. We hope you’ll join us in germinating Tony’s dream by checking out www.thepeoplesseed.org, dropping us a line at admin@thepeoplesseed.org or simply educating yourself on how you can be part of the organic plant breeding movement.


The Peoples Seed - Tony Kleese

Tony Kleese

Organic farmer, educator and activist Tony Kleese passed away on March 17, 2018 of cancer. He passed peacefully at home, surrounded by loved ones, and is survived by his beloved wife, Christine Kelly- Kleese, his mother, Suzannah Kleese of Greensboro, sisters, Teressa Cagle and Alexandra Kleese, brothers-in-law, sistersin- law, nieces and nephews, and many close friends he considers to be chosen family.

Born on April 1, 1964, in Berlin, Germany, Tony eventually settled in the North Carolina Piedmont, where he developed the relationships with people, livelihood, and the natural world that would enrich his life and those whose paths he crossed.

Tony’s spirit lives on through an enormous legacy of organic farmers and activists across the globe. Since 1989, Tony has worked to develop local and organic food systems in the southeastern US and the Caribbean. He helped develop the USDA’s National Organic Standards in the 1990s, including serving as the first Chair of the national Organic Certifiers’ Council. Tony helped to organize an organic food and farm movement on the island of Dominica, and then more recently worked with Chuck Marsh on a US-AID-funded project at The Source Farm Ecovillage on Jamaica, supporting the development of an organic farmers network, an organic farmers’ market in Kingston, and a permaculture education series. Tony also served on the Board of Directors of countless national organizations including the Organic Seed Alliance and the Center for Food Safety.

Locally, Tony was the first coordinator of the Sustainable Farming Program at Central Carolina Community College in Pittsboro, NC, served as an organizing member and Executive Director of the Carolina Farm Stewardship Association, and is a founding member of Eastern Carolina Organics.

In every role and every day, Tony worked to protect the integrity of the organic label and the ability of farmers and consumers to trust a third-party verified system that had clear standards and transparency. His final work was to launch The People’s Seed, fostering an alternative to the corporate model of seed ownership committed to building a fair and open seed industry for a sustainable food system.

Spotlight On: Crops & Soil

Of Peace and Quiet

LittleField Notes: Of Peace and Quiet

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Walk with me for a moment to the edge of the Waterfall Field. We can lean on the gate and let our gaze soak up the mid-summer scene: a perfect blue sky and not a breath of wind. Movement catches your eye, and in the distance you see a threesome hard at work in the hayfield. Two Suffolk horses, heads bobbing, making good time followed by a man comfortably seated on a mowing machine. The waist high grass and clover falls steadily in neat swaths behind the mower. What you can’t help but notice is the quiet.

Mullein Indigenous Friend to All

Mullein: Indigenous Friend to All

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Mullein is a hardy native, soft and sturdy requiring no extra effort to thrive on your part. Whether you care to make your own medicines or not, consider mullein’s value to bees, bumblebees, butterflies, moths, dragonflies, who are needing nectar and nourishment that is toxin free and safe to consume. In this case, all you have to do is… nothing. What could be simpler?

Cane Grinding

Cane Grinding: An Age-Old Georgia Tradition

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Most sugar cane is processed in refineries to give us molasses, brown sugar, and various kinds of white sugar. However, some South Georgia farms that raise sugar cane still process it the old way to produce the special tasting sweetener for their own food. One such farm is the Rocking R Ranch in Kibbee, Georgia. It is owned by Charles and Patricia Roberts and their sons. The process they use has not changed in the past 100 years. This is how it is done.

Making Sorghum Molasses

Making Sorghum Molasses

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Growing sorghum doesn’t take much work, according to Buhrman. You plant it in the spring, work it a couple of times and that’s about all that’s required until late in the growing season. That is when the work begins. Before it is cut, all the stalks have to be “bladed” – the leaves removed from the stalks. It’s then cut, then the tassles are cut off, and the stalks are fed through a crusher. The crusher forces the juices out of the plant. The sorghum juice is then boiled in a vat for four to five hours until nothing is left but the syrup.

Starting Seeds

From Dusty Shelves: A WWII era article from Farming For Security

Beautiful Grasses

What follow are a series of magnificent hundred-year old botanist’s watercolors depicting several useful grass varieties. Artworks such as this are found on the pages of Small Farmer’s Journal quite regularly and may be part of the reason that the small farm world considers this unusual magazine to be one of the world’s periodical gold standards.

Wild Potatoes and Calcium

Wild potatoes bring increased calcium for better tubers.Have you ever cut into a potato to find a dark spot or hollow part? Early research shows that these defects are likely the result of calcium deficiencies in the potato — and that tuber calcium is genetically linked to tuber quality.

Peach

Peach

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The Peach is a showy tree when in bloom. There are double-flowered varieties, which are as handsome as the dwarf flowering almond, and they are more showy because of the greater size of the tree. The flowers of the Peach are naturally variable in both size and color. Peach-growers are aware that there are small-flowered and large-flowered varieties. The character of the flower is as characteristic of the variety as size or color of fruit is.

Henpecked Compost and U-Mix Potting Soil

We have hesitated to go public with our potting mix, not because the formula is top secret, but because our greenhouse experience is limited in years and scale. Nevertheless, we would like to offer what we have learned in hopes of showing that something as seemingly insignificant as putting together a potting mix can be integrated into a systems approach to farming.

Cultivating Questions Winterkilled Cover Crops for a Mild Climate

Cultivating Questions: Winterkilled Cover Crops For A Mild Climate Part 1

Our mild climate makes it too easy to overwinter cover crops. Then the typically wet springs (and, on our farm, wet soils) let the cover put on loads of topgrowth before getting on the soil. Buckwheat is the only crop that I can be certain will winterkill. Field peas, oats, annual rye and crimson clover have all overwintered here. Any suggestions?

Propagation by Means of Budding and Grafting

Propagation by Means of Budding and Grafting Part 1

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There are three general divisions or kinds of graftage, between which, however, there are no decisive lines of separation: 1. Bud-grafting, or budding, in which a single bud is inserted under the bark on the surface of the wood of the stock. 2. Cion-grafting, or grafting proper, in which a detached twig, bearing one or more buds, is inserted into or on the stock. 3. Inarching, or grafting by approach, in which the cion remains attached to the parent plant until union takes place.

Bamboo A Multipurpose Agroforestry Crop

Bamboo: A Multipurpose Agroforestry Crop

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The bamboos are gaining increased attention as an alternative crop with multiple uses and benefits: 1) domestic use around the farm (e.g., vegetable stakes, trellis poles, shade laths); 2) commercial production for use in construction, food, and the arts (e.g., concrete reinforcement, fishing poles, furniture, crafts, edible bamboo shoots, musical instruments); and 3) ornamental, landscape, and conservation uses (e.g., specimen plants, screens, hedges, riparian buffer zone).

Purslane, Portahoopies and Plow Planted Peas

Purslane, Portahoopies and Plow Planted Peas

For those not familiar with this tasty, nutritious weed, purslane can be a real challenge to manage in vegetable crops for a number of reasons. The seeds of this weed remain viable for many years in the garden, and generally do not germinate until hot weather — that is, after many of the market garden crops have already been planted. To make matters worse, this succulent plant often reroots after cultivation. Purslane also grows so close to the ground that it is impossible to control by mowing.

Seed Quality from Two Perspectives

Seed Quality from Two Perspectives

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We are approaching this from a seed quality standpoint, not just a seed saving one. Saving seed is fairly simple to do, but the results from planting those seeds can be very mixed; without a basis of understanding of seed quality, people can be disappointed and confused as to why they got the results they did. Both the home gardener and the seed company must understand seed quality to be successful in their respective endeavors.

Horsedrawn No-Till Garlic

Horsedrawn No-Till Garlic

We were inspired to try no-tilling vegetables into cover crops after attending the Groffs’ field day in 1996. No-tilling warm season vegetables has proved problematic at our site due to the mulch of cover crop residues keeping the soil too cool and attracting slugs. We thought that no-tilling garlic into this cover crop of oats and Canadian field peas might be the ticket as garlic seems to appreciate being mulched.

Cultivating Questions Ridge-Till Revisited

Cultivating Questions: Ridge-Till Revisited

Delay ridge building until early fall so that the cover crop on the ridge does not grow more than 12” tall before winter. The residues from a short cover crop will be much less challenging to cultivate than a tall stand of oats, especially if tangly field peas are mixed in. Waiting for the winterkilled cover crop residues to breakdown as long as possible before ridge-tilling in the spring will also make cultivation much easier until you gain familiarity with the system.

Onion Culture

Onion Culture

The essential requirements of a soil upon which to grow onions profitably are a high state of fertility, good mechanical condition, properties – that is, if it contains sufficient sand and humus to be easily worked, is retentive of moisture and fertilizers, and is capable of drainage – all other requirements can be met.

Small Farmer's Journal

Small Farmer's Journal
PO Box 1627
Sisters, Oregon 97759
800-876-2893
541-549-2064
agrarian@smallfarmersjournal.com
Mon - Thu, 8am - 4pm PDT