2015 Mentee Blog #1 – Suzy Coulter
My seed saving mentor is David Catzel, who has been farming at Fraser Common Farm as part of the Glorious Organics Co-op in Aldergrove for 10 years, and today at my first farm visit there, I learned that, among other things, he’s also done a stint at Linnea Farm on Cortes Island, and also co-ordinated a seed saving program for the Environmental Youth Alliance in East Vancouver, named Urban Seeds, out of Cottonwood and Strathcona Community Gardens.
We figure we’ve probably crossed paths several times over the years, but now I’m ever so grateful to have this chance to be officially endorsed to pick his brain!
We covered a lot of ground and topics today (so hope i get this all right David!) but basically David has been involved in most of Fraser Common Farms seed crop planning, saving, selecting roguing, breeding, curing, and drying and this has included many brassicas, lettuce, tomatoes, corn, beans, and a breeding project involving an accidental and now intentional cross between a brussel sprout variety and a kale variety. I learned about progeny breeding today ( warning: my understanding here ~ saving all the seeds from one plant and growing those out and then selecting for traits from those progeny)
Very interesting learning about some of the selecting that David is doing with this project, for winter hardiness, denticulated leaves, colour. SO COOL!
As I’ve been learning more about isolation distances and minimum plant numbers for genetic diversity, I was curious to see how a medium sized farm (20 acres) handles growing so many species and varieties with the need for isolation distances addressed. At Glorious Organics there are many different fields growing different crops, with significant forest buffer zones between them to deter pollinators from crossing same species. and the careful placement of squash varieties of different species next to each other.
The Fava bean seed pods were super impressive! but saw some that were less so, so they will likely be culled.
A new challenge David has faced this year is a nasty aphid infestation on one of the brassica seed crops, on the actual seeds. In the past, aphids have damaged the growing plants, but not the seed pods! He stressed how it’s good practice to still water and weed the seed crops even after they’ve started forming seeds.
My main project is parsnip seeds, a biennial. I’ve seeded 180 feet of Lancer parsnips, kinda late, but the germination looks pretty good. We’ve been hand watering for weeks now, and I’m mainly just trying to keep them alive! i need to have 200 viable plants that have overwintered to replant next spring, so that means saving more than 200 and learn about how to create good storage conditions.
I also want to try some hand pollinating of buttercup squash. So far there have been lots of female flowers mature and opening, but no male flowers. is this typical? hoping tonight might be the night!
So, gotta go!
Looking forward to David’s visit here on Sunday, hope my parsnips have grown some more by then