Beet Seed Harvest at Local Harvest Farm!
Well, after months of waiting we are happy to say the golden beet seed has been harvested at Local Harvest Farm! It has been a long, but amazing process to see this crop go from root to seed.
In fall of 2015, Mojave Kaplan of Planting Seeds Project and Dan Oostenbrink of Local Harvest Farm did a strong selection on his golden beet crop, putting into storage only those beets which had the best colour, shape, and size. Dan had not expected to save this crop of beets for seed, but with a little push from Mojave though the would take a leap of faith and give it a try.
On March 19, Dan pulled those beets out from storage and readied them for planting, doing another round of selection for colour uniformity and smooth skin. To help us make our second round of selections on the beets, John Navazio, of Johnny’s selected seeds, was kind enough to spend some time on the phone to guide us through what we should be considering. This not only helped us make better selections on the beets but also gave us some insight into the history of this beet, which he played a key role in breeding
A crew of seven then planted nearly 1300 stecklings that day! With so many people the planting did not take long. Now all we had to do was wait!
The beets grew well throughout the season, though a dry spell early in the year may have set them back a little bit. Dan pounded stakes into the ground so wire could be strung up to support the plants as they grew. Stecklings of all different sizes were in the planting but as they grew the plant sizes seemed to be fairly uniform.
As we got closer to harvest time we were lucky enough to have John Navazio on site to see the crop in person as part of our seed production workshop in July. This was a great chance to get feedback and set an anticipated harvest date. At this point we figured mid-August was the time.
And mid-August it was! We chose August 11 to do the harvest. It was a smaller crew than at the planting – with only five of us – but it was enough to get step one of the harvest done. We pulled all the plants from the field to get them out of the ground and placed them on a long sheet of remay next to the beet rows. This would ensure the plants stopped growing and give them a chance to dry out before further processing.
The weather forecast looked great for the following week or so the timing was perfect to ensure we got some seed drying down. Every few days, Dan would get into the pile and shift it around to ensure it all got uniformly dried out. It was quite the impressive site to see 325 feet of seed-laden beet plants stacked up in the sun!
It is now August 25 (it sometimes takes a while to get these posts finished!) and the seed has been collected and is indoors to await further processing. The first step is to separate most of the seed from the plants while the second step will be to clean all the debris out of the seed to ensure it is suitable for selling and planting. Dan did the first bit of separation this week and has already filled a garbage pail with seed – and he’s only 10% done! So now there is the challenge of finding a market for that seed!
We’ll have more updates soon and watch for a Pop-up seed cleaning Field Day so we can get this seed prepared for next season!