By Nora Dutton
Welsh farming traditions guide much of what we do here at Gwenyn Hill, but we’re also rooted in modern methods and believe there’s a delicate art to marrying the two. That balance is found in the UW Madison Department of Horticulture’s Seed to Kitchen Collaborative, a project we’re excited to partner with this year.
Along with other farms and home gardeners, we’ll be participating in seed trials this year to help develop bio-regional plants specifically suited to the Upper Midwest and its changing climate. While those July-like temperatures in May sent many winter-weary Wisconsinites stepping outside to soak up the sun, they raised more than a few eyebrows within the farming community.
With an increase in record droughts, heatwaves, extreme storms, and erratic weather patterns, our modern food system has come under pressure. These factors can have a drastic effect on the price of produce, especially when the food then has to be shipped long distances.
There is a solution, one we practice here at Gwenyn Hill: Grow more food regionally and consume it where it is grown. But not all crop seeds on the market are suited to our specific regional climate and growing season conditions.
This wasn’t always the case. Prior to World War I, it was unheard of for farmers to purchase their seeds from a supplier. They simply saved their seeds from the most impressive and resilient crops and planted them the following year. As a society, we’ve moved away from that tradition toward more conventional “seed clearinghouses” that don’t take into account an all-important bio-regional balance.
And here’s where the Seed to Kitchen Collaborative can step in and help us swing the balance back closer to those traditional, seed-saving farming methods, which can help insure the food supply. Investment advisors will tell you to diversify your portfolio to mitigate risk, and that’s essentially what we’re doing, but with seeds. When drought in California demands water be trucked in from across state lines and crops wither in the fields, farmers in other, more stable regions can pick up the slack to feed their neighbors, if they have access to bio-regional varieties suited to their own climate.
That’s why we’re so excited to partner with the Seed to Kitchen Collaborative to help develop high performing, delicious, and regionally relevant varieties to ensure a more resilient future. We think that’s a pretty forward-thinking idea, and one that’s rooted in tradition.
But we need your help. If you’re as enthusiastic as we are about this partnership and would like to sample the fruits of our labor, look for these test varieties this summer at our Farmstand or our booth at the Brookfield Farmers Market on Saturday mornings.
- Upper Midwest Broccoli: Diplomat, Green Magic, Imperial, and Asteroid
- Tomatoes: TMX, Jaune Flame, Sun Lucky, Clementine, and 4-5L
- Northern Wisconsin Melons: Divergent, True Love, Triton.
Take a few home and give them a try. Then tell us your opinion. Your feedback is an essential ingredient in our plan for a delicious, more regional, and brighter future.
Want to get involved? Check out this site to sign up to test seeds in your home garden next year:
These resources offer more information about the Seed to Kitchen Collaborative:
Nora Dutton has mentored gardeners for the past few years at Moorland Community Garden in Madison. She is scaling up her gardening skills to a farming level as a vegetable team member at Gwenyn Hill.