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How seeds monopolized my life...

Posted by Stacey Hubbs on

So you wanna know more about Edible Antiques…? Well…Grab a cup of tea…'cause this is gonna take a bit…so, let's start from the beginning…(not like "fresh from the womb beginning"…but the beginning of my gardening and food fascination…and how it grew into a seed company!) 

So, I guess it all started way back in the mid 2000's...I used to manage a small gourmet hot dog company (Buddha Dog) who's slogan was "Making you one with everything in Prince Edward County." These little hot dogs were ENTIRELY locally sourced and created. The beef  was from local farms and processed by our local abattoir, the toppings of local cheeses and hand made sauces from fancy local chefs were made using locally grown ingredients. My interest in local and slow food had been established to say the least and was becoming a big part of my life…

(The Buddhacrew, above)

While still working there in the fall of (2006) I was collecting corn stalks from a local farm for our display booth at a local event…it was September…it was hot, sunny, and a beautiful clear day…I was filled with energy from the earth, sun and air…it was like discovering something magical…(yes I had previously been outdoors…this was just one of those days where everything becomes apparent) so I was like "Whoa…I should do this everyday!!! How have i never farmed before?! (even though i wasn't farming...i was just cutting down corn stalks...)THIS IS WHERE FOOD BEGINS!!" I exchanged my sweet trendy wardrobe for an excessive amount of plaid shirts, worn out jeans, and rubber boots (which are all coincidentally very trendy right now...) only to be immersed in dirt and surrounded by vegetables for almost the next decade...And so the next chapter begins…

(a wee 21 year old farm intern along with other farmers and interns on CRAFT day at Vicki's Veggies, above)

(its 2007…and I'm almost a 21 year old lady farmer!) This is where I send Vicki and Tim of Vicki's Veggies an awkward telephone message followed by about 3 more awkward emails  while they were away in Mexico for the winter…when they got back they emailed me some suggested reading choices on organic growing, real food, preservation etc…and then they hired me as an employee the following spring based purely on my enthusiasm and willingness to work my ass off. This led to several years of amazing learning experiences…this is what I call the "Farm School" portion of my life. I worked as an employee and also partook in a local internship program called CRAFT (collaborative regional alliance of farm training) Kingston where I would also get to go to other farms in our region to learn and experience how they operate. In other words, I got to learn quickly, from some of the best and most innovative farmers in Ontario. During that time, I also attended several conferences, conventions, seminars and workshops on everything related to farming that i could! I developed a huge interest in heirloom and heritage varieties of vegetables….the stories, magic and intelligence that they carried fascinated me in a way that nothing else did…so Vicki let me play with their seeds…organize them, grow them out, clean and process them…she shared with me some very important seed connections and sources, including The Moucks (a magical couple who have been saving seed since…forever…they are incredible invaluable source of information on seed. Also, from there, made a great connection with the Sisters of Providence Seed Santuary in Kingston, which is another invaluable source of seedy information. I continued to save seeds for Vicki and perpetuated that cycle for them for a few years until they moved in a direction where they didn't have time and resources to save seed as a main farm activity anymore. (this happens sometimes when you need to pay for several greenhouses, employees, large scale equipment, etc…their operation was changing and growing…and there just wasn't much room for on farm seed production and experiments anymore. They are well known as agricultural innovators and continue to surprise every season with new amazing projects. Although most of their farm seed production has stopped, i still select some crops from them and generally we'll just split the quantity as a trade so that they still have seed from their own farm without having to pay somebody and take time out to process and package it.)

(Harvesting greens and planting tomatoes at Vicki's Veggies, above)

 

During the winter of 2011... when everything was frozen and i was done for the season...I was thinking to myself…"What am I going to do with all of this amazing information and skill that I've been gaining over the past several years…? Do I start up my own farm somewhere else? Do I just work here forever? Do I stop farming altogether? Do I just get a normal job and garden as a hobby? Do I just start looking for a yak or buffalo to ride into the sunset..?" Needless to say I knew I was at a crossroads of sorts so I was asking to universe to give me very clear signs as to which path to take…it sent me a Red Tailed Hawk (this is my usual animal totem…so i wasn't super surprised) one always came to me in my dreams and then finally in person - face to face. within a meter or so. It told me to rise above the situation and observe…to wait before my attack (or decision in this case)…" So I did…I eventually had the "moment" a few days later when it hit me out of nowhere… "SEEDS!!! ITS SEEDS! ITS AWAYS BEEN SEEDS! THAT IS THE MOST LEGITIMATE BEGINNING! THAT IS WHERE ALL ENERGY BEGINS AND EXISTS AND ENDS AND BEGINS AGAIN! SEEDS ARE THE ENTIRE CYCLE! THE TRUE BEGINNING OF EVERYTHING! THE TRUE BEGINNING OF MY BEGINNING! YESSS!!!" 

(Early 2012…) So I knew my life was going to be about seeds…I decided to turn my hobby and fascination into my life. I went crazy saving seeds, reading about seeds, writing about seeds, and most importantly, learning more and more about seeds. I kept attending conferences, seminars, workshops, etc…this time geared specifically towards seed production. Again, I got to learn from some of the best and most inspiring seeds people in North America. To go on the list with seeducation from The Mouck's and Cate Henderson from the Seed Sanctuary in Kingston, I can add to the list attending courses and seminars given by John Navazio (likely the best known plant breeder in North America), Tom Stearns and Jodi Lew Smith of High Mowing Seeds, Frank Morton of Wild Garden Seed, Rowan White of the Sierra Seed Co-op, and Daniel Brisebois of La ferme co-op Tournesol. (Who in my opinion are some of the most important and valuable sources of information on seed production. There are many more inspirational and educational seedsters to list…but I'll save it for a blog post in the future) So, while learning to perfect my seed skills…I starting producing even more seed crops. I already had so many wonderful seeds in my collection and wanted to make more of 'em!! As many as possible! I think of seeds as my "buddies" so basically… I knew that I needed to make more friends happen in my garden! So...I started growing everything that I could…

(Fall 2012…) I realized that in order to support this addiction i was going to have to sell some of my buddies…which meant id have to grow a lot more of them in order to preserve all of these important and rare varieties and also make money to support the habit. So I turned my acre yard in Picton into a small farm…and grew some stuff in other people's yards too! Now that I had some seed stock…(still not much at this point, i was operating as a sanctuary mostly, only selling a few packs of extras when i had them and hoarding the rest to keep growing out every season for preservation purposes) I realized i'd then have to market them…and sell them…which seemed terrifying…then i remembered I've always been very curious about media tricks, marketing tactics, etc. That's not to say I'm a consumeristic person, because I'm not. (most things i own come from the thrift store…) But I've always had an interest in packaging and marketing…so I wanted to make my seed packs special…

I knew from buying so many seeds from so many other people in the past what made me excited when I held them in my hand…and part of it was the envelope…its small…generally manilla or kraft paper…and it usually smells like paper and love (what all seed packs should smell like!) and is most importantly "the holder of the energy"…or at least that is how i look at it…I knew I needed to make my packages special…I wanted to amplify that feeling i got and transfer it to other people when they held my seed packs...and this took me a length of time to fully design and create… I wanted something that the customer could form an attachment to right away…even if they had never gardened before…and realized it was art! (another fascination, hobby, and used to be side-business of mine)

This is where lino cuts, and good friends come in…friends who's uncle's own the best paper mill in North America! (St. Armand Papeterie in Montreal) All of the my seed packs are made with handmade paper using recycled cotton rags and agricultural byproduct (leaves and sticks) the paper is art in it's own right! People ask me on occasion…okay often... "Why go this far for a seed pack? wouldn't it be so much easier to just stick them in a manilla envelope like everybody else instead of using expensive paper and carving blocks and painting and printing? i bet you'd make more money and save time too!" Why, YES captain obvious, I might make more money and save more time (which would probably result in me making more money...) but these seeds are really important to me…I really do consider them to be my friends…so why wouldn't I give my friends the representation that they deserve…? And ps-even when you pack seeds in boring manilla envelopes…you still don't get rich. That's reality. There is not a rich seed saver in this world. Rich in energy, growth, and food maybe…but not in finances. Seed Savers don't do it for the money. They do it for the seeds. I'm very grateful to be able to offer a fun, tree-free packaging option for my seeds and for my customers regardless of how crazy it (or I) may seem. I'll never make your seed packs automatically…I promise. They will always be made in the most difficult, time consuming, loving and passionate way possible because I'm too stubborn not to…

(2014…) I won't lie…this was the hardest year for Edible Antiques…I had doubts if I should keep it going or maybe scale it back to more of a hobby instead. Seriously wondering if i was just insane for doing this. Working an almost full time job as a gardener/landscaper/dirt toucher, Edible Antiques was starting to fall behind and become second, third or fourth priority…which slowly started to kill my soul over the course of the year. Seeds are what I want do do all the time and I could barely do it. And I wasn't sure I could continue to pull it all off anymore. My life partner/dude that i love (Dan) was still holding out (and still does, because he's lovely) with a certain level of patience with me regarding my seed obsession (which he has now accepted and embraced) and with my fairly weak financial contributions…which I was (and am still) grateful for, but didn't want to press patience much further if EA was going to stay on the same path…I knew i'd never be rich from seed saving…but I couldn't be in debt from it anymore...things were looking' pretty grim for the future of EA at the end of 2014…I was still debating if all the energy was worth just being poor and stressed out all the time…SOOO, I obviously stuck it out because I'm sitting here now writing this! What happened at the end of 2014 changed everything…I got a ridiculously awesome response at a local show that happens every year…quadrupling any current sales i had previously…and I was approached by somebody awesome who was almost as into my seed packs as i was…This is when I became business partners with Carson Arthur! 

 

(2015…) I still worked a nearly full time job again, but it was for lovely people who I respect, love and learn from at Angeline's in Bloomfield...but this time I also grew more seed crops than i've ever grown…Carson gave me his field and I planted and gathered everything that I could from it in order to make an amazing 2016 collection happen!

(Field Stuff, above)

 

With his dirt and investment…and my seed skills…SOOO many seedy things happened! (My living room actually STILL has a corner of huge paper bags of crops waiting to be processed) So things are definitely looking' up for EA these days! 2015 was pretty triumphant...TONS of great new varieties that are being listed on the website, my website is actually something I'm proud of now (I'm technologically handicapped, so it took a few years to get it right), I upgraded my seed cleaning equipment this year to a suction based seed aspirator, (still use pillowcases and screens for some stuff…but it helps ALOT!-Thanks Dan!) I was able to continue to learn from other seed saving experts and even spoke on the same panel as John Navazio! (still not sure how that happened, lol) But most importantly, I'm more inspired than ever before to keep growing awesome seeds for all of you!!! 

So presently, (Jan 2016...) I am currently rockin' the seed scene…and will continue to do so!!! I increased my collection on a pretty massive level for one person this year. I was able to grow out sooo many amazing new crops for trial and am working on releasing the 2016 collection everyday…There are already 40+ NEW varieties for 2016 and more on the way to be listed! I'm so excited for everything seedy that 2016 has to offer! I have this fantasy that maybe in 100 years some of your children's children might still be growing seeds from my collection…and continuing to grow and save seed from them…and maybe even hoard away a few old Edible Antiques seed packs that their grandparents gave them. in a box somewhere...I'd be a happy spirit looking down on the best moment ever. I never expected for any of this to work out…I just worked really hard…and it happened. So whatever your dream is…you might have to trudge through a bit of a shit-pit to get there…and you may acquire some shocking bruises and cuts while conquering said shit-pit...but you'll get there. Be patient with yourself and be patient with your situations and adapt to them in order to overcome them. Be like the Black Valentine Beans that germinate in the snow. Good energy will get you everywhere you want to be. (and bad energy will get you poor germination and cucumber beetle infestations…so yea.) Thanks for listening to my story of how seeds came into my life…and completely monopolized it. 

 

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