Farming in the high desert is a mixed bag… well, farming in general can be a mixed bag, of both emotions and experience. In May of 2017, for instance, we had a heavy spring storm that blanketed Colorado in snow and suddenly plunged us down to 28˚ F after what had been an unseasonably warm spring. While this storm brought with it some much needed moisture, delivering us out of what would have been a mediocre water year, it also created wet, cold conditions that caused our already stressed parsnip seed crops to rot, and the entire blooming kale seed crop to get smashed to the ground. The sight of it made me bite my lip and pray that the resilient nature of the plants would shine through once again. So let’s just say I was a bit worried about getting any seed from the Black Magic kale seed crop at the all that year. The weather was not done with us, however; within two weeks we saw high temperatures of 90˚ F. The kale crop especially does not like these types of swings (brassica seeds set at temperatures above 85˚ F are usually damaged)… Luckily, the kale proved tough and we were able to get quality seed from the crop.
The May storm and subsequent high temperatures in June (two weeks later) typified the rest of the 2017 growing season. Large fluctuations or swings are starting to look more and more like the new norm – here, and around the world. Here in the high desert, these sort of extreme conditions are not so unusual; actually they are typical of the region to some degree. But the last few years have been extreme even for us.
A big part of why we do the work we do is to provide varieties that can be more resilient in the face of growing climatic swings, as well as to be attuned to the unique conditions in the high desert. Farmers and gardeners of high mountain desert regions already have huge fluctuations in day and night time temperatures, are bathed in intense sunlight, and have clay soil and short seasons. We are living in an extreme climate here, which makes this a good place to grow seed for other climates that are starting to experience similar weather.
To put our work with seed in perspective, we humans are putting ourselves in a precarious position by drawing down the genetic diversity of our food crops. Crops that we depend on for life. This is dangerous in and of itself, but in the face of what seem to be more extreme conditions across the world, it makes our position even more precarious. Taking this variation away from breeders is like robbing the colors from a painter’s palette – it limits their possibilities and creativity. Every ecologist knows that when the diversity of a population starts to be limited, eventually that population collapses and becomes extinct. The industrial model of farming that we have moved towards, with its emphasis on hybrids and use of restrictive utility patents on varieties, traits, and technologies, has us barreling towards an extreme loss of diversity. We are working to stand up in the face of this loss, not only to preserve diversity, but to be an active part of evolution. We aim to continue the story of seeds from past growers – to move that story forwards without limiting our diversity. In this we need your help and support. You are a part of this story. Grow and save this seed – be a part of what is necessary!
As part of our mission, we are always searching for varieties that do well under these high desert conditions; varieties that mature in a short season, are drought-tolerant, and have inherent diversity, while still being productive, tasty, and stable in their traits. This past season certainly put our varieties to the test, and with what looks like an extreme drought season ahead for 2018 we look to continue to our work to evolve with this erratic climate.
This is just an opening to much of our work and philosophies on seed growing – to our life at High Desert Seed. I look forward to sharing new updates and thoughts with you as we move forward with more regular blog posts. Please stay tuned to find out about our breeding work and philosophies of preserving and finding resilience in diversity.
We are excited to announce the release of 30 new varieties this year, available on our website as of January 24, 2018! We hope you enjoy this year’s seed offerings. They have definitely been put to the test and grown with care.
Hope we all grow in resilience this year!
With gratitude for your support,