We are very pleased to introduce a new addition to our Terroir Seeds family! Ellen is our very first intern and has some great small scale farming and agricultural experience to share with us. She is interested in learning more about the seed part of agriculture and wants to be a farmer after finishing her degree. Ellen will be learning the day to day operation of a family run heirloom seed company as well as researching and writing articles on the history of different seeds.
Please join us in welcoming Ellen and enjoy her first article she wrote introducing herself!
My interest in seed saving comes from exploring the world of plants through farming, ecology, composting, and most recently, field study. I grew up in Washington D.C., left when I graduated high school and traveled to Argentina and Chile to see what I could find. I found my comfort among the more wild places in this world, where there was importance more than misunderstanding placed on the land. I met people who were more aware of their natural surroundings, people who seemed to have serenity and happiness that I was not used to.
My interest in farming was born during an apprenticeship in Palermo, ME with two veggie farmers and homesteader, and avid apple historian, Jon Bunker. When I returned to North America, I went to Maine to apprentice on a homestead, a two-acre veggie farm, and a cut-flower and vegetable garden. Each week, apprentices from all over Maine would gather for an evening on a farm, learning about some aspect of farming. One of the most educational parts of my time in Maine was being able to visit farms and see the diversity of ways to run farm. We visited backyard gardens, CSA-model farms, seed trail farms, folks with animals, others with bees… To me, farming was able to create the same feeling of serenity and connection that I felt during my travels!
I am working towards a BA in Small Scale Sustainable Agriculture through Prescott College, after spending two years farming Dos Milpas Farm outside of Santa Fe, NM. In Santa Fe, I and one other person ran a one-acre veggie garden, situated behind Real Food Nation (now Café Fina). We called ourselves Dos Milpas, after a traditional system used in South America of intercropping many vegetables in the same field. We sold produce to Real Food Nation, sold at the local El Dorado market, and learned a lot of different ways to improve soil. My curiosity about soil and how soil actually grows things lead us to experiment with mulches, thermophilic (hot) compost, compost teas, and cover crops.
My passion for farming comes from two loves—one is the experience of starting a plant from seed through to harvesting food, and the other is experiencing the myriad cycles of farming. The most exciting part of farming to me is observing the cycles of nature; from nutrient cycling, to plant and insect life cycles, to the inevitable cycle of decomposition, it is all fascinating to me! As I see it, farming is a whole bunch of intersecting cycles and the goal of farming is to learn to synchronize them in a way that brings about desired results.
I am coming to this internship with Stephen and Cindy with the desire to learn more about the end (or is it beginning?) of a plant’s life—the seed. What is good quality seed? How have we adapted seed to localities and what diversity is captured in the seeds of North America? I know little about seeds and their histories, but have been intrigued by their capacity to hold and tell stories of place. Where does the Valdivia onion come from? What stories and lore does a seed variety hold about the people who have cultivated it or the land it was cultivated in? In an attempt to explore these questions, I will be studying specific seed-growing techniques, histories of heirloom seed varieties, and history and present-day business of growing plants for seed. I hope to uncover some of these seed’s stories, and to share what I learn with you.