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NATURE’S TURN: Seeding our gardens, caring for the earth

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By Monday, Feb 16 Home & Garden More In Real Estate
Moon and Stars, Cherokee watermelon ready for seed saving at Turtle Tree Seed in Copake, N.Y.
February 16 – March 1, 2015  

While seed catalogues continue to arrive in the mail and racks of seed packets have become prominent at garden centers and grocery stores, I’d like to introduce an outstanding local source of seeds for the gardener and farmer — Turtle Tree Biodynamic Seed Initiative, Camphill Village, Copake, New York.

Spinach seed ripening in the Turtle Tree seed garden

Spinach seed ripening in the Turtle Tree seed garden

Turtle Tree Seed is the only purveyor of exclusively biodynamic seeds in the United States. According to Turtle Tree’s seed garden manager and co-general manager, Lia Babitch, to practice biodynamics is to create a whole farm or garden organism. “To grow healthy food requires a vibrant diversity of plants, animals and soil life” on cultivated land along with the support of surrounding natural areas, such as hedgerows, woodlands, meadows and wetlands. She continues, “These form the immune system of your land that together help each other to sustain the farm. The soil we work with as part of a farm organism needs our help to be healthy.”

Emphasizing these connections, the Biodynamic Farming and Gardening Association has said: “If Biodynamic farming and gardening are to have a truly holistic approach…, then we must also take into account what Rudolf Steiner often referred to as “the household of Nature” – the abundance of plants and wildlife and the uncultivated areas which together form the environment for our work within the landscape.” Rudolf Steiner (1861-1925), an Austrian philosopher, contributed widely to the fields of education, medicine, science, art and religion, among others.

Germination test at Turtle Tree Seed.

Germination test at Turtle Tree Seed.

The unified approach to agriculture that biodynamics teaches also relates the ecology of the farm-organism to that of the entire cosmos. Sherry Wildfeuer, in Stella Natura, the Biodynamic Planting Calendar, states, “Steiner pointed to the cosmic influences from the Sun, Moon, planets and stars as important factors to work with in agriculture.”

In “Our Safe Seed Pledge” Turtle Tree promises “open-pollinated seed grown on farms and in gardens working with biodynamic practices as outlined by Rudolf Steiner in his Agriculture Course of 1924.  ….We do not carry hybrids or knowingly carry seed that has been genetically engineered or polluted with genetically engineered products…..”  There are 288 varieties of vegetables, grains, herbs, flowers and ornamentals in the TT catalog.

Squeezing seeds from tomatoes at Turtle Tree Seed.

Squeezing seeds from tomatoes at Turtle Tree Seed.

The story of Turtle Tree Seed is intertwined with life at Camphill Village, Copake, N.Y., “part of the world-wide Camphill movement working with children, youth and adults with social, emotional and developmental disabilities.” A team of 35 people, including adults with special needs, grow, harvest, dry, clean, package, and ship seeds to more than 40 farms and more than 4,000 backyard gardeners across the country. Turtle Tree is very accessible online, on the phone and in person. Camphill Village offers enriching tours, a hospitable café, superb bakery and charming gift shop.

TT heirloom Aunt Ada ready for eating as tender green bean.

TT heirloom Aunt Ada ready for eating as tender green bean.

Needless to say, I procure most of my seeds from Turtle Tree. The lettuce mixes are colorful and long standing. Aunt Ada, a prolific heirloom pole bean, is a succulent summer-into-autumn green bean, fresh shell bean and — when dried for winter – a rich, buttery soup bean. Rolanka carrot, Rodynda red cabbage and Turga parsnips are delicious, beautiful, and excellent keepers. Catalogs will be in the vestibule of Berkshire Co-op Market by next week, and there’s immediate access to the catalog online, or by telephoning 518-329-3037. Turtle Tree seeds are available by mail order and for pickup at their Camphill Workshop.


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