Monday, June 30, 2014

SeedBroadcasting at Pollinator Day, Albuquerque BioPark

Young seed researcher.
Pollination is the process by which pollen is transfered from the anther (male part) to the stigma
(female part) of the plant, there by enabling fertilization and reproduction. This takes place in the angiosperms, the flower bearing plants. (Definition taken from Wikipedia  Only about 10% of flowering plants are pollinated without the assistance of animals this is called Abiotic pollination and the most common form is by the wind.  The more common form of pollination is Biotic which requires pollinators. There are about 200,000 species of pollinators most of which are insects.

One of the discovery stations at the BioPark
 On the summer solstice the Albuquerque BioPark held its Pollinator Day providing many discovery stations and experiential exhibits to inform visitors of the importance of these pollinators to keep our eco-systems healthy and resilient.

Paika with her seed drawing            The BioPark Pollinator Garden

SeedBroadcast was invited to participate by Tallie Segal the education co-ordinator who shared her time and stories with us.

Tallie explained to us that the BioPark is actively saving the seeds of the Sacramento prickly poppy which is an endangered species and the New Mexico beardtongue, an important host for rare Sacramento Mountains checkerspot butterflies. The park has a designated seed bank area for this conservation and works in co operation with the U.S. Fish and Wild Life Service, the state of New Mexico and the University of New Mexico to re-seed native habitats.
Exploring how seeds move!

Tallie also provided SeedBroadcast with three enthusiastic interns, who helped to facilitate the running the Mobile Seed Story Broadcasting Station by helping visitors to access the archive of seed stories on the IPads, to looking up and printing seed saving information, helping kids to explore the diversity of seeds and adding to the SeedBroadcast drawing wall, thank you Dominique, Brandon and Renne. Brandon and Renne also shared their own seed stories:

As flowers attract the pollinators, SeedBroadcast attracts the people who are willing the share their seeds of wisdom, then we share this wisdom to keep the cycle alive and resilient. The following is one of these wonderful wisdom stories and if you have not visited the Albuquerque BioPark you should.

Friday, June 20, 2014

SeedBroadcasting at Westcliffe Seed Library

The last stop on the Rocky Mountain Tour was to the Westcliffe Seed Library at the West Custer County Library in Westcliffe, Colorado.

“A Collaborative Effort of People, Non-Profits and The Public Library”

The Westcliffe Seed Library began in 2010 with the joint effort of the library director, local grower Penn Parmenter, and Colorado State University Extension Office. It brought together donated seed from BBB Seed, Tomato Bob’s, Seed Trust, and High Mountain Seeds.

All this seed provides the largest inventory available, but tucked away inside the custom made library cabinet are several packets of locally grown and saved flower, herbs, and vegetable seeds.

Like many seed library systems they use “Easy” “Medium” and “Difficult” to denote the challenge of saving seed from particular varieties and use a check out system to keeping track of the seeds and patrons.

The curation of this living archive is truly a collaborative effort between many interested gardeners, seed savers, librarians, and educators. Being local, growing local, and honoring the local is key. And this does not only apply to the seeds. It is also evident in its location among the stacks of local history, local telephone books, and local references. Local matters here.

Situated next to the Seed Library was a shelf with a potted Hoya plant and a framed picture, which seemed uncanny given the connection of sharing plants, seeds, and stories.

"This plant had grown from slips shared between historic neighbors in Silver Cliff and Westcliffe. Here is the story of this Hoya and its originator Lew Key: “This plant was grown from a slip taken from a plant that stood in the Silver Cliff laundry of Lew Kee. The Hoya plant slip was sent from California by Carolyn Anderson. Her mother (Nell) Cornelia Wadeigh attended the Westcliffe School during the time her father was the Westcliffe train station manager. Mr Key gave Nell’s mother a slip from his original plant and she in turn gave slips to her children and they to their children. These plants have traveled across the United States in places that Lew Key never dreamed of traveling.”

Current library director, Amy Moulton sat down with SeedBroadcast and shared her thoughts on the Westciffe Seed Library and their goals to make it grow. Here is Amy’s seed story:

Sunday, June 15, 2014

SeedBroadcasting with Penn and Cord Parmenter

In 2012, right before the Mobile Seed Story Broadcasting Station national tour from New Mexico to Vermont, I spoke with Cord Parmenter on the phone and he talked about the many exciting high-altitude crop adaptations and greenhouse experiments he and his wife Penn were conducting. But, the plan to kick of the tour with them in Westcliffe, Colorado had to be changed at the last minute due to retrofits to the Broadcasting Station and time constraints.

But finally, two years later, on the last leg of the Rocky Mountain Tour, SeedBroadcast meandered (slowly) up over the Continental Divide and eastwards towards Westcliffe, Colorado, to meet up with these two joyous and dedicated small scale, four season, extreme gardeners, seed savers, and greenhouse innovators.

Penn and Cord’s garden began in 1991 with a camper, woodstove, and mixed wooded-meadow land in the Wet Mountains at 8120’ above sea level. With determination to prove wrong the accusations of assured failure, Penn states, “We grow food here because we were told we could not.”

And this, they have surely done.

Over the last 23 years they have experimented with designing and building thermal-mass greenhouses, implementing biomimicry as an efficient and provocative garden teacher, passing on this knowledge to others through workshops and lectures, and developing high-altitude corn, pumpkin, and Penn’s real passion, tomatoes. This has also encouraged a life-long relationship with their plants as seed keepers.

Cord recollects his first inspiration for his greenhouse design from a book called “Food and Heat Producing Solar Greenhouse,” which someone had long ago borrowed and never returned. He remembered as much as he could and began building experimental prototypes in the garden and tweaking these to accommodate new design innovations.

The basic premise is to create a greenhouse that requires no additional heating or cooling from resource intensive outside energy inputs, such as electricity or gas. The key to this passive system is the sun, a southern facing structure with angled glazing, and the back wall lined with 50 gallon barrels of water to regulate high desert temperature fluctuations. These basic elements can pull tomatoes through a -31 degree F winter night!

This simple structure is not only hyper-efficient, it can also maximize growing potential with both permanent perennial beds and hanging gardens accommodating hundred of start flats and pots.

They have also designed many other passive structures that function as permanent bed high tunnels, half tunnels, boxes, and understory beds and hanging baskets, which are protected by the natural canopy of evergreens.

In their permanent growing areas, Penn and Cord use John Jeavon’s Bio-Intensive method of growing which allows for closer plantings, creates resilient soils, and retains moisture, reducing the need to water in this arid mountain climate.

Penn’s seed saving adventure began with her desire to grow tomatoes where everyone else gives up, in the high mountains. She attended Seed School in 2010, came home and harvested over 10 lbs of seeds, and never looked back. She now grows over 130 varieties and offers her adapted seed for sale through her seed company called High Mountain Seeds, through Seeds Trust, at the local Westcliffe Seed Library, and she is now a part of the newly formed Rocky Mountain Seed Alliance.

She said, “I didn’t know I was a seed saver until it happened to me.” And this begins her life long acquaintance with not only seed, but also other seed keepers around the world.

Here is a one of many seed stories that Penn shared. This one about Pop’s Tomato, an heirloom tomato entrusted to her and the journey it took to reconnect with its lost heritage.

You can also hear more on this story at A Sense of Place, Episode 2: Pop's Tomato, by Sarah Stockdale at

Penn not only grows out all these tomatoes and seeds she also is developing an online archive with images and descriptions. She relishes this time sitting down with each tomato in hand and tasting its delicate nature, while poetically naming its characteristics.

And with all her success growing and adapting Candy Mountain Sweet Corn, Kinko 6” Chantenay Carrots, Northern Bush Pumpkin, and a motley crew of tomatoes, all this effort does not always end in success. Sometimes failures are also important, teaching us to stretch our thinking and our practices to learn and grow with seed.

In 2013, Penn agreed to grow out the instantaneously famous Carl’s Glass Gem Corn for Seeds Trust. With an unusually cool and rainy summer all the crops where thriving in green. As Penn said, “It was bizarre, but the corn seemed unconcerned about its destiny to reproduce and make seed. It just seemed happy growing and swaying in the breeze.” By late August and with the relatively short growing season at 8120’ Penn began to worry when no tasseling occurred. It just kept growing and growing, until a hail storm became its destiny, stimulating this corn's need to get moving, tassel, pollinate, and make seed…..or was it Penn’s Corn Dance?

In the end, it was too late. Even with the effort to build an instantaneous greenhouse around it, all the corn grew, tasseled, and began pollinating, but not before rains and the heavy cold of fall settled.

Penn relates this as extremely devastating, but not the end of her effort. In fact, in 2014 she is planting another trial of Carl’s Glass Gem and she is determined to keep trying what might seem impossible.

“If a ponderosa can grow out of rock, you can grow seed in soil” – Penn Parmenter

To keep up with Penn and Cord visit their garden blog at:

Friday, June 6, 2014

Tomten Farm with Kris Holstrom

SeedBroadcasting from Telluride was made possible by our partnership with Telluride Institute (TI) and Southwest Institute for ResiLience (SWIRL)…along with the generosity of Telluride MountainFilm, who included our seedy broadcasting in the weekend festivities.

Kris Holstrom of SWIRL is a local agroecologist, educator, and brilliant community organizer. She was instrumental in connecting us to local growers and opportunities at and around Telluride!

We met up with her at the MountainFilm Ice Cream Social and Telluride Farmers Market where she was facilitating compost as the on-site waste-flow engineer, as well as overseeing her farm stand at the market. She stopped by to visit briefly amidst the snow, ice cream, veggies, and waste cycles and shared a seed story with us. Then she invited us out to her farm on “the mesa” above Telluride.

Main Street, Telluride with waste barrels, SeedBroadcast, gluten-free ice cream, and the soon-to-come snow.

Kris calls this Tomten Farm and it is guarded by its namesake, a gnome-like creature of legend who watches over farmers’ homes and children. It is located just west of Telluride at 9000 feet low… making it well classified as a high-altitude experiment is regenerative agriculture, permaculture, education, and creative community life.

Here is Kris's Seed Story:

During our tour of the farm, we sloshed around in a shroud of patchy fog and distant snow-capped mountains. The recent snow covered all the new garden plantings, but cane fruit, hops, alliums, asparagus, and trees were beginning to leaf out and flower.

Tomten Farm is a demonstration and education site based on regenerative agriculture principles in action. The mission is to explore and put into play dynamic feedback loops where all ecologic participants (plants, soils, animals, humans, weather, sun, etc) relate through energy flows to create a resilient web of life for people and the other than human.

This farm is fully experimental and powered by seasonal interns who contact Kris through National Sustainable Agriculture Information Service. Interns not only help out on the farm, they are also included in all educational programming and they can lead their own alternative architecture and permaculture experiments and projects. Housing for interns include several gers and a community kitchen.

Grow Dome
Even though the winters are snowy and cold, the farm grows four-season with a climate battery greenhouse, grow dome, and greenhouse on the south face of Kris’s passive solar, photovoltaic driven home. These structures provide a moderated climate, passive cooling and heating, and collecting/storing harvested rainwater, while retaining humidity to off-set the desert atmosphere of the Rocky Mountains.

The large climate battery greenhouse was designed in concept from Jerome Osentowski at the Colorado Rocky Mountain Permaculture Insititute. It has permanent beds laid out in large curvilinear forms making space for intercropped diversity of annual and perennial food, medicine, and beneficial botanicals. Verticality is also structured into this design as a multi-story garden with grapes and nasturtiums climbing up the beams, a fig tree and rosemary bush and under-cropped herbs and tender greens. Using 3-dimensional space to sculpt a garden, increases yields, biodiversity, and connects us to the elementals of land from below the soil surface to the clouds.

As we wrapped up our farm tour, Kris added, “You know, after my Seed Story audio recording with you earlier, I realized that one of the most important seeds on the farm are the interns. The interns are the seeds around here, and they all germinate differently.”

Thank you Kris for sharing your seed story and farm with us!

Thursday, June 5, 2014

SeedBroadcast at Telluride MountainFilm, part 2

SeedBroadcasting at the Palm in Telluride

One of the  many diverse and thought provoking films presented at this years MountainFilm was "Seeds of Time". This film, by Sandy McLeod , follows the scientist Cary Fowler  in his passion to protect the the future of our food. The genteic diversity of our crops is vanishing and Cary, as a crop diversity pioneer, travels the world educating the public and set out to build, Skalbard, the worlds first global seed vault This seed vault is set in the remote Arctic Svalbard archipelago about 810 miles from the North Pole and holds 825,000 seeds from different crop varieties.  "Seeds of Time" follows Cary as he moves through his passionate journey to save the diversity of our seeds through education, the history of seed saving, ted talks, global meetings and seed banks.
 Cary was in Telluride to talk about this film and to hold discussions with youth as part of Pinhead Smithsonian Affiliate Institute and Kidz Kino. SeedBroadcast was invited to join this event where we met with many curious kids and a curious Cary Fowler.

Curious about seeds

Talking with Cary Fowler
SeedBroadcast asked Cary what his thoughts were on all the small farmers and seed-lovers that are diligently saving a diversity of seeds and growing them out year after year rather than stockpiling them in a seed vault, listen to his answer here:

Keep on the look out for our next blog from Telluride on the high-altitude Tomten Farm.

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

SeedBroadcast at the Telluride MountainFilm Fesival

Memorial Day weekend in Telluride is a time of change. One does not know if it is spring or winter from one moment to the next. It is that in between time of regrowth and renewal.  It is also the time of the Telluride MountainFilm Festival 
Mountain Film started in 1979 and is one of America's longest-running film festivals that is dedicated to educating, inspiring and motivating audiences about issues that matter. SeedBroadcast was invited by the Telluride Institute and the Southwest Institute for Resilience to have a presence at this years festival in conjunction with the film Seeds of Time,

Setting up on Main Street for the Farmers Market and Ice Cream Social

Our first stop was to set up on Main Street for the Farmers Market and the Ice Cream Social. This is a free, well-anticipated community event put on by the Film Festival. The market was bustling with a variety of greens, home-made baked goods, and high altitude produce. It was the first market of the season and the local farmers were eager to sell their produce and talk about their farms and farming practices.

Newly arrived interns working at the Tomten Farm Stand.

As we were setting up we had the pleasure of talking with John Gascoyne from Fort Collins who shared the following seed story:

As the market came to a close several of the local farmers came to visit us.  The first was Kris Holstrom, who until recently, ran the Southwest Institute for Resilience and was responsible for all the recycling activities for the Film Festival. She also runs the high-altitude (9,000ft), solar powered "morganic" Tomten Farm on the mesa near Telluride   We took the time to visit her so keep checking the blog as there will be a post soon about this remarkable woman and her farm.
One of her new interns shared the following story with us:

Another local farm is the Indian Ridge Farm and Bakery in Norwood This 100 acre farm in the high San Juan Mountains is run by Barclay Daranyi and her husband Tony.

We had been warned that at every Ice Cream Social it rained and sure enough as soon as the ice cream arrived so did the rain and snow. Suddenly we became very popular!

Huddled in the Mobile Seed Story Broadcasting Station we gathered more stories:

Our first day of SeedBroadcasting in Telluride was full of interesting encounters, with the weather, the film crowd and the local farmers...... to be continued.......