Summer Gardens on the Way

Tuesday, June 04, 2013

As June begins and the busy spring planting ends we've turned our attention to caring for all the little plants we've started. Weeding, thinning, trellising, watering, oh, and squishing cutworms! This is the critical month in making sure all our seed and market crops get off to a good start. Your gardens are probably like this too. Now that things have germinated or been transplanted it's really important to make sure they are not swallowed by weeds, that they get enough water, and that climbing peas and beans have something to climb up. If you get this done, by July you'll be looking at strong, vigorous, healthy crops.

At our farm we're also taking a little time to work on infrastructure projects. The first high tunnels are going up and we're looking forward to seeing our tomatoes and other heat-loving crops grow to perfect beauties inside that warm environment. We're also using one high tunnel to experiment with growing carrot seed in a caged environment. Why not just grow them in the field? It's because we (and many farmers in Western Canada) have high amounts of Queen Anne's Lace in our area. This weedy, wild relative of the carrot cross-pollinates with regular carrots and ruins seed production. By isolating our carrot crop in the high tunnel, we can produce carrot seed that is true-to-type. We're doing this experiment in partnership with 3 other farms across BC in a project organized by BC Seeds.

Last but not least, this month sees us begin selling fresh produce at the Kaslo Saturday Market. We've already been delivering spinach, salads, radish and turnips to local stores, but now the market production begins in earnest. We hope you're harvesting from some of your own early plantings and enjoying fresh greens as part of your meals. Long live the first meals planted from Stellar Seeds!

Apprenticeship Opportunity Available!

Friday, February 01, 2013

On the slopes of the Purcell Mountains near Johnson’s Landing, Patrick and Colleen own and operate 2 agri-businesses, Kootenay Joe Farm as well as Stellar Seeds. Using the 4 acre certified organic farm, vegetables and livestock (laying hens, meat birds, and dairy goats) are grown and raised with the aid of 2 employees and sold at the Kaslo Farmers’ Market. Patrick and Colleen strive to have a diversified and sustainable farm operation. The heritage and rare variety seeds produced on Kootenay Joe farm are sold via Stellar Seeds, one of Canada’s leading independent organic seed companies! Stellar Seeds can be found at retail outlets throughout BC, Alberta, and Saskatchewan. To learn more visit www.stellarseeds.com.

Apprenticeship Learning Opportunities:
Patrick and Colleen love what they do and enjoy sharing it with others. Since both farmers started their farming careers as apprentices, they appreciate the opportunity to work with new and transitioning farmers. An apprentice at Kootenay Joe Farm and Stellar Seeds will learn about the business of organic seed and vegetable production, livestock husbandry, the importance of value-added products, and soil management.

Apprenticeship details:
- available mid-April/early May until Oct.
- work 8 hours/day, 5 days a week
- get experience in all aspects of market vegetable production (seeding, planting, transplanting, weeding, harvest, etc.), as well as learn about vegetable seed production (harvest, cleaning)
- work with small livestock (chickens and goats)
- live in a beautiful, rural community with lots of hiking near-by
- room, board and small stipend (yet to be determined for 2013) included

Please contact Colleen or Patrick @ 250.366.0061 or info@stellarseeds.com, if you are interested.

Seeds for 2013 now available!

Saturday, December 29, 2012

It's that time of the year again when every farmer and gardener's thoughts turn towards the exciting varieties of seeds they can choose from among the different catalogues arriving in the mail. Enticing photos of vegetables and flowers in their summer glory stand out in bright contrast to the snowy white blanket that covers the ground outside our warm houses. At least, that's what it's like at our farm, and we think many of our fellow Canadians are experiencing the same thing. We've mailed out our new seed listing to customers and are starting to get orders coming in through the mail and this website. All our listings are now updated for 2013, and we invite you to spend some time looking at what we have to offer this year.

It's an exciting lineup of heritage varieties loved for their flavour, appearance, and dependability. But we also have some newer, more modern varieties that have become popular favourites with you, our customers. All the seeds we offer are open-pollinated, which means you can save seed from them if you wish. And of course, they're all organically grown, and adapted to the real life conditions of ecologically sustainable farming and gardening practices, so they'll thrive in your fields and gardens.

These seeds are either grown at our own farm here in Johnson's Landing, or by the hands of seven other farmer/partners who grow seed for us in British Columbia. Click on the "Growers" link above to read more about the people who have made this years seed offerings possible. We're proud to be part of a network of people making locally grown seed available to you. May you have a peaceful winter, and much success with your gardens next summer.

Fundraising Campaign for Stellar Seeds

Friday, November 02, 2012

All the seeds from our fields are harvested and in the process of being cleaned and prepped for the 2013 season. You can see a picture of our apprentice Jesse Howardson harvesting lettuce seed, one of the regular tasks of our fall seed gathering. This season has been a difficult one at our farm. In July, our community was shocked when a huge landslide tore down the mountain and wiped out homes and took lives. The rest of the summer and fall have been spent coming to terms with that event, and trying to rebuild some critical community infrastructure, like our water system. It's also meant a lot of soul-searching for ourselves and our neighbours as we reflect on the reasons we live here and weigh the pro's and con's of life in Johnson's Landing. Fortunately for us, our farm is situated away from the slide path and our location is safe.

Some of you have asked if we'll have seeds available this winter, and the answer is a definate yes! Though we struggled with irrigation woes due to the landslide, and lost some crops entirely, we still harvested good quantities of some of our most popular seeds. And, of course, Stellar Seeds also works with other local farmers who grow seeds for us. Their harvests will help to ensure we offer you, our customer, a wide variety of high quality, organic and locally grown seeds this year. Our new seed listing will be posted to this website in late December and we'll start sending out orders in January as we always do.

Friends and suppporters of ours have mounted a fundraising campaign to help offset our losses this year, and we thank all of you who have contributed generously. The concern and support for us after the landslide has rejuvenated us and made us feel all the more committed to the work that we do, growing and disseminating heritage, open-pollinated seeds for farmers and gardeners. To read more about our farm and the effect of the landslide, or to make a donation to our fundraising campaign, please visit www.stellarseedsrecovery.com

End of Summer, Start of Seed Harvest

Monday, August 27, 2012

As the days get visibly shorter, and the extreme heat of August wains we find ourselves busier and busier with the task of harvesting seeds, threshing them from their pods and stalks, sifting and winnowing them from the chaffe and generally getting them cleaned up in preparation for the coming winter and seed season. It's a never-ending circle that keeps us tuned to the turn of the seasons, nature's rhythms, and the annual life cycle of the plants we work so closely with.

With the help of our stellar apprentice Jesse Howardson and our equally great employee Lindsay Snyder, we've started bringing in seed crops of peas, fava, mizuna, bekana, ground cherries and other physalis. Following quickly on the heels of that we're prepping for beans, tomatoes, lettuce, cress, tomatillo and more.

In the photo here you'll see myself and Colleen along with our new baby boy, Maël. Behind us is the drying Green Arrow pea seed crop. We pull the plants and hang them on their trellis like this to promote full maturation of all the seeds in the field, then thresh and clean them on the spot. Later they'll go through a final cleaning and sorting, then get tested for germination rates before being ready to package up for you, our customers.

We've still two more months of field work before the farm is typically put to bed for winter, but it already feels like we're on the home stretch, and as we clean out some of our beds they are being sown to fall rye cover crops in preparation for the Big Sleep of winter.

We wish you happy times in your fields and gardens, harvesting the abundance of the earth's bounty. Here's to stocked larders, heavy wheelbarrows laden with veggie goodness!

Cool weather great for growing greens!

Monday, June 11, 2012

It is definately a cool and wet spring here in British Columbia. You might be wishing for sun and heat so your tomatoes and peppers thrive, but look on the bright side - it couldn't be better for growing your salad greens. Lettuces and other greens are thriving right now. Just look at this picture of one of our beds of salad mix for the Kaslo Saturday Market. Beautiful and perfect greens. Browse our selection of heirloom lettuces or specialty greens and order some seeds for your garden today, you won't be disappointed when you put out that lovely bowl of fresh, tasty greens at dinner time. And neither will your table mates.

If you've already planted your garden keep in mind that the key to bountiful harvests all season long is staggered plantings. Now is the time to get your second planting of peas in the ground, or another sowing of lettuces and greens so that as the first set bolts you have new ones coming into maturity and ready for harvest. At Stellar Seeds we've also planted second crops of carrots, cilantro and radish. Succession planting in this way helps make the most of your summer season - you'll be harvesting load and loads of great food.

All the best for your plantings this season,

The Stellar Seeds crew.

Ready to Order Seeds? Check out our Offerings.

Friday, January 06, 2012

Now that we are all well into the swing of the new year, many of us are thinking of our gardens and planning for the upcoming growing season. That means we're looking through seed catalogues and browsing websites in search of what we want to plant this spring. At Stellar Seeds we're busy packing seeds to ship out to you, our customers, and to stores across BC and Alberta that carry our seed racks. Want to know if there is a retailer near you with our seeds? Just click on the "Stores" tab in the top menu and scroll down our list of retail outlets.

Or you can order directly from us, right here on this website using the convenient shopping cart system. Oh, happy day!

What makes our seeds different from others? Firstly, they are organically grown, and that means they will respond better to organic growing conditions in your garden or fields. Plus you're supporting a method of producing the seeds that doesn't involve use of synthetic chemicals and that does involve sustainable, integrated crop production methods. Secondly, all our seeds are open-pollinated which means you can save seeds from them that will come true-to-type if you want, unlike hybrid seeds. Our seeds are also part of the public domain and not subject to patents or plant-breeders rights. They are part of a rich public inheritance that farmers can rely on to maintain seed and food sovereignty, even in times of increased corporate control of our food system. Thirdly, they have been grown by farmers right here in British Columbia on small-scale, mixed farms. Your purchase of these seeds directly supports the livelihoods of small-scale organic farmers and strengthens local seed systems. Fourthly (is that even a word?), many of our seeds are heirloom or rare varieties and growing these seeds ensures a vibrant maintenance of our agricultural heritage which is particularly important in these times of decreasing access to agricultural diversity. Have I said enough about these seeds yet? I could go on, but suffice to say that we think you'll be happy growing these seeds. We strive for high quality, vigorous growing, high-germinating seeds that will help you have a successful harvest this season, be it in your farms, gardens or window-boxes.

Happy garden planning, we hope you choose to grow some Stellar Seeds this season!

Happy Holidays. New Seeds for 2012 just about Ready!

Friday, December 23, 2011

Merry Christmas and holiday season to all our friends and customers. While you're relaxing with family and contemplating the year past and the next one about to begin we're getting seeds ready to hand over to you in the coming year. Our full listing will be up on the website by January 1st, but if you want to get a sneak peak at what we have to offer just click on the "Download Our 2012 Seed List" icon in the top right corner of this page. You'll also get our newsletter with updates about the farm and pictures of our new seed packet designs for 2012.

Thanks to the dedicated work of many of our farmer-partners we have a great lineup of seeds for you in 2012 - available in both packet and bulk sizes. And we'll be offering new "Seed Collections" where you can save money on our individual packet prices by buying a gang of seed packets all with themes like "Medicinal Herb Garden", "Salad Lovers Mix" and so on.

We'll be updating the website over the next week with all our new seed listings for 2012, including full descriptions, photos, and even some planting instructions. Look for us on Facebook by searching for Stellar Seeds/Kootenay Joe Farm and enjoy our Photo of the Week plus updates on important food and seed issues.

May your holidays be restful, and have a Happy New Year's too!

Seeds being readied for 2012!

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Look at this wonderful photo of Colleen O'Brien harvesting carrots. These are the beautiful Nantes Coreless variety that we've been growing and selecting for over six years now. We're really proud of how they look, grow, and especially taste. We've been working on improving this seed stock so that you can have the finest carrots growing in your garden. And the seed will be available for you in packet and bulk sizes in 2012.

It takes two years to grow carrot seed, and this picture shows the culmination of the first years' work - growing a perfect root. Then we store them for the winter, and eventually transplant them back into the ground next spring. They sprout leaves again, and send up stalks over 1m tall, loaded with flowers that eventually produce our high quality, locally grown, organic seed.

We're also working with other farmers in BC to bring ever more quantity of seeds to you, our customers. As you read this we're receiving seeds from different parts of the province, testing them for germination rates, and cleaning them up in preparation for sale this winter. It's really important that networks of farmers and seed companies work together like this. In fact, it's the best way to ensure a strong and independant seed supply that meets the needs of local agriculture. By growing the seed within our own farming communities we can decide what varieties to grow, the manner in which they're grown, and ensure that we don't use genetically modified seeds. If we rely on large, multinational seed companies to service our seed needs, we have little or no control over what is available. Keep it organic and keep it local! That's a central tenet for food, and it's the same for seed. We hope you enjoy growing Stellar Seeds and wish you a bountiful harvest for 2012.

Cooler NIghts, Autumn Moods

Thursday, August 25, 2011

While the days are still hot and summery, there is no doubt that the cooler nights herald the nearness of autumn. Like many of our customers and friends, we're busy harvesting the bounty of our gardens, and tending to the fields on our farm. Cover crops of oats, peas and clover are growing thick and beautiful, promising a great feed of organic matter and nutrients for our soil. Infrastructure projects such as our goat barn and greenhouse are underway, and root crops like carrots, potatoes and beets (see photo) are swelling in their underground homes, just waiting to be forked and stored away for wintertime meals.

We've been on the phone with many of our farm friends who grow and provide seeds for us, and while this years challenging weather has certainly caused a few seed crop failures, many of them are growing well. Some of those seeds have already been harvested and are being cleaned right now. Others are still maturing, or are in the drying down phase, nearing the ideal time to be harvested. It makes us proud to think of all the farmer-partners we have that are out there making the dream of a local, organic seed supply a reality. Thank you seed growers!

May all of you who grow and support organic and local seeds have a great fall harvest. We wish you an abundance of nourishing food for your larders, cellars and shelves. Keep checking in with us, we'll be posting updates on new seed crops available in 2012 this fall. We hope you'll plan to make Stellar Seeds a part of your farm or garden again next year!