24 mai 2015

Texte écrit pendant mon séjour à Twin Oaks pendant mes cours d'anglais et amélioré récemment pour le rendre encore plus intéressant.

One of my favorite jobs at Twin Oaks was to work in the seeds garden. I worked about 20 hours a week with some members of Twin Oaks community.


The seed business at Twin Oaks started a couple of years ago and Edmund Frost has been the manager since then. The goal of the seed business is to grow organic, well-adapted, downy-mildew resistant plants and to take their seeds. The name of the business is Common Wealth seed growers.



Here is what they say about themselves: Common Wealth Seed Growers is a new project of four Central Virginia seed growers from three farms: Living Energy Farm, Twin Oaks Seed Farm and All-Farm Organics. We offer organic, regionally-adapted, open-pollinated seeds for a limited number of outstanding varieties. We grow all the seeds we sell, and we only sell what grows well here.



In the summer of 2014, in the seeds garden, we have been growing tomatoes, peppers, hot peppers, squashes, winter squashes, cucumbers, okras, flowers, beans and melons. There are many steps to producing good seeds with a high germination rate. Here are some of the steps months by months.


twin oaks.jpg

March is the beginning of the growing season in Virginia. We put the seeds in crates under the greenhouse. For a while, we take care of them by giving them water at least twice a day. In April, it’s time for transplanting. In the garden, the rows have been made with the tractor that prepares all the soil that we need. Therefore, every single little plant is taken away from their nurturing and cozy crate. Each little plant then goes in the soil, risking its life for our benefit and for preserving the seeds genetics.



In general, we want all the little plants to survive bad weather. So, again, we help them by digging a good size hole and by making the soil moist around them. When it’s too dry, we water them.

In May and June, we mostly remove all the weeds that could slow down the growth of our crop. Next to the plants, we scuffle hoe or hand weed. It’s so long sometimes! Every morning for one month, members of Twin Oaks who were willing to work in the seeds garden would hoe everything! We had a lot of really good discussions while weeding. Brooke and I also invented our friday morning seeds sex shift where we would just talk about sex for 4 hours! Sometimes other people would participate and we would have some debate about a lot of sex topics.


Weeding takes time but, at least, we were doing it before the weeds were getting too big. Most of the time, we hoe the rows before anything has time to grow bigger than a germination. It makes a big difference for the effort required and the garden looks way better.


July is the most relaxing month because there is not a lot of work to be done. We still weed the plants. In general, the weeds have stopped  growing because it’s too hot for them and we already killed most of them twice. The weeds don’t have much energy anymore.

DSC_0598Edmund Frost

August and September are the busy harvest months. I love harvesting! The watermelons are delicious and the vegetables are so colorful! In the seed garden, we don’t grow vegetables for eating but sometimes we can eat them and take their seeds! Watermelon, winter squash and peppers are in this category.


Being in the garden in the morning, processing watermelon by eating the center and scooping the flesh and the seeds is one of my favorite activities. It makes you pee and be sticky but mostly you feel rich to be able to do such a thing.


With the buckets full of seeds and flesh, we go back to our processing room in the warehouse. We let the buckets of flesh ferment for about 3 days. I can tell you that the odor in the seed room is sometimes pungent and tickles our noses. After the fermentation, we bring the bucket outside where the cleaning area is. We pour water in the bucket until we clearly see the seeds at the bottom. When there is no more flesh mixed with the seeds, we put them on a screen. We bring the screen inside in a refrigerated room where fans are drying plenty of screens and their seeds at the same time.

Sapphyre with Zucca GourdSapphyre

Two weeks later, the dry seeds are ready to be put in containers and sent to the seed packers who will sell it to Southern Exposure Seed Exchange from Acorn community who is a neighbor of Twin Oaks.


Here is what Southern exposure seed exchange thinks about themselves: We are a worker-run cooperative where every worker has a voice in the decisions of the company and where workers receive equal compensation regardless of the economic value traditionally placed on the jobs done. We strive to provide a flexible and enriching work environment where each person is inspired to take on multiple roles and to think creatively about how we can continue to improve our work. We have a commitment to quality in all aspects of our service to our customers.


The next year, we take the seeds that we produced and plant them in the ground and select the best seeds of the yield until we have a really good variety which is very well adapted to the Virginia climate.


Growing seeds can be a political act when you think about Mosanto’s monopoly and its power over so many seed growers in the world. Growing seeds is a good way to become sustainable with your own food. Growing seeds protects our food heritage and permits us to have a higher diversity of plants. Beet the system!


In the summer 2015, I will be growing some seeds at the Jardins Viridis garden in Maria, Baie-des-chaleurs, Gaspésie, Québec, Canada. I will be growing seeds for Tournesol coop who are friends with Acorn and Twin Oaks. I decided with the coop to grow 6 vegetables: one variety of yellow beans, one of green beans, broad beans, peas and two winter squashes: red kuri and Delicata zeppelin. I cannot wait to see (and taste…) the results of this project!

at the jardins viridis!

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