HWB manages an annual US Seed Grant Program, where we work to intake donations of food and medicinal seeds and share them out to HWB US groups. Since 2017, HWB has been supporting getting HWB Chapters, Clinics, and Projects, to grow gardens, and we have supported hundreds of grassroots gardens. HWB groups grow gardens that:
First, can you tell us a little bit more about Earthbeat Seeds?
Earthbeat Seeds is a Vermont based seed company that specializes in sustainably grown medicinal herb and wildflower seed. We utilize growing practices that encourage soil and ecosystem health, promote biodiversity, and do not synthetic fertilizers or pesticides as well as collaborate with several small scale herb seed growers that align with our values. The sustainability of our packaging is also very important, so we source 100% recycled, unbleached, and compostable packaging and shipping materials.
What drew you to seed saving and herbal seeds?
Seeds have always been magical to me. Some of the seed I save is so tiny you need a magnifying glass to see each individual seed. Every time I see the tiniest of plants break out of those impossibly small seeds it feels like a miracle. Honestly all life is a miracle and being able to witness the creative forces behind life and tend to living creatures is such an honor. Sharing herbal seeds is particularly special to me because it empowers people to take their health into their own hands and really connect with nature as an abundant provider.
How long have you been saving seeds?
Nine years ago I applied for a job at High Mowing Organic Seeds and that began my journey with seed saving and growing. I worked on the production and trials crew there for two years while teaching myself how to start, grow and save seeds from perennial herbs. Two years later I launched a fundraising campaign where I offered my first collection of herbal seeds to the public.
Tell us more about your gardens and how you choose which plants to grow.
My current gardens are the first opportunity I’ve had to tend a garden for more than one season. I have a small 1/2 acre yard that was mostly ledge, tree roots and fill when I moved here. After 5 years of building soil, the yard has transformed from overgrown wild raspberry patches and weedy subsoil to raised beds of rich mycellinated soil that are home to over 100 species of herbs, wildflowers, edible weeds and berry bushes. My approach is pretty simple, I buy as much hay, wood chips and composted manure as I can afford every year and layer, layer, layer along with raked leaves every fall. Then I just let the microbes do their magic. I build my beds on contour in free flow designs, for water retention but also because I like aesthetics of curved and meandering beds. I also collect any mushrooms I find in the woods throw them around the garden to spread spores. It’s fun to see flushes of mushrooms pop up through the year without much effort! As for plant selection, besides planting seed crops that I need for my business, there's not a lot of planning that goes into it. If I see something in a seed catalog that makes me go ooooooooh! Then I buy it and plant it! I have to allow space for things to be spontaneous and fun or it all starts to feel like work.
What do you love most about what you do?
I love that the work cycles with the seasons. There's the typical cycles of the farming season, seeds starting, planting, tending, and harvesting. But then as the work moves indoors, there’s seed cleaning, inventorying, seed packing, website maintenance/marketing and finally order fulfillment. Then it starts all over again. The work is constantly changing so it’s hard to get bored, and every year there’s a chance to reflect on the previous year and evolve. I find being able to step away from a specific process for a full year to let it all sink in, allows me to come back to it with a fresh perspective and new ideas.
What is your favorite medicinal herb?
That’s a hard one but arnica comes to mind as an all around favorite. It’s so easy to grow and establish a patch that needs very little tending. Harvesting the flowers is a joy and making a very useful oil is incredibly simple. I guess being a gardener and very active person, I have an affinity for a herb that helps with all the aches and bruises that come with the work!
What is your favorite pollinator/native?
My favorite plant is Milkweed. I have fond memories as a kid of the sweet nectar like smell, running around with the pom pom like bursts of tiny star flowers, watching the wind blow the silky seed parachutes into the wind and wondering where they would land, and being covered in the sticky latex after playing with the seed pods. Milkweed is my favorite seed harvest for sure, I still love breaking open pods to release the seeds.
Any tips for people growing medicinals and native plants?
All of the plants are so different that I would have to say that keeping an adventurous mindset is the best advice I can give. There is definitely much more of a learning curve when it comes to growing perennials and wild plants. The seeds need more specific conditions to germinate compared to vegetables which have been bred to germinate easily and quickly. I find growing these plants from seed really helps cultivate a closer relationship with them. You have to consider and understand their wild nature and environment a bit in order to tend to them properly and to mimic the conditions they would be exposed to that trigger germination. But the benefit is that perennials come back every year, so while the initial time investment may be greater than an annual plant, you will get to enjoy, work with and harvest from that plant for a very long time.
Thank you so much, Jessica, for giving us a peek into your life and seed business with your words and photos. Your space is beautiful, and we are so grateful for your support!
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