Local seeds and local lore

Local seeds and local lore are available at local stores.

Serviceberry winter (Sarvas winter) has passed, leaving us waiting for a green light from Mother Nature signaling the all-clear that it’s safe to plant. Veteran gardeners know Blackberry and Dogwood winters must both pass before we can transplant delicate seedlings and get serious about outside work.

Knowing that our fingers are itching to touch the earth, chain stores have trucked plants from hither and yon and then carefully displayed them for our viewing pleasure. Those perfect little fledglings all but whisper, “take me home,” when you walk past. At least that is what I’m told. While the chains have a lot to offer – the big boys are, well, big, with larger spaces and more items – I can’t recall the last time I purchased a plant, or a seed, from one. But I can tell you all about the pleasure of buying local from outfits like Bryson’s Farm Supply, Country Road Nursery, Tuckasegee Trading Co. or B.H. Graning

Customer service is one of the reasons why I shop these places. I am not ashamed to admit that I appreciate having someone else load birdseed in my vehicle, not to mention those 50-pound bags of dog food and goat food. Let’s be honest, we are weary of dragging a bag of kibble from the shelf onto a rickety buggy, then heaving it on a conveyor belt and finally driving the unwieldy buggy to our vehicle where we, once again, must bear a heavy load. From shelf to serving bowl, we have personally touched those little nuggets four times before opening the bag. I don’t know about you, but right now I can’t spend my precious energy on this type of effort. I tend to focus on plant and seed procurement.

If you are passionate about seeds, you may already know about Bryson’s. If not, you should pay the “Bryson’s Boys,” (a term of endearment uttered for generations) a visit where you’ll find seed potatoes, bean seeds, corn seeds, just to name a few. Whatever you want to plant, Bryson’s has it. Their selection includes popular varieties you find elsewhere, but their resources also reach deeper than other commercial businesses. Rows of mayonnaise jars line the shelves filled with heirloom seeds like Bill Mathis beans, and other seeds named for locals. Somewhere down the line a calloused-hand farmer saved, and then gifted, a portion of their harvest to Randy. That boy sure loved seed saving.

Last week, Debbie and I began collaboration on a project that includes teaching youth how to grow their own vegetables. She paired me with Armando who asked, “Would you like some tomatillo and jalapeno seeds from my mother in Mexico?”

Be still my heart. Heirloom seeds from his mother? I may weep. Yes, please!

A bond forms between farmers who share seeds; it is a level of trust, an unspoken covenant between folk who care about food safety and seed purity. Armando knew that the moment those seeds landed in my palm I would do my best to grow them and return a portion of those seeds back from whence they came just to make sure his stock remains plentiful. This is the type of community one doesn’t find in a big box store.

For those who haven’t a clue how to start their own seeds ask for Armando. He has a greenhouse full of seedlings carefully tended. Need garden guidance, a tiller, mulch, fertilizer? Armando can help. Even if you’re too intimidated to ask, hang around for a minute or two, listen to farmers, those with dirt wedged in their fingertips. Drop by. Mosey up the stairs to the Food Market. Linger, as I did, while a customer purchased a bag of crystalized ginger, which she was shipping to her daughter. At least that was the plan, before she tried a slice and then offered some to all who were interested, including yours truly.

Hit a local supplier for a sack of seeds, a tray of cabbage plants, and while you’re there, have one of the boys load a bag of feed in your vehicle.

One trip is all it takes to become part of a local green family.

Renea Winchester is the author of “In the Garden with Billy: Lessons about Life, Love and Tomatoes.”