Monday, May 11, 2015

Working Together To Build The California Seed Network

Please note: the list of our seeds for sale is on the blog entry made just before this one, entitled 2015 Seed List. Most varieties are still available.

Working Together To Build The California Seed Network

Seed rEvolution Now and Organic Seed Alliance make a great team! A lot of work has been happening over the past year, as we empower farmers and educate people about open-pollinated seeds. Here are some of the highlights of that effort. You'll see that Steve and his allies have been very busy!

EcoFarm Conference at Asilomar

This past January, at the EcoFarm Conference at Asilomar in Carmel, California, Steve had the opportunity to put together a presentation to lay out his dream of a coordinated network of organic seed growers.

Steve Peters of Organic Seed Alliance and Seed rEvolution Now

The Pre-Conference, entitled Cultivating Organic Seed Stewardship, was well attended, and the participants hungry for information. The expert panel was happy to oblige.

Jared Zystro of the Organic Seed Alliance

Rowen White of the Sierra Seed Cooperative
Tim Van Wagner of First Rain Farm
Don Tipping of Siskiyou Seeds and Family Farmers Seed Cooperative
Aaron Dinwoodie of Tunitas Creek Ranch

Permaculturist Benjamin Fahrer
Our friend Benjamin served as scribe for the meeting.

The day sped by, as the group delved deep into the complex issues around protecting, preserving, and improving our genetic crop heritage.

Even the breaks were filled with lively discussions!

We are so grateful to our dear friend Ken Dickerson (at left, with Benjamin Fahrer). As Executive Director of the Ecological Farming Association, which presents the EcoFarm Conference each year, his encouragement and support of the seed work is invaluable. Everything comes down to the people who get the vision and do the work!

During the Conference, Steve was interviewed by Greenhorns; another opportunity to get the message out. 

Later during the three-day conference, OSA presented a California Seed Stakeholders meeting, attended by folks both new to and old hands at seed saving. 

Jared Zystro organized the meeting to maximize participation, with each person placing post-its of their main concerns in different areas. Yes, that's eco-warrior Gary Nabhan in attendance. He has a long history of involvement with traditional seeds, and was one of the founders of Native Seeds/SEARCH.

California Seed Summit in Sacramento

Continuing the momentum from EcoFarm, in February OSA organized the first California Organic Seed Summit. This event was organized by Jared Zystro, Steve Peters, Rowen White, Kalan Redwood, Benjamin Fahrer, and Leyla Cabugos.

This was a two day gathering of over 30 seed enthusiasts, growers and small seed companies, sharing their common passion for seed with the intention of strengthening our local and diverse seed systems. 

Held at the beautiful Rudolf Steiner College near Sacramento, the venue helped to inspire a successful meeting. Wonderful participants inspire hope for a fertile future! The take-home action points include:
1) Creating a crop and seed database
2) Marketing with an emphasis on education
3) Developing a code of ethics, including transparency
4) Establishing connections, including field days

Sierra Seed Seva Workshops on San Juan Ridge

Dynamic seedster Rowen White has created a model of bioregional seed sovereignty with the Sierra Seed Cooperative. Steve was invited to bring some of his experience to the budding seed sevas. It is always wonderful to help inspire young, energetic farmers...they inspire us!

Fundamentals of On-Farm Seed Production in Sebastapol

Steve and Jared taught a class on seed production in Sebastapol which was very enthusiastically received. This was an all-day, somewhat more advanced workshop. A group there, headed by Sara McCamant, maintains a seed garden on the grounds of a local church. This is the town where Luther Burbank did his seed work, and folks there still understand how important it is to maintain the legacy.

Beet Seed Security in Pescadero  

Stripping seed from mature beet plants, done over 1/4" hardware screen for rough cleaning.

When our friends at Fifth Crow Farm couldn't find seed for their favorite beet variety, Steve helped them learn to use their last harvest to produce fresh seed.

Seed drying in greenhouse after preliminary field cleaning (scalping).

 Seventy-five roots produced about 60 lbs. of clean seed; enough to market as well as plant. Now they know how to have seed forever!

Corn Freedom in Solano County

 Restauranteur Matthew Engelhart contracted Steve to find a suitable corn for making tortillas and tamales for his successful Gracias Madres restaurant in San Francisco. He grows much of the produce used in the Cafe Gratitude chain of vegan eateries owned by his wife Terces and him.

Along with this photo, Matthew sent an urgent text message: "Houston, we have a problem!" Happily, the plants' ascent peaked at 15 feet. They produced abundant ears of large white kernels prized by the Mexican chefs.

Now Be Love Farm can produce their own great corn for Gracias Madres' great tamales...and over time, select for the attributes that make it even better suited to their specific needs.

Trialing Carrots in Gilroy

Nash and Patty Huber, long-time organic seed growers from the Olympic Peninsula, were in California for the EcoFarm Conference. While here they visited one of Ronald Welten's fields to see (and taste!) how their Rumba carrot stacks up against other Nantes varieties in an OSA trial Steve and Jared ran.

Comparing Colored Carrots in Panoche

Seedsman Grant Brians at his family's farm in Hollister. Grant owns Gourmet Seeds International, as well as running an organic produce business. He also farms acreage in the Panoche Valley, in the wilds of southern San Benito County.

USDA carrot breeder Phil Simon was thrilled to see how his varieties of orange, yellow, purple and red carrots performed in an OSA trial held at this isolated commercial vegetable farm. 

More Carrot Trials in Panoche

Carrots thrive in sandy loams like this, but hot, dry, and windy conditions can be challenging. The combination makes this an ideal place to run a trial. Plants that do well here exhibit the qualities farmers will need to cope with climate change.

Seed Grow-Outs in From the Coast

Commercial cauliflower seed production, snap pea seed increase, and a garbanzo trial are being conducted by enterprising farmer Ryan Casey and his good dog Lucky of Blue House Farm in the lovely Pescadero Valley. Steve is trying to find growers within about 100 miles of San Francisco with whom he can work. The range of climates within that area is staggering!

Sharing Seeds in Sunol

Krysten, a farmer at the Ag Park at the Sunol Water Temple, will be making a seed selection for heat tolerance of Steve's Tender Early Green Broccoli. She can still use it as a market crop, which makes the project doable for this small-scale grower.

Preserving Heirlooms in Corralitos

Steve shows off valued open-pollinated seeds to Zea Sonnabend and Shane Murphy of Fruitilicious Farm. They will be growing rare snap beans for evaluation and seed increase, and trialing several bunching carrot varieties.

Trials, Multiplication, and Commercial Production in Aromas

Farmer Robert Brunet is an enthusiastic seedsman who worked for the Agriculture and Land-Based Training Association in Monterey County (ALBA) before starting his own farm. He's growing broccoli seed to sell, Swiss chard and snap peas to increase seed stocks, and trialing snap beans and various brassicas.

Extensive Trials and Seed increase at Sunol

Seedsman Aaron Dinwoodie will be growing out and fresh-marketing almost the entire Seed rEvolution Now inventory (please see our previous post for the list). He's growing these along with other rare, yet promising, open-pollinated crop varieties at the Ag Park. The warmer conditions in Sunol will give us an idea of how these crops perform away from the coast. It is also an ideal place to increase okra and beans.

Breeding For Climate Change in Shively

Hidden away behind the Redwood Curtain, a fortuitous bend in the Eel River has created the fertile Shively Flats. Farmer Bill Reynolds settled here over thirty years ago.

 Bill has worked with OSA plant breeders and with seedsman Steve Peters for much of that time, developing plant varieties which must have strong root systems in order to thrive on his unirrigated land. Dark Star Zucchini, which he bred, clearly demonstrates the value of a keen eye and careful stewardship in mass selections.

 At Full Belly Farm, Steve brings seed grower Bill Reynolds together with farmers to discuss how their agronomic needs  may be met.

Steve and Bill have been working on plant breeding together for well over twenty year. With several successful projects already accomplished (see our earlier blog entries on Shiraz Tall-Top Beet and Dark Star Zucchini for more details), they are looking ahead to make new selections of stronger, more drought tolerant crops to help organic famers thrive in an uncertain climatic future.

For more information about any of these on-going projects, or to learn about how you might work with Seed rEvolution Now, please call Steve Peters at 505-660-3933, or email him at

Friday, November 14, 2014

2015 Seed List

Seed rEvolution Now


Scarlet Runner Beans growing on an organic farm in Humbolt County, CA

In keeping with our mission to return seed autonomy to the farmer, we sell only the highest quality, organically grown, open-pollinated varieties that are in the public domain. Farmers are able save seed from these crops for their own use, selecting over time to improve varieties for their particular needs and conditions. This is one way humans may restore their place as stewards of biodiversity. The careful, hands-on evaluations and continuous, rigorous selection to which each offering is subjected assure that we are providing truly superior varieties. Viability testing is conducted for every variety each year. Seed prices are wholesale, fair and competitive. Our list is limited, but growing as we find more excellent crops that suit our exacting standards, and those of organic market farmers, seed companies, co-ops, and gardeners.

For more information on some specific varieties, please refer to our other blog entries.

To place orders, you may call or email Steve Peters directly: 505-660-3933


Snap Beans

Italian Pole Snap Bean    

Heirloom traditional Romano-type thick, meaty flat green pole bean. This white-seeded, tall climber is very productive over a long season; 7-8" long flat pods have excellent, rich flavor and a unique succulence. This bean has been a favorite of our family for over twenty years.

50 lbs ~ $250.   5 lbs ~ $40.   1 lb. ~ $12.

OS Blues 

A recent development from Oregon State, this refined, slender green snap bush bean is early-maturing, very high yielding, and has great tenderness and rich flavor. This is the bean that our 99-year-old mother found especially delicious. Pods hold for a long time, allowing for an extended harvest window. Farmer Bill found it so far superior to the other Blue Lake variety he'd been growing that he plowed in the entire crop of the loser, rather than sell an inferior bean when he could offer this one!

50 lbs ~ $250.   5 lbs ~ $40.   1 lb. ~ $12.


Scarlet Runner Bean

This multi-purpose bean grows quickly to 12' or more...we like arched trellising to facilitate picking. The brilliant flowers attract hummingbirds and butterflies, always a plus. The beans may be eaten at three stages. As a snap green bean of exceptional flavor when young, these have long been a favorite in Britain. When the pods swell, the beans may be removed and eaten as shell beans, rather like edamames or limas. They are excellent in minestrone. They may also be used as a dry bean when fully mature.

50 lbs ~ $500.   5 lbs ~ $65.   1 lb. ~ $16.

Fava Beans 

Sweet Lorane

Enormously productive 5-6' tall plants benefit from trellising. This variety was originally developed from a purple bell bean used as a cover crop by plant breeder Steve Solomon. He specifically selected for winter hardiness and sturdiness. He also discovered that there was a better flavor in the occasional seeds with a lighter green hilum (the small scar that is the seed equivalent of a belly button).

At that point, Alan Adesse, an experienced organic seed farmer from Oregon, took over the breeding project. Within just a few years of hard selection, he developed this excellent, hardy, high-yielding edible fava bean. We recommend this versatile variety...still a great cover crop as well as a tasty, high-protein food! Note original purple favas in photo, compared to the new edible green Sweet Loranes. Limited supply.

5 lbs ~ $40.   1 lb. ~ $12.  Please place orders now for the fall 2015 crop. This is moving fast!


Shiraz Tall-Top

This beet was developed specifically to meet the needs of organic growers, and its success demonstrates the great potential of targeted open-pollinated breeding. A great disease problem for organic growers is rhizoctonia, which causes pitting and roughening of the skin on beets. Shiraz was bred to resist this fungal disease. Organic Seed Alliance plant breeder Dr. John Navazio worked with organic farmer Bill Reynolds over a number of years to perfect this variety, which proved superior to almost all other OPs and hybrids in variety trials.

This dual-purpose beet combines a strong large top for tasty greens with a sweet, smooth-skinned, round deep wine-red root.

5 lbs ~ $200.  1 lb. ~ $54.  1/4 lb. ~ $18.  1 oz. ~ $6.

Rhizoctonia  infection on a leading commercial beet
(not Shiraz!)


Another great OP beet offering, grown by certified organic seed farmer Alan Adesse of Oregon. This beet has somewhat smaller tops than Shiraz, but is a very nice, uniform, refined Detroit-type, with excellent eating quality. A favorite with some of our tasters.

1 lb. ~ $54.  1/4 lb. ~ $18  1 oz. ~ $6.
Not available until Fall 2016


Steve's Select Tender Early Green

After several trials and two years of hard selection, Steve is ready to release this improved old favorite. It has proved itself to be superior in an extremely wide range of environments, from the high desert of southern Arizona to the foggy coast of California. While the nicely domed central head is not as large as modern hybrids, it nonetheless offers multiple advantages. After cutting the central head, the plant continues to produce abundant tasty side shoots for several months. In addition, the stems are very tender, which increases the amount of edible, delicious broccoli that may be harvested from each plant.                

Taste trials demonstrate the superiority of this OP variety, and Steve is proud enough of his efforts to put his name on it!

1 lb. ~ $100.  1/4 lb. $39.     1 oz. ~ $13. 



This heirloom cucumber is now gaining in popularity as foodies discover the natural digestibility and enjoyable sweet/tart flavor of this long-time gardener's favorite. Lemon cukes are easy, reliable and highly productive. Best grown on a trellis, although it is not a requirement for big harvests of sprightly, juicy, crisp cucumbers.

1 lb. ~ $70.  1/4 lb. ~ $26.  1 oz. ~ $9


Eel River

This regional favorite was developed originally by the infamous Bear Jones of Shively, in Humbolt County, California. As the story goes, Bear's cousin brought some melon seeds back from his stint in Japan after World War II. The so-called "Jap Melon" was delicious, but had an unfortunate tendency to go soft at the stem end of the fruit. Bear crossed it with a popular OP muskmelon, which improved it by adding surface netting. At some point it attracted the attention of another seed saver in the area, who did his own improvements and sold it as the now locally famous "Crane Melon"which is similar, but not identical to our Eel River Melon. Bear entrusted the seed to his neighbor Bill Reynolds, who added more genetic diversity, firming it further, and perfecting this sweet, creamy, delectable, peach-like melon. It is reliable and productive in the field. Highly recommended!

1 lb. ~ $70.  1/4 lb. ~ $26.  1 oz. ~ $9.


Red Ruffled Pimiento

Here is a sweet pepper whose time has come! We won't beat around the bush. We've tasted a lot of peppers, and this is hands-down the most aromatic, crunchy, delicious one around. It is quite thick-walled and meaty as well. Lovely stuffed, especially as the skin is tender so that it doesn't need to be peeled, as so many roasters do. Chefs will be inspired!

This heirloom variety was originally developed in Spain for making paprika. That's about the only thing we haven't done with it...yet! Serve it sliced raw with a dip, or in salads. It's so good that children will enjoy it as a vitamin-packed crispy treat. Each plant will produce eight to twelve fully ripe 3-4" diameter fruits (or more with an extended season).  Organically grown in Northern California.

1/4 lb. $120.  1 oz. $45.


Winter Bloomsdale

If you are a long-time gardener, you will remember Winter Bloomsdale, but have you tried to find seed for this old standard lately? It has become very difficult to locate, as the market has been taken over by smooth leaf varieties so popular as baby salad greens. But they can't compare to the thick, succulent, substantial, flavorful leaves of this traditional savoy type. A close examination of the leaves may remind one of the arched trusses in a Gothic cathedra. The curvilinear ribs serve the same purpose; to support more weight! Now that Slow Food has gained acceptance, it is time to revisit this almost forgotten old favorite. It's just better eating! And, of course, it also stands up better to environmental stress while growing in the garden or on the farm. Winter Bloomsdale differs from Long-Standing Bloomsdale in that it is slower growing and takes longer to bolt to seed. All growers will appreciate that. It may be grown over the winter or in early spring.

5 lbs. ~ $150.  1 lb. ~ $40.  1/4 lb. ~ $15.


Dark Star Zucchini

If there is one stand out among all the great varieties offered here, it would have to be this exceptional zucchini. It is the result of another breeding project between Dr. John Navazio (formerly of the Organic Seed Alliance) and dedicated organic seed grower Bill Reynolds. This glossy, deep green, faceted zucchini was designed with the organic market grower in mind. It was made possible by the unusual dry-farm conditions on Bill's river bar produce farm. As he selected over the years, the most well-adapted plants developed a deeper root system. The resulting strain is about 1/3 larger than the select hybrid varieties commonly grown by produce farmers, and 1/3 more productive. The plants have an open habit, for easy picking, and the leaf stalks are sturdy and nearly spineless, for less scarring of fruit.

Dark Star proved its merit on a large organic produce farm in Mexico. Here you can easily see that the plants are both larger and a deeper green than the hybrid variety, Prestige, to the left. Farmer Bill poses proudly beside his plants.

This variety offers excellent eating quality. The straight, shiny fruits are unusually high in lutein, lending the flesh a slightly golden cast. Along with the stronger root system, Dark Star seems to exhibit some resistance to a number of diseases, and even some frost resistance. And because it is an OP, it continues to produce both male and female flowers throughout the season, resulting in a much longer period of productivity, with none of the malformed fruit which are often produced late in the season by hybrids. Dark Star is recommended for summer dry, sunny regions, where it is outstanding. It does not do well in low light, wet areas, where it tends to have more vegetative growth. If you want the best zucchini for the Western states, we sincerely believe this is it!

1 lb. ~ $65.  1/4 b. ~ $24.  1 oz. ~ $8.
Not available until Fall 2015


Stella Blue

Our all-time favorite winter squash! This Hokkaido or Kabocha-type Maxima, a type highly prized in Japan. Stella Blue has richly flavored, dense, rich sweet flesh, with a texture reminiscent of roasted chestnut. It is the perfect size for a family dinner, and, with pale slate blue skin and deep orange interior, makes a dramatic presentation. Long vines produce 4-5 mature squash, averaging about 7" in diameter and 4" high. 

1 lb. ~ $70.  1/4 lb. ~ $26.  1 oz. ~ $9.

All seed is available in sample packs

Amount adequate for a normal garden planting, $2.00 each.

To order, either email or call Steve Peters directly: or 505-660-3933