Welcome to Sunshine Farm Seeds 2018 farm and garden seed offerings. 

The swing of the pendulum seems evident in so many aspects of our year here in the Okanagan Valley of southern BC. With the weather extremes from floods in the spring to drought through the summer, Our gardens and farms swing through these seasons as soils, changing as they have done for millions of years. The floods deposit silts and sands, organic matter and other soils to replenish minerals, organic compounds and tilth to the constantly evolving landscape. They can cause the relocation of gophers and other rodents away from your garden or field, or create an environment inhospitable to the metamorphosis of destructive pests like grasshoppers? Droughts remind us to cherish the water we do have, they encourage forest fires which consume biomass, deposit biochar to sequester carbon from the atmosphere, and allow for the regeneration and proliferation of differing species of forest and field flora and fauna. Aside from the cost to artificial human constructs including agriculture, drought can be a good thing. Drought can strengthen the genetics of resilient plants and animals which tolerate dry conditions. We save seed from the most successful, best performing plants from these extreme weather years. Our late plantings of potatoes performed well because the wireworms ( larva of the click beetle) had migrated down into the subsoils by the time we planted. We saw almost no tomato hornworm this year, flea beetle was almost absent by the time we got on our fields which had been too wet to plant. The long hot days of summer meant the rapid maturing of seed crops like lettuces, annual brassicas like mustard greens and radish and biennial seed crops like parsnips, beets and carrots. The negative side of the drought on the farm here includes the extensive use of irrigation, the damage from extra thirsty mule deer who ate the fruits of crops like tomatoes, squash, peppers, beans just for their moisture content. Every year here at the farm comes with its challenges. Yes we can grow in artificial environments like cold frames, poly tunnels and greenhouses but as some of the chefs we work with say ' the flavour just isn't there when compared to outdoor grown vegetables and greens'. The greens are limp and won't hold a vinaigrette well. It has been shown that indoor grown vegetables contain fewer soluble solids and more water. More vitamins are indicated by a stronger flavour which is evident in outdoor grown greens and especially tomatoes. We still grow greens through the winter in a coldframe, which is better than having no greens, but as soon as the soil outdoors warms enough in the spring we look to our fall planted greens to provide us with those deep green hardy mustards, kales, spinach, and cresses which wait under the snow all winter to complete their growing cycles. Don't forget to plant these in September for autumn harvest and then the early spring harvest as well. We wish you well in your gardens for 2018, don't sweat the challenges, learn from them and enjoy the bounty of your successes. 

 

Jon Alcock

 

 

 Welcome to our 2017  Seed Offerings. 

What a year, it started out with a heavy dump of snow on unfrozen ground in early January, a great snow mulch for some of the intermediate hardy vegetables like Tuscan Black Kale. These had been selected and left in the garden for seed crop as the weather has been moderating for several years now and the biennial kale should be producing flowers by May and a seed crop by August. This is the proverbial 'counting your chickens before the eggs hatch' because by mid March the wild Mule Deer had chewed them down to the ground. This is how things are interconnected, we lost our beloved elder dog Jack the previous winter, Jack was very territorial and kept these garden raiders from our fields. Consequentially, because we lost Jack two years ago, we are unable to offer you Tuscan Black Kale seed this year. This year, a cold snap has already given us some minus 20 C, so much for the moderated temperatures, but we'll see how some of our winter mulches managed on the crops they were meant to protect. Then it's a matter of seeing how our new pup does at keeping the deer at bay.
The connections needed to produce vegetables and then seed generally go unnoticed or unconsidered until they don't happen. The growing season in 2016 was the strangest in our 29 years on the land here. April and May were unseasonably warm, even hot, soil moisture was evaporated and typical seedings needed a supplemental irrigation to prevent drying out. June and July were wet and cooler than normal, August was warmer but didn't really get a chance to develop good ripening heat and then an early frost in September precluded a good season for the tomato pepper eggplant, Solanceae family. Many seed varieties took longer than usual to ripen, potatoes were undersized, brassicas were slow to develop, lettuces took longer to flower, it was just a weird year. The successes this year will be built into the genetics of those fruits and vegetables selected for seed and in the coming age of climate and weather unpredictability, hopefully they will be better equipped to be productive in changing conditions.
We are all connected, not just as humans, but all life on Earth. We need to realize how we impact our connections, from the decline of species, to the 'dead' zones in our oceans, the degradation of soils and among many other things, the reduction of the quality of the air and water, the necessities of life. The collective wisdom of humans and their extensions of artificial intelligence have the ability to see and deal with the problems we have created. It is disturbing that the will is not foremost to protect this beautiful life on Earth. Does greed 'Trump' the sensibilities of the right things to do? As gardeners and farmers, we know one right thing to do is to plant our foods, medicines, plants which give us a connection to Earth's beauty and bounty.
Some of the new offerings of seed this year include the Touchstone Gold Beet, the classic golden fleshed beet; the Golden Snow Pea and the Desiree Snow Pea, beautiful colourful additions to any stir fry; the Petrowski Turnip, a Heritage variety from Northern Europe, small, 7-10 cm., mildly sweet pale yellow flesh reminiscent of the larger rutabaga; the Green Luobo Radish, a heritage variety from Northern China, spicy and sweet with green flesh; Romanesco Fennel, a classic Roman bulb fennel. 
Also look for the return of Andover Parsnip, Black Seeded Simpson Lettuce, Silverado Chard, among others. Good luck with your crops this year, remember to take some time and contemplate the beauty of your garden creations. Cheers from the gang at Sunshine Farm. 

 Jon Alcock

 

Welcome to the 2016 seed offerings from Sunshine Farm.

As we reflect upon the 'Year of Soils', 2015, as designated by the United Nations, we lament the loss of more of this most valuable resource, not just for humans but for most of life on terrestrial Earth.
Every year more fertilizer and pesticide petrochemicals are spread on the soils of the earth in the name of agriculture and food production for humans, something we seem oblivious to when we think of climate change and fossil fuels. We are not only contaminating our soil and water but the life living in and on our planet. Ah, but technology will cure all, it always does, doesn't it? Look at how far we've come in the last 10 years with cell phones alone, but do we have the will? Does economics need to redefine profit and loss? Do we work towards sustainable development and agriculture and give value to other living things or do we resolve to eat some sort of photosynthetic paste in a future along with other generalized species on a lonely desolate landscape? Many questions, as the mind wanders whilst leaning on a hoe in the onion field on a hot summer day. And hot it was, probably one of the most challenging growing seasons in my memory. The rains of April did not arrive, nor did they arrive in May or June or July, thank the gods (and our water purveyor ) for reservoir irrigation which had to be done late in the day or early in the morning. Even still the evaporation was extensive when no or little natural soil moisture was present.
For certain the heat units were strong and some crops performed very well, capsicums, eggplant, tomatoes were especially productive. Corn, which loves the heat, and is a heavy feeder, would have performed well this year but we didn't plant any because of a shortage of compost.
We are a very low input operation, challenging our seeds, our compost microbiology and critically timed irrigation along with the forces of natural selection to be the dominant factor in shaping our crops and the resilience they carry into succeeding generations. Ah, the beauty of open pollinated varieties, those which can adapt to these low input organic regimes as well as a changing climate.
Once again we are proud to offer our open pollinated, certified organic, hand cleaned, low input adapted, heritage seed to you our valued friends in the fields and gardens.
Look for the * to denote new varieties this year and have a great growing year as you nourish your body and soul.

 

Welcome to the 2015 Sunshine Farm seed offerings.

As we finish cleaning our seeds for this coming year, we are getting a rather deep snow cover finally here at the New Year. As the white flakes fall from the sky, I ponder briefly how many of the H20 molecules will end up being flushed through the gills of the migrating Sockeye salmon as they fin their way up the Columbia River then the Okanagan system to our beautiful valley.
Thanks to the Okanagan Nation Alliance and a collaboration of government and community groups, the salmon have returned to our valley.
In the economic downturn of the 1930's, the Columbia river was dammed for hydro electricity, with little or no thought given to the plight of migrating fish or the cultures depending upon this traditional food supply.
The bullying of ecosystems by humans continues with the use of dangerous pesticides and genetic engineering. Is it folly to think we can continue to abuse our planet. DDT, Alar, agent orange, reckless use of nuclear energy and genetic engineering are all taking their toll in the name of greed.
Recently, the UN Food and Agriculture organization declared that the only sustainable method of feeding the world is the small scale organic farm.
We have known this for years but it is nice to have the reaffirmation.
Our growing season in 2014 was probably one of our best in the 27 years we have been farming. With a massive tomato crop we decided to have a 'Tomato Festival' which sold out and will be repeated with more tickets made available this year. We fired up our wood fired oven, made pizzas, made 14 tomato inspired tasters including chocolate dipped, tomato jam and ice cream.
Over 30 tomato varieties were judged for taste and the winner was Violet Jasper, a small saladette with deep rich sweet, tart, acid balance and an extremely pretty appearance.
Our seed production was helped by an extended autumn with beautiful warm dry weather as the seeds ripened on their stalks, in their fruits and pods.
Some of our 'new' heritage varieties this year include the Whangaparaoa Crown pumpkin, a sweet orange fleshed variety from New Zealand renowned for its keeping qualities. (We are still eating them in January and they look like they'll last for months more). Some of our tomato trials included the New Zealand Pear, the Afghani, Furry Red Boar, Cassidy's Folly, Yellow Zapotec, Giallo a Grappoli, and the Mikado White, some from the Heirloom Expo in Santa Rosa California. These have been selected for their overall flavour, productivity and general performance.
The Golden Zucchini performed well, it is an open pollinated varietal with good productivity and standard zucchini flavour, from the Sandhill Preservation Center in the US. Most Golden Zucchini are hybrids, so this one you can save the seeds from (like all our seeds) if you are growing no other Cucurbita pepo. Look for the* which indicates new for this season.
Good luck with the 2015 growing season from the gang here at Sunshine Farm.


Jon Alcock

 

 2014 Season

Our growing season started with great promise, a predictable spring after a mild winter with good snow cover.  Many brassicas and even some artichokes  managed to survive a  winter where we saw only a couple of nights below -15*C.  Although warm winters are easier on the woodpile they are also easier on the insects and disease which may have an economic impact on our production. We saw an increase in onion fly, click beetles, carrot fly and  cabbage fly, all  have larva which overwinter in the soil and can cause damage to our favourite and most valuable crops. Warm winters  also allow for populations of predators of these and other damaging insects to proliferate and help control  populations which may be getting to destructive levels. An example is the huge numbers of  hornets and wasps this past summer, these are excellent predators of many soft bodied insects like cabbage worms and aphids which were almost nonexistent this past year.
            
In early August we were  pelted with  hail stones  the size of ping pong balls.  Much of our seed production was affected, carrot seed umbels were snapped off their stems, much ripening seed was bruised, all our leafy greens were shredded, our heritage varieties apple crop was virtually obliterated; tomato, pepper, eggplant, squash fruits were gashed  and bruised,  causing rot and scarring as they ripened. Although hail is not an uncommon phenomenon  in our region, the size of the stones and their ragged shape were, something I've seen only  once before in 50 years  in the Okanagan. Fortunately we grow many root crops and our fresh production of carrot, radish, beet, potato, onion,  salsify and hamburg parsley were barely affected. This is when I  congratulated myself for having such diverse plantings. Many of our neighbours with orchards and vineyards suffered devastating  losses.
            
Last November we  travelled to the Italian  region of Tuscany  where we spent time  on a mixed farm  an hour east of  Florence.  We found some unique varieties of chicory, tomatoes, artichoke, peppers, eggplant, lettuce and other 'Old World' specialties.   

We were excited  to trial some of these varieties from Europe this past season. One of the interesting varieties we trialled  was the Spanish  Black Carrot. The flavour was great,  Colour,  nice and dark and high in  purple flavinoids (like blueberries) but there was a very high incidence of bolting to flower which renders them useless for eating. The reason  may be, that the original seed was grown  in England, a much more temperate climate than the Okanagan and that the carrots were planted  in late June (after the carrot fly is destructive) when the temperature was much higher, possibly causing the flowering.  This  reminds us that we will be much more successful  growing vegetables from seeds which were grown in our own or similar bio region. Hopefully we will be able to select this carrot variety to perform well  in some of our Canadian  regions.
             

Some additions to our offerings this year are the ever popular 'Sugar Snap'  or 'Mangetout'  Peas, a very vigorous vining pea with, in our opinion,  the best tasting and most productive  edible pod pea.  We also produced seed for the exotic  Purple Dragon Carrot, a spicy sweet  6-8" conical shaped  purple skinned carrot selected and bred  by the  great American plant breeder John Navazio with seed brought from China in the early 1990's.  One of the Italian  varieties we were happy with,  is  Romano romaine, a sweet crisp romaine lettuce popular in Tuscany.
While shopping for dinner at Mercato central  in Florence we found an exceptionally long  SanMarzano  tomato, the flavour proved to be exceptional as well and we are able to offer some of these seeds this year as they performed  equally well here in the Okanagan in both taste and productivity.
A couple of spicy peppers we are adding to our repertoire are the Romanian Giallo from Italy  and the Criolla Sella from California both sweet hot and excellent fresh salsa peppers . 

As I write this, I am concerned about the threat to farmland in British Columbia,  and ultimately around the world.  It is our  agricultural land which sustains us, feeds us and clothes us.  Around  the world, soil is being degraded with the use of agrochemicals killing important microbiology, causing erosion and in fact rendering land and soil unproductive  and  beyond remediation.  In British Columbia, our government is threatening to dilute the  parameters of the 'agricultural land reserve'   by proposing that because some land is in the north it is not important  for food production and  can be flooded or subjected to hydraulic fracturing  to produce energy for  markets to the south.  This lack of foresight is astounding, less than 5% of the land base in BC is suitable for agriculture, do we have the right to remove any of this from agriculture,, taking the food from the mouths of future generations?
Chemical farming is not sustainable, in fact it is only changing the flavour of  a diet of the petrochemicals sprayed and  spread on our soils every season.  We should know that  these pesticides and fertilizers are not good for our health but chemical farming is part of a bigger problem. We do have some control over the erosion of the  'Agricultural  Land Reserve' in  BC, please talk to your MLA or write a letter  or sign a petition to  help preserve  agricultural land for our children, grandchildren and beyond. If you reside outside BC, be aware of  the erosion of  farmland in your region and be a voice in its preservation.

 Looking ahead to the season, we are reminded of a great advocate for  sustainable, local, non-GMO, community and a seed saver who passed from among us this past year.  June Griswold  will always be in our minds as we need another hour of work in the field,  or the energy to organize a community event, or get on the phone to delegate or inform.  Thank you June for inspiring us and giving us  and your community all you did,  we will surely miss you.


  Good luck with your garden this season!