The Farm is a Sultry Jungle!

Posted by on Aug 4, 2015 in Education, Seed Saving, Uncategorized | 0 comments

The Farm is a Sultry Jungle!

While it’s true that we southern farmers take the summer off, there were a few things still growing strong that we just couldn’t till in. We’ve been playing with some interesting varieties while also trying to save seed from things, so we had to let them keep ripening.

I left to travel and learn about seeds from the experts at Seed Savers Exchange, and came back three weeks later to a farm jungle! It’s been so rainy, you can feel the moisture dripping from the air, and it oozes beneath your feet in the saturated soil. It doesn’t fair well for all seed saving attempts, but things are growing like crazy! I am always amazed at vigorous plant growth in the summer months, especially with the copious amounts of rain we’ve been getting. It’s so crazy in there, you can easily lose someone. Luffah is trying to take over the world, as is the insane African Horned Melon…not sure we’ll grow that one again! Fortunately a few of our awesome friends stopped in to harvest things and make sure nothing got too out of control.

A few of the luffahs were so saturated by rain that seeds inside the sponge were germinating!

A few of the luffahs were so saturated by rain that seeds inside the sponge were germinating!

The Aji Dulce peppers were about a foot high when Sean and I decided to shade them, the day before I left. Peppers prefer about 30% shading, and we thought it could double as an isolation barrier to prevent cross pollination with the few other peppers we have sprinkled around the field.


The Aji’s under their shade hoop house are really happy. Too happy…they are trying to escape!

These peppers are little beauties with a really interesting flavor, like none I’ve ever tried. Southern Exposure Seed Exchange’s website (our seed source) describes them as “Sweet, spicy, and delicious, with only a trace of heat. Highly aromatic fruits; their flavor is unusual and complex, with overtones of black pepper and coriander, and undertones of other spicy flavors.”

They look like habanero peppers up close, but don't taste like them at all.

They look like habanero peppers up close, but don’t taste like them at all.

Meanwhile, the Seminole Pumpkins have been piling up, thanks to our good pal, Val Leitner of Blue Oven Kitchens. She’s been stacking them up in the shaded barn where they are curing for about 6-8 weeks before we scoop out the seeds and devour the delicious flesh. We planted several “varieties” given to us by different folks to mix up the genetics and keep them healthy. Quite the diversity, eh?!

The beautiful diversity of Seminole Pumpkins, a true southern heirloom cultivated by the Native Americans that lived in Florida.

The beautiful diversity of Seminole Pumpkins, a true southern heirloom cultivated by the Native Americans that lived in Florida.

The heirloom cosmos are doing wonderfully, although it was a hard decision as to whether or not I should collect their dry seeds. As you can see from the photo with the beautiful Gulf Fritillary perched for the evening, they are dry seeds that are very exposed. They’ve been getting rained on a lot, ideally you collect them when they’re nice and crispy, sun-dried. I’ll dry them out really well indoors and see how they germinate. This is one of the tricky things about “dry-seeded” crops in the south.

A Gulf Fritillary hunkers down for the evening in this great spot: cosmos seeds!

A Gulf Fritillary hunkers down for the evening in this great spot: cosmos seeds!

The Dudley Farm Dent corn, which we received from our friend Angie Minnow is doing well. This is a dent corn, meaning it is best used for cornmeal, hominy and roasting ears. Some old timers prefer the more starchy dent corns over the sweet corns. We’ll try it all when it comes in, saving plenty of seed for next year to share as well. The lovely thing about this southern heirloom is that it is planted late spring where it is able to thrive off of summer rains and no supplemental irrigation. As fall approaches and our humidity finally drops, the ears dry out on their own. Supposedly. We’ll see, it’s supposed to be a wet year as we can already tell!

Huxley guards the corn from invaders.

Huxley the corn dog! Guarding against any intruders!

I’ve never grown corn before so I am a little nervous, as the seed for this variety is very rare and has not been stewarded well over the past several years. We’re probably one of the very few people who have it. Eternal gratitude to Angie for the rescue! This is my apprehensive corn face!

OMG corn! I dont' know what I'm doing!

OMG corn! I dont’ know what I’m doing!

Finally, check out these zinnias that are STILL going with no evidence of what Anna and I call the “zinnia funk”. Zinnias always get bacterial and fungal infections by summer time, at least the tall cutting kinds like Benary’s. The dwarf Mexican types are great, and we’ve been really happy with those. But the taller kinds have always disappointed. We left these ones in because they seemed to be doing really well, and the pollinators just love them. I was shocked to see them still going strong upon my return, and showing no evidence of disease. In August! We planted them outdoors as seedlings early March. These are called Gift Zinnias, and what a gift they are! Anna brought them back from Hudson Valley Seed Library in New York last year. We’ll definitely be saving seed from these hot little things and sharing them.

The Gift Zinnias are going berzerk in August. This variety is a winner!

The Gift Zinnias are going berzerk in August. This variety is a winner!

If you haven’t already joined our awesome seed collective, you really should! We are always growing out neat things that are recommended to us by local growers to learn more about them, then save the best seeds to share. We also bulk purchase seed we can’t save from companies we trust, giving the home grower a big collection to choose from twice a year. It’s only $25/year to support us and you get awesome seeds of vegetables, herbs and flowers. It’s a great cause for you, and the community because we donate lots of seed to individuals and community and school gardens that can’t afford memberships. Everyone grows!



Passing along seeds and inspiration

Posted by on Jul 20, 2015 in Education, Seed Saving, Slider | 0 comments

Passing along seeds and inspiration

I have been living here at Heritage Farm in Decorah, Iowa for a week; the headquarters for an amazing non-profit called the Seed Savers Exchange. I am truly humbled and amazed at the dedication, passion and kindness of the people that work and volunteer here. I have learned so much from everyone and made wonderful connections and friendships that I know will live on, much like the seeds and stories we all shared.

The mission of Seed Savers Exchange is to “conserve and promote America’s culturally diverse but endangered garden and food crop heritage for future generations by collecting, growing, and sharing heirloom seeds and plants.” As they celebrate their 40th anniversary this year, we should all give thanks to the hard work they’ve devoted to a cause that affects us all.

Every year since the organization began from very humble origins, they’ve gathered their members for an annual conference and campout. The first one back in the 70’s was a small group of the original 12 who joined the founders, Diane and Kent Whealey in Missouri where they lived at the time. This year over 200 people attended; a beautiful and lively mix of long-time members and new ones (like me!) coming from all over the country to gather around our love of seeds and sharing them. It really felt more like a family reunion than a conference!

Melissa with founder Diane Whealey in front of her lush garden. Diane is a wonderful woman of great passion, generosity and vision.

Melissa with founder Diane Whealey in front of her lush garden. Diane is a wonderful woman of great passion, generosity and vision.

Seeds and the people that grow them, share a lot in common. They are both very generous, and give of themselves something that will live beyond the individual. Each plant that goes to seed bears a tremendous gift for the attentive gardener: tens, hundreds or even thousands of seeds from one plant. When we gather those seeds the generosity is passed on to our friends, neighbors and strangers through seed swaps and yearbook exchanges like the one Seed Savers offers. The generosity of gardeners has always struck me as nothing short of amazing. We are eager to share seeds, plants, tools, advice and our time with others.

The thing about people and seeds is that we need each other. Without seeds that grow into food, fiber and flowers, we could not survive. We’ve depended on agricultural crops to feed and clothe us for thousands of years, taking them with us wherever we migrated. Over time they travelled the world and diversified in different climates and cultures, embedding themselves permanently in our lives. In exchange for their use, humans must carefully save their seeds and share them, for the plant to live on. Without stewardship of these plants, they would be unlikely to flourish on their own like their wild relatives. We need them, and they need us.

A unique display at the visitors center showing heirlom seeds and the artwork that beautifully depicts their form.

A unique display at the visitors center showing heirlom seeds and the artwork that beautifully depicts their form.

Sadly, the shift of our agricultural practices to massive operations, as well as the mass exodus from the small family farm and garden to cities, has led to the permanent loss of about 90% of our crop diversity. Let that sink in for a moment. 90% of all the beautiful and varied colors, shapes and unique flavors that fed our ancestors both long ago and just yesterday, are lost forever. That repository of genetic material that took thousands of years to develop, is gone. The secrets held in those tiny seeds that may have helped us adapt to climate change, are gone.  The delicious flavors and textures that could rescue us from the tasteless produce we have easy access to now, are gone.

But not all is lost. Fortunately because of organizations and individuals fighting back around the globe, we still have a safe repository of what’s left of our heirloom vegetable heritage. There is some great work happening with organic breeding that can address the need for seed grown in certain climates under organic conditions. Organic Seed Alliance is a major player in that field. USC Canada does tremendous collaborative work to preserve genetic biodiversity in Canada and across the globe. Then there are individuals like the super cool Greg LeHoullier, aka “the NCTomatoMan” that I had the pleasure of meeting, single-handedly taking on the challenge of breeding new tomato varieties that will be heirlooms of tomorrow. In his driveway, in pots, hundreds of varieties! There are seed libraries popping up all over the world. There is still hope, I saw it and felt it in a powerful way here at the Seed Savers conference. Thank goodness!

Eager tasters at the conference line up to sample numerous carrot and bean varieties being evaluated in test fields at Seed Savers.

Eager tasters at the conference line up to sample numerous carrot and bean varieties being evaluated in test fields at Seed Savers.

Back here at home in Gainesville, Florida we hope to become a meaningful and impactful part of this growing coalition of seed saving, by focusing on the needs of our regional climate and culture. The Southern Heritage Seed Collective that we’ve developed over the past few years with tremendous community support, will take this mission very seriously over the coming years, and we hope you will join us!


Summery Seeds

Posted by on Jul 3, 2015 in Featured, Seed Saving, Slider | 0 comments

Summery Seeds

Today was a beautiful day at the farm and we were so lucky to have some lovely people to share it with! As the season winds down for us here at the farm, we are planting cover crop seeds for the summer, replacing the crops that nourished us for the last several months: tomatoes, cucumbers, patty pan squash, watermelon, cushaws, beans and so much more!

Some of our weird experiments this year are still going strong and giving us things to look forward to like the African Horned Melon, a giant 10ft. tall luffah wall, bottle gourds and a some other odds and ends in the legume family.

The Seminole squash are going nuts as they like to do (my all-time favorite thing to grow and eat!), the Everglades tomatoes are heating up now that a real Florida summer is here, and our peppers are starting to produce.

Seminole Pumpkin diversity

Seminole Pumpkin diversity


Today we harvested all kinds of goodies that we will enjoy and save seeds from, to offer to our Southern Heritage Seed Collective members next spring. Cosmos, marigolds, zinnias, cowpeas, Seminole squash, Jamaican cushaw, Ali Baba watermelon and Everglades tomato.

The great thing is that we get to share this bounty with our friends and family, empowering them to save seeds too.


The seed drying room is very busy!

Next week, I am heading off to camp out at the Seed Savers Exchange farm in Decorah, Iowa for two whole weeks! I can’t wait to live and work with some of the most dedicated seed savers in the country and bring back to the south whatever information I can. It is our mission to provide the best possible seeds for our community that thrive in our climate and nourish the body and mind!

Peas out.

School’s Out Festival – June 6th

Posted by on May 7, 2015 in Events | 0 comments

School’s Out Festival – June 6th

Join Forage and First Magnitude Brewing Company on June 6th from 11am-3pm for the Third Annual School’s Out Local Food and Music Festival, a celebration of the beginning of summer and everything that makes our community great.

Great fun for the whole family including bounce houses, arts and crafts, live music, great beer, local food vendors, activities with local organizations, and much more! Enter into the watermelon seed spitting contest to win fun prizes and test your seed-spitting skills or buy a drawing ticket to win one of the many door prizes provided by local businesses and organizations. Bring the whole family but PLEASE leave your pets at home!

Tickets on sale now – 5$ for kids, 10$ for adults, and $30 family pass (2 adults and up to 4 kids)!  Click here to purchase!

Featuring food from:
Humble Pie Gainesville
Sweet Dreams of Gainesville FL.
FED Food Company
The Cookie Parlor
ChewBox Co.
Sara’s Seasonings

Enjoy live music by:

Corporal Captain
Boiling Oil
Endless Pools
Michael Claytor
The Swamp Cats

Parking for event is on Main St – Backstage Lounge and Winn Dixie have offered up their lots.  Please park there and enter the event at the entrance to First Magnitude that is accessible from Main St. It is just South of the 11th Block, and next to Continental Imports.


Thanks to our sponsors – First magnitude Brewing Co., Bouncing Big, and Lucky’s Market!

All proceeds benefit Forage Farm’s programming and community efforts. For more information and updates, visit
Join us June 6th and take a bite out of summer!

Wildflower Field Day May 2nd 11am-2pm

Posted by on Apr 29, 2015 in Events, Featured | 0 comments

Wildflower Field Day May 2nd 11am-2pm

Join us at Forage Farm for a fun and informative day all about native wildflowers and pollinators!

10-11am: Terry Zinn from the Florida Wildflower Cooperative “10 Easy Wildflowers Presentation and Field Walk” followed by a demo of a wildflower seed harvester. Forage planted a wildflower meadow last fall and things are sprouting! See an early successional field and learn how to establish a wildflower garden at home!

11-12pm: Dr. Cory Stanley- Stahr “Wild Pollinators” talk. Learn about the importance of wild pollinators and what you can do to help support their populations.

12-1pm: Wild pollinator house building workshop. Suggested $20 fee, email melissa@foragefarm.orgto reserve your spot. On-site sign ups will be first come first serve depending on materials available.

12-1pm: DIY seed balls with native wildflowers.

Ongoing kids activities: scavenger hunt, painting and more! Wildflower seeds and plants will be for sale, all proceeds benefiting the programs of Forage!

The Farm is located on the beautiful Prairie Creek Preserve -7204 SE CR 234.  Please do not use GPS it is incorrect.  You can find it on google maps, or print the map located here.


The Conch March Theme: Gardening and Farming

Posted by on Mar 1, 2015 in Events | 0 comments

The Conch March Theme: Gardening and Farming


Come join Forage as we partner up with The Conch-Gainesville’s True-storytelling Project, Swallowtail Farm, The Porters Community Garden, and Florida Organic Growers to share our stories on the theme, “Gardening and Farming.” We know we’ve all had those funny, frightening, fun, and freeing times while we’re out doing what we love most: working with dirt and food! Come on out for a great time, some good food, and very relatable stories.

When: Tuesday, March 3rd, 7-9pm

Where: Lightnin’ Salvage (the back area of Satchel’s Pizza)

Visit our partners’ websites here:

Grow Radio

Porters Community Farm
Swallowtail Farm
Florida Certified Organic Growers and Consumers

Satchel’s Pizza



Farm to School to Work Program

Posted by on Feb 28, 2015 in Education, Featured, Slider | 0 comments

Farm to School to Work Program

The Alachua County Farm to School to Work Program located at Loften High School is a place where students can learn about the food system by experiencing it. What began as a joint venture between the Food and Nutrition Department (FNS) and the Exceptional Student Education Department (ESE) of the Alachua County Public Schools has grown into a vegetable-producing machine, providing 150 heads of lettuce weekly for use in school salads, as well as a number of other vegetables appearing on the weekly menus. Students are gaining horticultural skills and are able to interact with each other and the community in an empowering way. The Farm to School to Work Hub is working, and students are receiving valuable training in horticulture, food production, food safety, and nutrition.

Forage is proud to be a collaborator on this project. With the support of the community, we can continue to make it bigger, better, and impact even more students and families in an incredible way.

Click here to donate!

Spring and Summer Seed Collection

Posted by on Jan 23, 2015 in Events, Seed Saving | 0 comments

Spring and Summer Seed Collection

The last seed distribution date is THIS Saturday February 28th

10am-1pm at Highlands Presbyterian Church

This year we’ve done something a little different. To encourage seed saving of rare southern heirlooms, we have provided some great varieties for you to try. However, most of them are not available in sufficient quantity to serve every single member. We ask that if you select one of these, that you take our pledge to try and save seed from it for the next season. Enough for you and enough to give back to our collection. They are all fairly easy seeds to save and we’ll tell you all you need to know in order to do it. This way, we can start proliferating our own local source! We think you will really like these varieties, and the rewards of becoming a seed steward for southern heirlooms. Remember, as you’re planning your garden, only take what you think you will actually plant this season, to ensure everyone gets seeds!

We have cover crop seeds! Try out some Iron Clay Cowpeas available in 1/2lb increments to use as a cover crop this summer. We are asking an additional $1 per 1/2lb.

We have a new greenhouse and got excited about the idea of offering tomatoes and peppers as transplants. This gives you a significant jump-start to the season, for two of the most challenging seeds to start.  Each organically grown 6 pack will be $3. Hooray! This is an experiment and we were unsure of demand, so bear with us as we try this out. Mid to end of March is when we predict they will be ready. We’ll be sure to email you if you’re on our list, and make an announcement on Facebook.

DOWNLOAD AVAILABILITY LIST to see what is still left, and read the detailed descriptions in our SEED CATALOG.

JOIN NOW or join at one of our events below.

Highlands Presbyterian Church is located at 1001 NE 16th Ave. We are in the large main room that is immediately to your right when you walk in the main doors. 


Safe Seed Pledge Logo

Forage has signed “The Safe Seed Pledge”!

Agriculture and seeds provide the basis upon which our lives depend. We must protect this foundation as a safe and genetically stable source for future generations. For the benefit of all farmers, gardeners and consumers who want an alternative, we pledge that we do not knowingly buy or sell genetically engineered seeds or plants. The mechanical transfer of genetic material outside of natural reproductive methods and between genera, families or kingdoms poses great biological risks, as well as economic, political and cultural threats. We feel that genetically engineered varieties have been insufficiently tested prior to public release. More research and testing is necessary to further assess the potential risks of genetically engineered seeds. Further, we wish to support agricultural progress that leads to healthier soils, genetically diverse agricultural ecosystems and ultimately healthy people and communities.”

“I Love Local Food” Week 2015

Posted by on Jan 10, 2015 in Events | 0 comments

“I Love Local Food” Week 2015

Join Forage, Blue Oven Kitchens, Florida Organic Growers, and other members of the Alachua County Nutrition Alliance as we celebrate “I Love Local Food” Week February 14-21st, 2015.  There will be great events, designed to support efforts to build our local food system and to connect you with the resources you need to love making local food a part of your diet and be a part of the “Eat Local Challenge” in May. If you have any questions, want more information about an event, or have an event you would like to add to the line up, please see the contact listed or email Anna at




“I Love Local Food” Week Events


Saturday, Feb. 14th 


Native Pollinators 101 and Bee Box Building

10 am-1 pm at Forage Farm 7204 SE County Road 234

Forage Farm and Alachua Conservation Trust are wild about native pollinators! Come learn about these awesome insects and what you can do to help them thrive! Dr. Cory Stanley-Stahr from the University of Florida Honey Bee Research and Extension Laboratory will enlighten us, then afterward (if you chose), we’ll head outside to our shop. We’ll have all the fixins for you to build and take home an outdoor wooden nesting box! The talk is free, but if you wish to take home a box, we suggest you donate $20 to the cause. RSVP is a must, reserve your spot now by REGISTERING HERE.


Eat Local and Healthy for Your Heart Cooking Demonstration

9:30-10:30 am at the Alachua County Farmers Market, 5920 Northwest 13th Street.

Seasonal Salad and Strawberry Lemonade Cooking Demonstration, hosted by Hogtown HomeGrown and Florida Organic Growers. Join Stefanie Hamblen from Hogtown Homegrown for a cooking demonstration using local fennel, spinach, pecans, lemons, honey, citrus and strawberries. Learn how to use the freshest ingredients available to make healthy, delicious, affordable meals.  The demonstration is free and open to the public. For more information, email or visit


Local Love Dinner

6-9 pm at The Vine Bread and Pasta 627 N. Main Street

Treat yourself and your valentine to a fresh, local dinner prepared with love by the Farm Kitchen Collective.  All proceeds benefit local non-profits, Blue Oven Kitchens and Forage. Tickets $40, for more information email You may REGISTER HERE! Limited spaces available, get your ticket before it’s too late!


Mushrooms for Food and Medicine Workshop

Sunday February 15, 4pm, Little Orange Creek Nature Park, Hawthorne

Join Mycol Stevens and Oliver Moore in a two-day mushroom intensive following the Florida Earth Skills Gathering. The intensive will cover the basics of what mushrooms are, how they are made, their physical and chemical attributes and their function as food and medicine. Mushroom identification will be a large part of the course and cultivation techniques will be introduced. To register and find out more information, visit


Sunday, Feb. 15th


Community Gleaning, hosted by Gainesville Harvest.

Have trees bending under the weight of fresh fruit you don’t need? Have a garden brimming with veggies and not sure how to use all the bounty in your yard?  Or, perhaps you want to help glean from local yards around town to donate to families in need? Either way, contact Pat Abbitt at, and let her know how you can help!

 Cinema Verde Film Festival 

The Cinema Verde Film Festival has several food-themed films in its amazing line up!  Check out “Just Eat It” at Noon, “Of The Land” at 1:30 pm,  Terra Firma at 6pm, or Food Chains at 7:30 on February 15th!  See the full line up and get more information on tickets and locations at

Monday, Feb. 16th     


Vegetable Garden Seed Distribution

6-8 pm at Highlands Presbyterian Church 1001 NW 16th Ave.

Join the Southern Heritage Seed Collective and get locally saved seed and the best varieties for our region to start your spring garden.


Tuesday, Feb. 17th  


Porter’s Community Farm Volunteer Workday

8am-12 pm at 518 SW 3rd Street.  

Join fellow community members to help Florida Organic Growers grow fresh, healthy veggies for the local community and for the St. Francis House Shelter. For more information, email or visit


Frog Song Organics Special Farm Tour for Chefs

3pm at Frog Song Farm, 4317 NE US Highway, Hawthorne, FL

This farm tour is open to professional chefs. Reservations are required by emailing with your name and business contact information by 2/15/15


Wednesday, Feb. 18th


Eat Local and Healthy for Your Heart Cooking Demonstrations

4:00-5:00pm at the Union Street Farmers Market 111 East University Ave.

Cabbage Stir Fry recipe will be demonstrated and samples provided as the UF/IFAS Extension Family Nutrition Program share how to grocery shop smarter, use nutrition information to make healthy choices, and cook delicious, affordable meals with local ingredients. This demonstration is free and open to the public. For more information about the Family Nutrition Program visit

5:30-6:30pm at the Union Street Farmers Market 111 East University Ave.

Seasonal Salad and Strawberry Lemonade Cooking Demonstration, hosted by Hogtown HomeGrown and Florida Organic Growers. Join Stefanie Hamblen from Hogtown Homegrown for a cooking demonstration using local fennel, spinach, pecans, lemons, honey, citrus and strawberries. Learn how to use the freshest ingredients available to make healthy, delicious, affordable meals.  The demonstration is free and open to the public. For more information, email or visit


Vegetable Garden Seed Distribution

4-7 pm at Union Street Farmers Market 111 East University Ave.

Join the Southern Heritage Seed Collective and get locally saved seed and the best varieties for our region to start your spring garden.


Thursday, Feb. 19th


Host a local food potluck!

Any meal time at your home, a local park, or your office break room.

Challenge your friends, neighbors, and/or colleagues to prepare a dish with local products, and enjoy a meal together!              


Friday, Feb. 20th


Local Food Tasting Night

4:30-7:30 pm at First Magnitude Brewing Company –  1220 Southeast Veitch Street.

Join Blue Oven Kitchens, Forage and First Magnitude to try a taste of North Florida as we sample everything from pickles to chocolate made by local food entrepreneurs.  For more information on how to be a vendor at the Tasting, contact Anna at


Saturday, Feb. 21st


Seed Starting Workshop

10-11:30 am at the Downtown Farmers Garden – 12 SE 1st. St.

Florida Organic Growers and Forage will teach you how to grow garden plants from seed. They will review the basic concepts you need to be successful, while demonstrating two techniques: soil blocking and using trays/cells. The workshop is free. For more information contact Melissa,


French Cooking Class 

11:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. at the Alachua County Extension Office – 2800 NE 39th Ave.

Charmes de la France, and the UF/IFAS Extension Alachua County Office are hosting a French cooking class showcasing seasonal delights from French regional cuisine. Run by French Chef Michel Maloiseau, the cooking classes include step-by-step recipes that are followed by tasting sessions. Reservations must be made on the Charmes de la France website. The class fee is $45.00 per person.