Today I got a VIP tour of Jack and René Hulbert’s seed farm business. I learned so much about what they do, it was amazing. The first half of today’s blog is tiny amount of fascinating knowledge I learned about seed farming.
We visited a cabbage seedling field planting where the tiny plants in soil pyramids are drooped down a funnel by a worker and are then planted and watered by a special machine m, all pulled by a tractor. For seed crop, they plant male seedlings on either side of the female seedlings to ensure good pollination. Once the males have done their job, they are removed. The male plants will also seed, but their seed is considered a contaminate.
The female plants are left to flower and seed then dry up. Many fields that appeared to me as dead, useless scrub are actually the crop! Here’s some cabbage seed almost ready for harvesting.
Once a field has been used for a crop, it will not be used for the same type of crop for 4 to 14 years to prevent contamination between strains. There are many, and always new variations of cabbage, beets, spinach, etc., and the seeds that are lost during harvesting could impact next years crop.
There is also a cross-contamination risk from the bees used for pollination, so the farmers work together to ensure that the plots used to grow similar crops are separated by anywhere from one to five miles.
The seed crop is harvested on sunny days to minimize moisture and quickly brought to the processing site where seeds and chaff are separated and undesirable seeds are removed. A variety of fascinating machines are used in this process, and are tailored to specific seed types.
Chaff is often removed with air tables that can blow off the lighter leafy/stem matter. Round seeds are rolled down a series of ramps that eliminate things that do not roll (stems, leaves, dirt) and things that roll too fast (rocks, undesirable seeds, etc.).
Non-round seeds need other mechanisms such as screen seines to separate the desirable from non-desirable seeds.
After the sorting/selection processes, pure seed is obtained, but that is not the end of this journey. Seeds can be coated with a layer of nutrients, fungicides and/or pesticides that help it get off to a good start. These too are sorted to ensure they are coated with just the right amount or else they are reprocessed or rejected.
Jack and René have to maintain high standards as their clientele that span the world expect the highest quality product. I did not take pictures of the processing machinery in case it was proprietary.
Wow, so much I never knew!
That evening my family got together for a boat cruise from La Conner through Deception Pass to the Salish Sea. We spotted Osprey, Bald Eagles, porpoises and two Minke whales! Here we all are: Jack, Michele, Janet, Dale and René.
Here’s the view heading out of Deception Pass under the bridge I’ll be biking over soon
After the cruise we grabbed one more beer with Julie and Eric
All in all a great day!