Pollinator enthusiasts, regenerative gardeners, and conservationists can now find a source of locally grown, native, ecotypic wildflower seeds: a much-awaited contribution to our northeastern ecosystem.  It is a good season for it: early winter holidays are the perfect time for sowing native wildflowers.  

 

Eco59: a farmer-led seed collective has launched its first season of sales.  Catalyzed by the work of the Pollinator Pathways and CT NOFA’s Ecotype Project, a group of farmers have been working together, learning to grow a new crop: seeds of regionally appropriate wildflowers, called ecotypes, for pollinator habitat restoration.  The new seed company seeks to build a “triple bottom line”: seed that is good for the pollinators and the planet, profitable for farmers, and adds to the beauty of our landscape. Profit from the sales of Eco59 goes to fund conservation work across our ecoregion.

 

Dina Brewster, farmer at The Hickories and a member of the Eco59 seed collective notes, “An important part of the Eco59 mission is to heal a broken landscape.  The systematic displacement of people, the destruction of the environment, and the consequent loss of abundance around us is a direct result of not honoring the relationship that indigenous people of this area had with land.  I view our work, growing ecotypic seed to restore native plants in the northeast, as a reminder of all that has been lost and all that we must work to restore.”

 

 

After three years of tending their crops of perennial wildflowers, Eco59 farmers have now harvested, cleaned, tested, and packaged their seeds for sale to “re-wild” the landscape of ecoregion 59, a broad swath of the New England corridor championed by the Pollinator Pathway, the Massachusetts Pollinator Network and other like-minded groups.  Rewilding is a term used extensively by Heather McCargo at Maine’s Wild Seed Project, another organization whose goal is to inspire people to take action in increasing the presence of native plants grown from wild seed.  McCargo’s work, in addition to the writing of Doug Tallamy and John Marzluff, motivates the farmers in this collective.  “Having a pesticide free corridor of native plants that provide nutrition and habitat for pollinators helps them to disperse into new areas and will improve the overall health of the farm and local ecosystem,”says Patrick Horan of Waldingfield Farm in Washington, Connecticut.  

 

You can shop for seed, gifts, and read about the participating farmers on the Eco59 website: eco59.com.  Each seed packet details where the original ecotype was collected (city and state) and which farm and farmer grew it.  “Know your farmer; know your seed; know your land.  We promote transparency in seed packaging and in growing practices: something we encourage gardeners and conservationists to be asking about more often through our educational outreach,” says Sefra Alexandra, CT NOFA’s Ecotype Project leader.

 

Early winter is the perfect time to winter sow native seed – instructions for growing are inside each order as well as on the Eco59 website.  In addition to the seed packets, the farmers are producing “seed bombs,” a dozen quail-egg sized balls made of clay and soil infused with a pinch of wildflower seed, for sowing “here, there, and everywhere.” Customers interested in larger quantities of seed for larger-scale restoration projects should contact the seed company directly through the website: eco59.com.  

 

On Saturday October 16th the Ecotype Project and our partner Geordie Elkins from Highstead and Deepika Saksena of the Darien Pollinator Pathway, joined the Urbanscapes Native Plant Nursery “All Things Pollinators” end of season celebration at their nursery in the Newhallville neighbrohood of New Haven, Connecticut.

The mayor of New Haven Justin Elicker joined founder Doreen Abubakar and Dennis Riordan of Menunkatuck Audubon Society in cutting the ribbon of their newly built greenhouse.

We demonstrated native seed cleaning techniques and discussed the importance of utilizing “truly local” native seed in establishing pollinator habitats “ecoregionally” to ensure we are putting “the right plants in the right place.”

Urbanscapes will be installing their first of three founder plots with White Wood Aster (Eurybia divaricata) from the project. The nursery educates local youth in native plant propagation and their founder plot will provide a great resource for producing and sharing ecotypic seed with their neighborhood supporters and the work they lead with the Pollinator Pathway of New Haven.

The BOATanists had a great day assembling all their gear and Ecotype plants on the outrigger canoes and began their expedition “paddlin’ for the pollinators” embarking from Enfield, CT to a remote island just above Hartford. We are excited to talk to the folks attending tomorrow’s MakeFest at the Connecticut Science Center, showing them how to make “native Ecotype Seed balls” and the importance of planting local pollinator habitats to rewild our landscapes and ensure local food security!

Observations from this part of the corridor: the river is abuzz with a symphony of happy insects. Solidago is in bloom and dragonfly’s are flying about. The river is low this time of year but a dam release increased the flow rate. There is a nice riparian buffer along the river where you seldom see human development. Tomorrow we are sure will be different as we paddle to the largest city along a river in Connecticut.

Stay tuned for more expeditions updates over the next five days. Thanks for following along.

We at CT NOFA have been thinking a lot this year about what defines us – what makes us uniquely deserving of your support.  What always rises out of our conversations is that we are farmer-led, practical, adventurous, innovative.  At our best, what makes “organic” and “regenerative” special is that it gives more than it takes, sows more than we reap. We are on a mission to leave this Earth more beautiful and abundant than we found it.  And we like to have a good time doing it.  With our current pandemic putting a hold on our ability to gather and gala or feast – we are still itching to celebrate – to show how much we, the organic farmers, gardeners, landscapers, and advocates, can do for the land, the forests, and rivers and sea that gives so much to us.

CT NOFA has again joined forces with BOATanical and its powerhouse leader Sefra Levin, to launch this years’ expedition along the Quinnehtukqut (CT) River. Connecticut is named after an Alquonian term that references the place of the long tidal river. This river corridor has been a causeway of transport for flora, fauna, wind, weather, and the ancestral caretakers of these lands.

The fate of our organic farms and gardens is inextricably tied to the health of the ecosystem that surrounds them.  With that in mind, on September 17th, CT NOFA and BOATanical will launch an expedition of farmers and seed-keepers to paddle the length of Connecticut along the river from Enfield to the Long Island Sound.  The team will be planting native plant habitats, sowing restoration seed, and stopping to talk to groups about CT NOFA’s programs:

  • The Ecotype Project – our effort to fortify the Northeast by building biodiversity with pollinator habitats and a native plant supply chain
  • Farmer Circles – a refabrication of a practical and powerful regional support system among farmers.   This trip is not without its hardships and its hazards – and we are asking for your support.
  • Soil Health education – on the essential work of carbon drawdown with healthy soils.
  • Organic Land Care Program – extending the vision and principles of organic agriculture to the care of landscapes where people carry out their daily lives.
  • Winter Conferences, Landscaper Conferences, and Seed Conferences

This year when you consider your donation to CT NOFA, consider this- when our “boatanists” plant one seed, the next year or two one can harvest thousands of seeds from that single plant. The ‘return on investment’ that you get with Nature is extraordinary.  With that as our vision for change, our goal is to make our NOFA programs/resources available to as many people as possible in the upcoming year.

The donation that you make will provide more farmers with the building blocks they need to help safeguard the biological resilience of our region, create access for beginning farmers to the education and resources and community that they will rely on as their careers progress, and support the innovative work on climate change that has defined CT NOFA over the last 40 years.

In 2020 we paddled from New Hampshire to the Massachusetts border- in 2021 we will paddle from the top of Connecticut to the Long Island Sound, planting Founder Plots on farms and spreading the seeds of resilience. We hope you will follow along on our expedition this September.

 

Watch a recap of last year’s expedition through Massachusetts:

Donate to NOFA here

On Thursday, June 17 at 1:00 PM the Ecotype Project is honored to be presenting our work alongside six other regional native seed initiatives from around the globe at the Society for Ecological Restoration’s 9th World Conference on Ecological Restoration.
(this is a pre-conference workshop which you must be registered to attend)

The title of the workshop is:
W9: Networks and other strategies for developing regional native seed supply to meet restoration needs.
Join us to find out how other seed-based restoration initiatives are operating worldwide!
“This workshop will present and discuss a variety of native seed programs and initiatives and will provide information, models, and support to participants seeking to improve the supply of native seed in their region.”

“Ecological restoration initiatives are increasing in both number and scale globally. Native plant seed is the foundation of almost every ecological restoration project, and as the scale of restoration projects increases, so too the need for native seed is expected to grow. Restoration efforts regularly rely on the use of thousands of tons of native plant seed, requiring investments of hundreds of millions of US dollars. There is a global push to improve access to, and the supply of high-quality, biodiverse, and genetically appropriate seed to facilitate successful restoration outcomes. Ensuring a consistent supply of high-quality native plant seed from appropriate sources represents one of the most significant constraints facing restoration practitioners. This workshop will present lessons learned from ongoing efforts to establish seed supplies in various regions and at scales ranging from local to multinational. Presenters will talk about their network or initiative, what stage of growth they are in, and the key factors in their success, as well as lessons learned. They will include the political, financial, and cultural context of their seed program. Following the presentations, we will facilitate roundtable discussion with the intent of building collaborative connections and learning from each other’s experiences.”

The Ecotype Project is delighted to be included in the May/June 2021 publication of Connecticut Gardener magazine whose tagline is “because gardeners never stop learning.” Throughout our journey on this seed literacy project, we have consistently gained new insight into how we can efficiently support the amplification of native seed in our ecoregion of the northeast. What we do know, is the more gardeners, farmers and citizen scientists who are aware of this vital initiative to safeguard our “living seed banks” the more successful we will collectively be in reducing fragmentation across our shared landscapes and providing habitat for our friends the pollinators. 

CT Gardener Magazine Article

 

Sefra Alexandra, the Seed Huntress, has launched her canoe from the headwaters of the Connecticut River and is paddling with an extraordinary cargo.

Her trip is to honor The Ecotype Project, a program of the Northeast Organic Farming Association of Connecticut (CT NOFA). She is carrying with her hundreds of native plants, cultivated as a result of CT NOFA’s Ecotype Project, and will be planting “the right plants in the right place.” She is paddling to raise funds and raise awareness about the vital connectivity between our wilderness areas and our farmland. She is paddling for the pollinators. She is paddling to plant native plants and highlight the habitat restoration work that strengthens our rivers, our forests, and our food system.

She is asking that you join with her by supporting CT NOFA during this weeklong expedition. Donate here. She carries with her the flag for WINGS WorldQuest. WINGS recognizes and supports extraordinary women leaders in science and exploration. Sefra is also supported by the Patagonia PUPS program, Spartan Race, and Planter’s Choice Nursery. Any support you can give will make you a part of CT NOFA’s work strengthening our agrarian landscape.

Follow live updates from Sefra on CT NOFA’s Instagram account: @ctnofa