WHAT IF I TOLD YOU there’s a brand new approach to buy seed the place your buy yields not simply the packets, but in addition academic assist, and the invitation to share your suggestions—to take part in a digital seed trial basically, citizen-science type.
Now I do know that was a mouthful, but it surely’s a courageous new more and more digital world on the market. And I need us to get in on the bottom ground and be taught extra in regards to the promise and potential of a newish entity referred to as SeedLinked.com that various knowledgeable pals are a part of.
One who’s taking part tipped me off to a choice of curated seed collections which can be a part of the larger digital enterprise. To be taught extra I referred to as Bjorn Bergman, who curated the SeedLinked lettuce assortment and can also be a part of the SeedLinked crew.
Wisconsin-based Bjorn is, like every of us, an avid gardener, and he’s additionally a long-time participant in numerous Seed Savers Trade packages. And he confessed to being positively mad for rising and consuming salad.
Learn alongside as you hearken to the November 23, 2020 version of my public-radio present and podcast utilizing the participant beneath. You may subscribe to all future editions on Apple Podcasts (iTunes) or Spotify or Stitcher (and browse my archive of podcasts here).
seedlinked’s curated seed collections, with bjorn bergman
Margaret Roach: Thanks for making time immediately, Bjorn.
Bjorn Bergman: Yeah. Thanks a lot for having me on Margaret. It’s a pleasure to be right here immediately.
Margaret: So like I stated: courageous new world, and likewise it’s a little bit of a mouthful. It’s not your primary seed-shopping expertise or seed expertise in any respect. So I need to form of begin… We’re going to speak largely in regards to the curated seed collections, that are enjoyable and nice for giving as a present as effectively throughout this upcoming vacation season. However I need to first backtrack and get the sort of elevator pitch on SeedLinked, the larger challenge that it is a dimension of, and what downside it’s making an attempt to handle as a complete and so forth. So are you able to try this for us? Are you able to assist us with that?
Bjorn: Yeah, for positive. I’d like to. And I suppose to attach with all of the listeners right here, I need to have everybody sort of envision once they go and buy seeds each spring, sort of spreading out all these seed catalogs on the counter and browsing by way of all of the pages, which I do know is likely one of the most pleasant issues throughout the wintertime to do. So that you’re trying by way of all these seed catalogs and also you’re making an attempt to determine what to develop. You is perhaps allured by the attractive photos or the outline. You might need a buddy that advised you that this selection is nice ,and it’s scrumptious, and performs effectively.
However once I sort of consider that concept in contrast with immediately’s tech world, the place we’re so linked, then it’s sort of an outdated mannequin. With so many different issues we are able to go on and take a look at evaluations of issues earlier than we purchase them, whether or not it’s a automotive, a baby seat, a bicycle, and even visiting a restaurant.
With seeds there’s actually not the equal of that.
So at SeedLinked.com, we’re actually aiming to sort of join the dots between all of the totally different seed-industry stakeholders—so gardeners, and farmers, and seed corporations, seed breeders, and cooks—and produce them collectively on our platform to assist sort of create a extra collaborative and resilient seed system to assist serve individuals.
So on the highest stage—and we’re not fairly there but, we’re a startup enterprise—however gardeners and farmers can go onto our websites and seek for varieties. Perhaps, say, they need to discover a tomato that performs effectively by the place they’re rising. They will seek for tomatoes and discover evaluations for tomatoes from different folks that have grown tomatoes by them.
So such as you stated, it’s an enormous citizen-science challenge, and we simply welcome everybody to the desk to take part.
Margaret: So one new approach on this, once more, newish total larger challenge of SeedLinked.com, one new approach individuals can take part proper now’s that they’ll order a few of these curated seed collections, just like the one you will have put collectively of some favourite lettuces. In order that’s slightly totally different from even when I went and purchased a lettuce assortment at a daily seed catalog, it’s slightly bit totally different. So let’s then say, what’s the seed collection aspect of SeedLinked?
Bjorn: Yeah, positively. We created it sort of in response to this previous spring with COVID-19 pandemic.
Margaret: Oh boy [laughter].
Bjorn: Yeah, yeah. I do know that in your world, Margaret, there’s simply so many individuals that had been enthusiastic about gardening for the primary time, wanting to purchase seeds. Seed corporations had been seeing gross sales that had been 200 and 300 % larger than they’re used to. We noticed all of this taking place at SeedLinked, and we had been like, “How can we plug in to this pleasure about gardening, and seize all these new gardeners and assist them alongside the way in which to achieve success with rising issues for the primary time?”
Seed Collections was born out of that curiosity. What the concept is, is that we partnered with some really awesome food-system changemakers, they usually curated a set of sorts collectively. So what I did is I curated three of my favourite lettuce varieties that I like rising in my yard backyard, and people can go on and purchase that assortment. However past simply getting the lettuce seeds, they get a very guided studying expertise from the curators. The curator does a stay check-in thrice all through the rising season with contributors.
Bjorn: Yeah, yeah. They get to discover ways to possibly like plant the seeds originally of the season, verify in midseason, possibly take a look at illness or possibly pest issues. After which on the finish of the season, taking a look at harvest and the best way to use these scrumptious greens in your kitchen, which is why all of us backyard within the first place, or develop greens within the first place, is to benefit from the bounty within the kitchen.
Then the opposite piece to this as effectively is that folk are a part of a collaborative trial with the gathering as effectively. So that they’re invited to create an account on SeedLinked. By means of our web site—and we even have a cellular app—individuals can fee every selection, the way it performs of their backyard or on their farm. So that they fee totally different traits like look, taste, yield, illness resistance, and all of these of scores they supply are a part of our citizen-science database that other people can search sooner or later.
The opposite piece as effectively is on our web site, there’s a social feed the place individuals can work together with different individuals which can be taking part, with the curators, ask questions, reply questions, and simply share their experience.
Margaret: So this jogs my memory slightly bit, isn’t there some sort of climate citizen-science challenge the place individuals take part and there’s additionally some chats and a Fb group. I’m making an attempt to recollect the identify. It’s a humorous identify. O.Okay.
Bjorn: Yeah. I may not get the acronym completely right. However it’s Cocorahs out of Fort Collins, Colorado.
Margaret: Proper. C O C O R A H S. Proper. Proper. And I don’t bear in mind. The final half is Rain, Hail, and Snow Community. I do know that as a result of it’s about precipitation, proper? It’s like everybody contributes their precipitation observations.
Bjorn: Yeah. It’s an extremely highly effective community. I believe there’s about 20,000 individuals nationwide that take part, there’s simply a web based app that individuals file any precipitation information that they’ve of their location. It’s an enormous citizen-science challenge, and all of that information being up to date day by day is extremely highly effective for local weather scientists to take a look at totally different developments in climate. And so, yeah, there are very related initiatives, however that is the primary time somebody’s tried to do it with seeds and varieties, with SeedLinked.
Margaret: Proper. And like with climate the place the hyper-local is so important, seed being alive, genetic materials, and like all dwelling issues tailored to sure conditions or not. You recognize, not all seed is created equal and it doesn’t all work the identical, and isn’t as vulnerable to explicit local weather or climate circumstances and bugs, they usually’re regionally current and and many others. So I imply, to have ultimately, if you find yourself with 20,000 contributors, a few of whom I hope are listening immediately, future participants-
Margaret: …we are able to have this totally different approach to buy seed. Or if not even to buy, to only look and say, “What can be an excellent tomato for me?” such as you stated earlier, once I’m in upstate New York and another person is in Illinois. To seek out different individuals who have tried it in my circumstances can be superb. Proper?
Bjorn: Yeah. That’s one of many issues I’m most enthusiastic about with SeedLinked. Even for my curated lettuce assortment, I understand how these lettuces carry out in my yard in Wisconsin, however I’m actually wanting to see if somebody vegetation them in say Texas, or Florida, or Southern California, or Washington, or Maine, how they carry out.
Loads of occasions these varieties had been, such as you stated, bred in a selected place they usually sort of actually carry out finest the place they had been bred. However what occurs whenever you take away them from these circumstances and plant them elsewhere? They will look very totally different relying on the local weather, the soil, and whatnot.
So what’s super-intriguing about SeedLinked as a result of we are able to begin taking a look at these variations of how issues carry out throughout geography. I do know I’m simply excited for individuals to hitch my lettuce trial. And on the finish of the season, we are able to look and see how these lettuces carry out in numerous areas of the US.
Margaret: Now, would you like me to write down in if I take part, is there a fill-in-the-blank, like “different” subject within the database the place I may say, “The woodchuck ate it.” [Laughter.] Can I say that?
Bjorn: [Laughter.] Yeah. Yeah. Take a look at our on-line platform. There’s a approach to say that you just’ve had a crop failure or one thing, and you may write a word subject. One other enjoyable factor about it’s you possibly can add photos. So with our cellphone app, you possibly can simply take photos in your cellphone and it immediately uploads them for every selection onto our database. So you possibly can present us precisely what you’re seeing. You may enter simply common reflections about issues, on the way it performs and what your ideas are.
However there’s additionally traits, like I stated, that you just’re going to fee that the curator sort of picks. So for my lettuce assortment, I’ve picked bolt-resistance. With lettuce that’s one thing that’s fairly vital: lettuce being tolerant to various kinds of warmth and never going to seed super-early so you possibly can benefit from the harvest. After which different issues like taste, which is so vital to gardeners. We need to develop these greens in order that they style scrumptious and just about on a regular basis they do. However we need to attempt to discover the cream of the crop, issues which can be going to style the very best for our location.
Margaret: Proper. So a few of these different… you referred to them as change-makers, among the different people who find themselves invited to curate collections. As a result of it’s not like a large seed catalog of thousand kinds of all the things. You may’t go from A to Z and get your entire backyard. This primary rollout that you just’re doing proper now with SeedLinked, the Seed Collections, it’s a restricted variety of collections of three or 4 or no matter sorts of seeds.
A few of the different curators are individuals who have been on my present loads, pals, just like the dwarf tomato geek of all geeks [above], Craig LeHoullier [laughter]. And Culinary Breeding Network founder, Lane Selman—she’s doing peppers and I believe slicing celery. Who even knew about cutting celery, however she desires us to find out about it. And Nate Kleinman of Experimental Farm Network together with his perennial vegetable collection, which we talked about final 12 months on the present collectively. I believe he’s doing kales additionally. And the Organic Seed Alliance and Meg Cowden of Seed to Fork.
Like actually, actually top-notch individuals have determined to hitch you in doing this. However they’re not offering the seed. Proper? I imply, the place’s the seed coming from?
Bjorn: Yeah. So SeedLinked is taking good care of sourcing all the seed and placing it collectively. They’re simply offering the experience. So that they’ve chosen a few of their favourite varieties that they need to embody in these collections and need to share with you. They’re simply committing to occurring this journey with people to develop them and assist them achieve success with rising them.
However sure, SeedLinked is coordinating the entire effort. So we’re getting seed. We’re sending it out to contributors. We’re inviting them to create an account on SeedLinked.com after which they’re offering all their suggestions by way of our on-line platform. So we’re sort of the central hub of the Seed Collections. Then these curators have simply actually favored what we’re as much as and actually wished to take part in sort of this modern studying expertise round totally different crops.
Margaret: And all of the varieties aren’t model new. It’s not that you just’re trialing them as a result of they’re model new. Some are lesser-known, extra identified, proper? I imply, it’s a mixture of issues.
Bjorn: Yeah. If you happen to look by way of the seed collections, it’s such an enormous range of various issues, relying on what the curator is all for and desires to share with individuals. There’s one thing there for everybody.
And I do know, such as you talked about Craig earlier, who it’s simply such a pleasure to speak with and be taught from. His pleasure about tomatoes is simply so infectious. I do know I simply need to like plant three extra rows of tomatoes in my backyard each time I hear from him.
However Craig has grown hundreds of sorts of tomatoes over his entire total life. He’s curated three totally different tomato collections, and picked out a few of his favorites. A few of these are going to be outdated heirlooms, and a few of them are going to be newly bred issues, like issues from his Dwarf Tomato breeding challenge that he desires extra individuals to attempt to get extra suggestions from. So yeah, it’s not simply outdated issues. It’s not simply new issues. It’s fairly a mixture of all the things in between.
Margaret: And what’s nice. I imply, your timing is admittedly good as a result of I don’t assume the seeds will ship until within the new 12 months to individuals, form of like with a standard catalog, however we are able to do it now. If I need to give… Don’t inform my sister, however let’s say I need to give her the slicing celery assortment from Lane Selman, or no matter, I can put in her e mail and she or he’s going to get the schooling. She’s going to get to hitch, proper, to grow to be a part of it? She’s going to get to present her suggestions, proper? I imply, I’m giving her the seeds plus the expertise if I give it as a present. Is that proper? [Above, ‘White Queen’ leaf celery from Lane Selman’s collection.]
Bjorn: Yeah, yeah, for positive. And that’s why we’ve launched this challenge now, as a result of we actually really feel prefer it’s an awesome reward to present for individuals throughout the vacation season. And yeah, such as you talked about, people can buy the seeds, after which put within the recipient’s e mail, they usually’ll get notified later whenever you need them to get the notification that they got a present of a seed assortment.
They’ll get requested to create a SeedLinked.com account and be a part of this expertise rising slicing celery, rising tomatoes with Craig, rising cabbage with Meg Cowden. I do know once I began gardening, gosh, like 14 years in the past, I want I had this to assist me alongside within the strategy of studying the best way to develop issues.
Margaret: Nicely, and that’s the factor, is that gardeners historically, as with farming, there’s a mentorship. There’s a hand-me-down. There’s you realized out of your grandmother, otherwise you realized out of your neighbor, otherwise you realized from somebody who’s already tried it in your native spot. Proper?
Bjorn: Yeah, for positive. And with the surprise of know-how, particularly the know-how swirl that we’ve been thrown in with the pandemic, more and more we’re studying from increasingly individuals on-line. Yeah, I’m enthusiastic about this type of sharing rising experience with a wider viewers so that everybody may be profitable.
Margaret: In order that ultimately possibly, I imply wouldn’t it’s superb if like even 5 individuals in every state or area, even a smallish variety of individuals to search out out, “How did you do?” “Oh, I did effectively, too.” “Oh, this one labored higher for me.” “Oh, me, too.” You recognize, I like that. I simply love the concept of it, the potential for it.
Now how many individuals proper now? So SeedLinked already has an up-and-running sort of trialing factor occurring for some time that didn’t come from the Seed Collections. How many individuals are concerned within the SeedLinked participatory database already?
Bjorn: Yeah, so we launched our first software program in 2019, and have been working with college analysis trialing packages and with different totally different nonprofits that work round seeds. Proper now we’ve got about 1,800 and counting individuals which can be taking part and score varieties on our community proper now.
We’re simply enthusiastic about frequently including people to that community, and sort of enhancing the info factors. Such as you stated, if 5 individuals in every state grew my lettuce assortment and we had 250 information factors of how every of these three lettuce varieties carried out in every of these states, that will be immensely useful in serving to different individuals discover varieties that develop effectively for them. And so, yeah, I’m simply ecstatic in regards to the potentialities of connection and collaboration, and simply sharing information brazenly.
Margaret: And the sharing and the brazenly half, as a result of from having been a backyard author for therefore many many years, I do know the hyperlink to the old-style record over at Cornell, or Rutgers, or wherever it’s, and North Carolina State College, or College of California-Davis, blah, blah, blah. I do know the place there’s like an awesome chart that compares all of the tomato varieties so far as X illness or Y pest or no matter, or taste. [Above, ‘Speckled Roman’ tomato, part of the Roma Adventures tomato collection at SeedLinked. All the SeedLinked tomato collections are here.]
However they’re not accessible. They’re not in a factor that’s interactive, that may then be added to and that’s dynamic. There are these charts and graphs they usually’re flat, they’re untouchable recordsdata. You may take a look at them in your browser, however that’s about it. And there’s a lot info that may be put collectively. It’s going to be very thrilling to get that sort of stuff that exists on the market, however far more regional and far more interactive, I believe can be very thrilling.
Bjorn: Yeah. I’m glad that you just talked about that, Margaret. There’s really, such as you stated, there’s tons of knowledge on the market already from all these totally different college breeding packages. However it’s simply not all aggregated in a single spot, and we’re actually hoping that SeedLinked.com simply turns into this central location the place everybody can plug of their information factors and simply actually assist individuals with the method. Whether or not it’s farmers discovering the fitting selection of their subject, gardeners discovering the fitting selection for his or her backyard, breeders which can be breeding new varieties and wish suggestions on it. The probabilities are actually countless.
Margaret: Within the final couple of minutes I wished to ask you, Mr. Lettuce Lover and Grower, do you need to give us simply the two-minute course and any suggestions or something about lettuce? Are you a direct-sower? Are you a transplanter who begins seedlings inside, or each? Something about lettuce that you just need to share?
Bjorn: Yeah, for positive. For positive. My spouse and I simply love consuming lettuce. We eat lettuce with breakfast each morning. I don’t count on everybody to be that passionate about it.
However yeah, for the longest time I used to be into like lettuce mixes that I direct-seeded actually shut collectively. And in the previous couple of years I began transplanting issues out. So beginning seeds in soil flats beneath lights in my basement, after which planting them out within the backyard.
I began doing that simply because I noticed I used to be going by way of a lot extra seed once I was doing like a lettuce combine form of factor. So I actually want to do heads of lettuce. And I don’t normally wait till the top of lettuce will get full dimension earlier than I harvest it. I simply carry on slicing like the larger leaves off the aspect, simply trigger I can’t wait any longer to benefit from the first lettuce of the season or take pleasure in a salad. So I simply sort of frequently harvest the leaves on the outer edges of the florets.
The opposite factor that I might suggest to individuals, and I’m positive people as gardeners understand this, however there’s such an enormous range of lettuce on the market. I do know with my seed assortment, I’ve received one heirloom selection, a very outdated German heirloom selection referred to as ‘Forellenschluss’ [above] that’s actually scrumptious and delightful. However then I picked two different model new varieties from Frank Morton at Wild Garden Seeds.
Margaret: Yay, Frank! [Laughter.]
Bjorn: Yeah. Frank is one in all my breeding heroes, so anytime I can I attempt to get seeds from him. I all the time am selecting out new lettuce varieties from Frank, and so I picked two of my favourite lettuce varieties, ‘Pink-Eared Butterheart,’ and ‘Merlot Pink Oak’ from Wild Backyard Seeds. These are two issues that I’ve grown in my backyard and have grown to like and have each single 12 months. However yeah, I don’t know, with lettuce, I believe it’s super-important simply to maintain experimenting, hold making an attempt new varieties.
Lettuce is simply such a murals. If you go and take a look at it within the backyard, it’s simply stunningly stunning. And whenever you begin paging by way of all these totally different new varieties that the breeders have produced, particularly speaking about Frank’s work, it’s simply a lot enjoyable and also you get to eat it, too. It’s like art work, and also you get to take pleasure in it in your kitchen.
Margaret: Certainly. Nicely Bjorn Bergman with SeedLinked.com and these new seed collections. I’m glad you sort of opened it up for us early on so hopefully a few of my listeners and readers, as I’m going to do, need to bounce in and go searching. In the event that they determine to buy one thing, good, and hopefully get some schooling and take part and provides their suggestions alongside the way in which. So thanks for making time immediately.
Bjorn: Yeah. Thanks a lot for having me on and because of everybody for having a look and possibly taking part.
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MY WEEKLY public-radio present, rated a “top-5 backyard podcast” by “The Guardian” newspaper within the UK, started its 11th 12 months in March 2020. In 2016, the present received three silver medals for excellence from the Backyard Writers Affiliation. It’s produced at Robin Hood Radio, the smallest NPR station within the nation. Hear regionally within the Hudson Valley (NY)-Berkshires (MA)-Litchfield Hills (CT) Mondays at 8:30 AM Japanese, rerun at 8:30 Saturdays. Or play the November 23, 2020 present utilizing the participant close to the highest of this transcript. You may subscribe to all future editions on iTunes/Apple Podcasts or Spotify or Stitcher (and browse my archive of podcasts here).