A Reflection on the 2023 Season at Our Abbotsford Seed Farm

Posted on Friday, 8 December 2023 under Stories

As we head into winter, all of our crops have been harvested, and seed cleaning is slowly but surely coming to an end. We still have some squash to eat and harvest seeds from over the winter months, but meanwhile, we are actively submitting our cleaned seeds to BC Eco Seed Co-op.

As with every year farming, we had a number of successes and a few failures, or as we like to call it, learning opportunities. Focusing on the positive, we had a great year for tomatoes, peppers, watermelon, and qishuim.

Harvesting qishuim seeds

What is qishuim? It is also known as Armenian cucumber. A blog from the Jewish Farmers Network described the taste as, “like a cucumber, but with the memory of a melon.” We saved seeds from seven different varieties for the Jewish Farmers Network. We found that saving seeds from qishuim is similar to other crops, we waited for the skin to turn slightly yellow (most of the varieties had green skin, some with stripes) then we scooped out the seeds and separated out lighter seeds by submerging the seeds in water and removing the floating seeds. Upon cutting open the matured qishuim, we noticed a distinct smell of cantaloupe, which is because this crop is actually in the melon family. This means it won’t cross with other cucumbers but will cross with any crop that is a Cucumis melo species.

We grew a total of five different tomato varieties this year. This is possible because tomatoes are self-pollinated and only require an isolation distance of 10 feet. That being said, oftentimes, older cultivated varieties are more outcrossing, so they require a larger isolation distance. We grew one older variety of tomato called Chiapas Wild tomato so we made sure to plant this variety about 25 feet away from the other tomatoes. The Chipas Wild tomato was one of the more interesting varieties we have grown. They were extremely sprawling but only a couple feet tall, which made it difficult to contain within our 3 feet rows. The tomatoes were tasty, but the smallest we have ever seen, which made harvesting a slow process. They were also the most blight resistant of all the varieties, though they died back after the first light frost. The other varieties of tomatoes we grew this year include Long Keeper, Alpha, Strawberry Cherry, and Tumbling Tom Yellow.

This year’s challenges included carrots for roots, lettuce for seed, and radish for seed. We had difficulty germinating our carrot seed. They were planted in a field that we regularly have issues with, and while we are not certain of the cause, it could have been due to insufficient watering, as we were starting the carrot seeds in summer. On the other hand, the carrot roots we planted to grow to seeds produced well this year.

Our lettuce crop for seed was also affected by high summer temperatures, and unfortunately did not go to seed before the fall rains. Lettuce seed is very sensitive to rain.

Our final crop failure was a valuable learning opportunity. Dried radish seed pods are a favourite snack for the birds at our farm, and they should have been covered with netting earlier in the season. Not covering them meant a loss for our radish seed harvest this year, but we are sure the birds enjoyed them! In any case, lesson learned.

Other seed harvests that were also very successful include our Aprovecho fava bean, Kalibos red cabbage (read about our harvesting of the cabbage seed in our last Seed Farm update), Stuttgarter onion, Shishito peppers, squash, and corn. In addition, we also grew a huge variety of potatoes from which we harvested both the roots and true potato seed, our striped/gold beet mix whose roots we will replant next year to grow for seed, and grew out all of our 2023 Citizen Seed Trial crops.