|Linda starts all of her seeds indoors under grow lights. Here are some new pepper sprouts.|
We’re getting very excited for spring. If we’re going to stay out of the grocery store this summer, this coming weekend will make it or break it, since it’s when we’re going to be starting all of our vegetable seeds. So to inspire us and to look for a bit of advice we decided to visit someone who has some experience in the field.
Actually, Linda Crago has more than just some experience. This year she’s already started more than 10,000 tomato plants, and will be transplanting them all in the next few weeks. By hand. And that’s not even including all the other vegetables she grows. Where most farms are hundreds of acres of one variety, her nine acres is home to more than a thousand varieties of vegetables.
|Linda’s farm is not just vegetables. Mama Duck and Joey, a Vietnamese pot belly pig are inseparable.|
Linda has been specializing in tomatoes and more specifically, heirlooms for the past 14 years. She’s a part of the movement to save seeds from vegetables that are close to being lost. She plays an important role in keeping our food system interesting, diverse, and open-sourced. I know first hand what makes some of these tomatoes special. Last year was the first year that we successfully grew some heirloom varieties (the two previous years were notoriously bad for tomatoes) and the taste from the Black Krim that we grew was certainly eye-opening.
Some of the vegetable varieties that Linda grows can’t be found anywhere else in the world. She has searched for some of them in seed catalogues, but can’t find them anywhere but in her field. That must be an incredible and inspiring feeling.
Linda’s seedlings are mostly in her basement at the moment. Those ten thousand tomato plants are ten thousand seedlings slowly growing under racks filled with grow-lights, waiting to be transplanted and moved out into the greenhouse as the weather improves. Every year on the Victoria Day weekend she holds her annual Tomato Days where she sells a lot of her plants. She then plants about 1,500 in her field and sells a few thousand to nurseries. The rest are donated to the community for gardens and any other projects that could use them.
|Linda grows greens right through the winter in her greenhouse for local restaurants.
They freeze nightly but spring to life the moment the sun comes out.
The tomatoes and other vegetables that she grows are sold at the farm gate on Saturday mornings, or any other day if you call ahead. It’s a short walk to the field if what you’re looking for is not out front. She also sells a lot of vegetables to local restaurants including some winter greens that are still growing in her greenhouse.
Linda’s farm is a testament to how productive a relatively small farm can be, using no chemicals and little more than our great-grandparents had to work with.
If you’re anxious to start a garden from seed, you can buy seed directly from Linda. It’s usually either seed she’s sourced, or saved from her own produce. You could also visit her during her Tomato Days. Visit her site for more info and keep up-to-date with her blog. For those interested in starting tomatoes and other veg from seed, she’s just written an amazing post which is all you’ll ever need to know. I can’t wait to visit her in the summer and photograph all the amazing varieties of tomatoes. Until then I’ll just have to keep looking at her blog.