2015 Year in Review
Each and every year brings some new challenges and always brings new learning opportunities. 2015 was no exception. This whole operation started with the purchase of the farm on December 5, 1988 and the following weeks of excitement with the beginning of a new adventure. I had left my home state of Idaho in 1984 and, prior to that, I had developed lists of sources for rare poultry I hoped to obtain once I got re-established here in Iowa. The wait time was over and I began to search my lists of breeders and sources. My Christmas break was spent exploring the new farm and writing letters and making phone calls to to try to track down some of the poultry I had long waited for. The excitement of all of the plans for the new farm was great, but the days that followed proved disappointing as my lists of poultry sources kept bringing a lot of dead ends. Many returned letters, many phone calls with the simple response, “We don’t have them anymore”. It seems the 1980’s were really rough on rare breed poultry. All of the fast growing broilers and super sized turkeys put the “real” poultry on the verge of extinction. The turkey situation was nearly to the point of collapse as so few heritage birds remained. It seemed that I was being directed to other plans for this farm than just a vegetable seed preservation facility. I initially had just wanted to get some poultry for fun. It soon became obvious that my work was being redirected into yet another area. I started searching for what I thought was most crucial. The result was a collection of some very rare turkey genetics. This is how the logo for the farm was born. Many wonder why an operation with so many seeds has a bunch of turkeys for a logo. While the mid 1990’s was a very low point for turkeys and many other breeds of poultry, it has been great to see that times have changed. We will continue to be dedicated to preserve as much as we can possibly do but will constantly have to readjust our workload and focus. This isn’t an operation where what we offer is based on sales and profit but on the direction that God seems to lead us. Decisions are not made without prayerful consideration, thought and planning. We made some decisions this past year that will be addressed in the next few paragraphs.
We decided that 2015 will be our last bulk rate mailed catalog. We struggled with the USPS so many times in 2015 from all the changes they made and the lack of service we received. While I have long been a huge supporter of the USPS, the items we had to deal with last year increased as the season progressed. It started with having to redo our bulk mailing and implement changes for each of the subsequent mailings because of continued failure to supply the proper information. It finished with the complete misrepresentation of the Express Mail service for shipping poultry and the false representation of guaranteed delivery. We hope to continue to produce a catalog that people can send $5.00 for first class delivery with the amount redeemable on the first order. I am fond of printed material and this seems to be the best option to continue to do this. We hope this makes things a bit more environmentally friendly. No one should be getting a catalog unless they specifically want one. It frustrates me to get the same catalog multiple times a year from some seed and nursery places. The amount of waste is horrible, let alone what it does to the price of the products. Prices would have to increase greatly in our catalog to compensate for the cost of printing and mailing all of the catalogs we have in the past.
The next big decision was to begin to tackle all of the seeds from our friend Tom’s collection and all the seeds that others have sent in. This is a monumental task as there are over 2000 varieties. We have no idea how many are still alive, but something has to be done and each year of not growing them out put them more and more at risk of slipping away to extinction. The new policies at Seed Savers Exchange, with removing items and being more exclusive on additions, has caused increasing amounts of material to be sent to us by individuals to try to give it at least one more chance. We hope to use some of the funds we spent on bulk rate postage and extra printing to direct those funds into hiring more help to save more material.
We were fortunate this year to be blessed with a great growing season and, in many cases, an abundance of seeds of many varieties. We, of course, had our usual rabbit problems and other issues that picked off some varieties. I remember at one point in September coming in the house at the end of a long day and telling Linda that I was sure thankful for some crop failures. We could have never gotten it all done if everything had been successful. Each year, at season’s end, it is always exciting to think of what the next year can bring and what we will tinker with to, hopefully, be more successful with the following year. Our season had some wet times and some dry spells and September was the perfect month to ask for to bring our late plantings to success. God really answered our prayers. The season came to a rapid end when our first frost was a crisp 20˚F and the next morning 24˚F. I learned that what could have been an abundant cotton seed crop fizzled fast as the bolls froze solid and the seed wasn’t quite ripe.
We are excited to see what 2016 will bring. I know we will tackle many more of Tom Knoche’s bean collection and will start with a token amount of squash and melons. Who knows how many new (old) heirlooms will appear in the 2017 edition?
The poultry held its own in 2016. We greatly appreciate all the prayers and notes of concern as Bird Flu spread across the Midwest and we were spared. Thank you to all for your support and desire to help us to continue to maintain a genetically diverse and healthy food supply.
Best wishes for a great 2016.
Glenn and Linda Drowns