Botanist Anaka Mines has sown a lot of seeds in her life. From farming vegetables to founding Classroom in Bloom — the school garden program in the Methow Valley School District — Mines is someone who knows how to make things grow. Her latest venture, the Methow Valley Seed Collective, is a strategic effort to help others’ crops flourish and cultivate community connections.
The Methow Valley Seed Collective offers a retail selection of vegetable, flower, and herb seeds that have been grown in the Methow Valley, according to the group.
“These crop varieties are selected by us for their resilience and vigor and for their appropriateness to this bioregion. Everything we sell has been tested on our farms and we know it can thrive here,” a news release states.
Available on the Methow Valley Seed Collective’s website as well as various local and regional retail outlets (Twisp Feed, Poorman Plants, Cascade Pipe, Mazama Store, Glover Street Market, Okanogan Farmstand), the seeds represent varieties that are bred to “maximize qualities of resilience, pest and disease resistance, vigor, and taste.”
Mines doesn’t remember exactly how seed saving captured her interest, but said that “learning about the whole life cycle of plants became very intriguing to me, so I took a class on seed saving. Then I started experimental seed saving when I worked for the farm at Red Shed and eventually became engaged with the Organic Seed Alliance.”
In 2011 Mines launched her wholesale seed business — Twisp River Seed — and began selling seeds in bulk to be repackaged by other seed retailers, like Uprising Seeds, Fedco, Johnny’s Seeds, and others. But “doing contract seed work I felt disconnected from my own growing community,” Mines said. “My seeds were shipping to Maine and Virginia. I didn’t have a community of other seed growers here. I felt disengaged.”
Contract seed sales are risky, Mines said. “All the risk is the farmer’s. You put in all this infrastructure, but if there’s crop failure it’s your loss entirely. Last year’s heat wave, for example, was brutal. Pollination just doesn’t work when it’s that hot. So the crop fails and you don’t get paid.”
Meanwhile, Methow Valley residents were clamoring to purchase seeds from Mines. “I felt like I needed a retail seed sales option to engage better in the community,” she said, adding that “an element of education” was always part of her goal, bringing to the valley an understanding of how to keep crop varieties alive. “I knew there were people out there saving seeds,” she said, “but I didn’t know them. Some had been saving seeds for years, or tending varieties that had been handed down by grandparents.
After conversations with other farmers and seed savers “about anti-capitalist business models, radical restructure toward ecological, kincentric relationships to the natural world [an Indigenous perspective in which people view themselves as part of an extended ecological family], and love of a good quality seed,” Mines launched the MV Seed Collective in collaboration with Hoodoo Blooms, another farm up Twisp River Road owned and operated by Cailyn Brierley and Kyle McKnelly.
“Our approach is evolving,” Mines said, noting that the collective is starting out small in order to get systems streamlined, but intends to add more partner farms in the future. “We look forward to connecting with gardeners all over the region who grow particular varieties. We are always looking for new crops to add to our collection.”
Mines highlights the work she has done with a couple of varieties: the Scarlet Nantes carrot, for example. “I’ve been working on it since 2009,” she said. “The original seed was from a carrot breeder. It has been adapting here for a long time. It’s delicious and it keeps really well.”
A yellow storage onion is another one of Mines’ pet projects. “It comes from three different open-pollinated onion varieties. It is uniform and keeps really well,” she said, adding that conducting onion tastings for two years was “interesting.”
Mines, Brierley, and
McKnelly will plant crops together strategically, isolating different varieties of insect-pollinated crops to avoid cross-pollination. The seeds they grow for the new retail business are stored at Methow Natives on the TwispWorks campus and are packaged in seed packets printed on an old letterpress at artist Laura Gunnip’s Fireweed Print Shop.
Mines acknowledged that the land she and others farm was “stolen from the Methow People not long ago” and said that the Methow Valley Seed Collective is “committed to pursuing work towards right relation, reconciliation, and repair of those historical and present traumas.” It’s an aspirational goal, but by putting it out as part of the seed collective’s mission, Mines hopes to “connect with people who will help us move in the right direction to do things to help make reparations.” The Methow Valley Seed Collective has donated seeds to the Paschal Sherman Indian School on the Colville Reservation and hopes to continue forging connections with Indigenous groups.
“Our dream is that through this business we can do good work, connect with our community, and provide deeper and more meaningful connection with a primary source of nourishment—the seed—for ourselves, our fellow farmers, and all who wish to grow plants and learn,” Mines said.
Visit mvseedcollective.com for more information and to order seeds.