As spring rolls around, we are thinking about planting, gardening, and seed sourcing. This week, we virtually chatted with Jack Whettam, Sales and Marketing Manager at Hudson Valley Seed co.! Jack is also the co-owner and farmer of Hidden Acre Farm in Orange County, NY, which he and his wife Melissa started last year. Jack is a British native who has always had a passion for the environment, sustainability, and regenerative agriculture. Check out their seeds here!
Tell us a little bit about yourself!
I’m Jack Whettam, Sales and Marketing Manager at Hudson Valley Seed Company, I also own a farm in the Hudson Valley, Hidden Acre Farm in Orange County.
How did you come to working with Hudson Valley Seed Company? What’s the story behind the company?
It all started in 2004, albeit under a different name. Co-founders Ken Greene and Doug Muller, passionate gardeners and seed savers, realized there was little discourse about the seeds that grow our food and wanted to rectify this, so they created the Hudson Valley Seed Library, which started out of the Gardenier public library NY. The intention was the preserve the many unique and creative varieties that were suited to the region. People checked out seeds, grew them in their gardens and were encouraged to save the seeds of the varieties they grow, returning them, and their stories at the end of each season. The seed library went online in 2008 and it became apparent then that people’s interests truly lay in buying and saving organic, heirloom seeds, and so in 2009, the seed library program ended and the seed company began.
Before joining the team at Hudson Valley Seed Co, I was a fan and customer. I believe strongly in seed sovereignty and wanted to support my local seed company whose values align with my own. Hudson Valley Seed exclusively sells Open Pollinated seeds (non-hybrid, so the seeds can be saved from year to year) and the majority of them are Organic. It was there that I sourced most of the seeds for my own farm. My wife and I moved NY to start our farm last year and like many seasonal farmers, we needed a way to sustain ourselves financially through the offseason. It did seem like the stars had aligned then, when I saw a job posting for a temporary position at the seed company this winter as the Sales and Marketing Manager, which was my background prior to farming.
Hudson Valley Seed Company says that they are a company of farmers and storytellers! I love that. Can you speak a little bit more to that?
In Ken’s own words, open-pollinated seeds are not stagnant objects, they are living histories. Which is entirely true! Every seed has a story, sometimes going back thousands of years. Behind every seed saved, there is a grower with the story of the season just past. At the seed company, It was Ken and Doug’s aim to celebrate these stories, and they figured the best medium in which to do that was art. Every year, we commission artists to design special ‘Art Packs’. Each pack is designed by a different artist, and their interpretations keep the stories as fresh and diverse as the seeds themselves.
How do you source your seeds?
The vast majority of our seeds are grown right here in Accord, NY on our own certified Organic seed farm, Four-Fold Farm. Our HQ is located right on the farm and it really helps to have the whole team be in such close contact with the plants we grow. In order to offer such a diverse range of seeds in our catalog, we do partner with other local farms and organizations that help to provide some of our seed while ensuring we’re helping to support other sustainably focused businesses and organizations.
What advice would you give to someone looking to start gardening or farming?
1. Get some seeds. 2. Get in the garden! An expert at anything was once a beginner, and consider this; an expert potato or corn farmer of 25 years has only had the chance to grow potatoes or corn 25 times. It would be wise to read up on the basics before you start, and our blog at Hudson Valley Seed Company is the perfect place to do that, with literally hundreds of articles covering seed starting to seed saving and everything in between. The speed of gardening makes it the perfect pastime to learn while you go. It’s all trial and error and the biggest tip I could give would be to take extensive notes and to record everything, as the downside of the speed of gardening is that you’ll probably have forgotten what lesson you learned by the time you get to try again!
What do you hope to see in the future of gardening and farming?
I hope to see more of it on all fronts! Gardening is an incredibly therapeutic activity and I believe as humans, the reason we get so much joy out of it is that it’s ingrained in DNA. During this current crisis, we’ve seen a huge surge in first-time customers buying seeds, which means more people trying their hand at growing their own. That can only be a good thing for the future.
In my entirely personal opinion, I believe de-centralization leads to a more sustainable and secure food sector. There is a place for all types of agriculture in the industry, and as small scale organic farmer, I’ll freely admit to being biased, though I’d hope to see much greater diversity in the food supply and fewer food miles, I believe more people growing food in their own gardens and more local farms supplying diverse offerings is the easiest way to achieve that. Either way, none of that can be done without a supply of open-pollinated seeds for people to grow, save and ideally, share. Without that, the future looks bananas…. And I’m talking the Cavendish banana here, which accounts for 99% of all bananas sold commercially in the west. We can all help to avoid that happening to the rest of the produce aisle by voting with our dollars and our shovels!
Thanks, Jack. You can check out Hudson Valley Seed Company’s beautiful offerings here!