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Kathy Connell: The Magic of Saving Seeds

Steve and Kathy Connell in one of their high tunnels

Kathy Connell remembers the first seeds she ever planted. It was a handful of corn intended as feed for pigeons. "I fell in love with the magic," she says. "I felt like Jack and the Beanstalk. I could not believe that that a corn seed I had put in the ground became an 8' tall green plant. It started something that has never failed to enthrall me with the miracle of it; that a seed--a tiny lettuce seed--becomes a head of lettuce."

Kathy and her husband Steve operate Redfern Gardens in Sebeka Minnesota. Kathy is one of many presenters at this month's Back to Basics workshop, which will be held Saturday January 27th in Pine River. She is giving two workshops. One of them is Beginning Seed Saving.

Kathy describes Redfern gardens as "the coldest spot with the poorest soil in Wadena County." It's a 40-acre farm halfway between Sebeka and Nimrod. The Connells started out in Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) but semi-retired and switched to raising seed for seed companies last year.

Seed saving is important. Varieties are being lost, and saving seed allows gardeners to be geographically specific--growing varieties that can do best in an area. "We've become more generalized instead of specialized geographically," she explains. "The seed we find on stands in hardware stores and big box stores are varieties that are chosen to do well  almost anywhere in the country--and we are NOT almost anywhere in the country."

Seed saving itself can be easy but the saver should be mindful that he or she is also selecting for genetic traits. "We shape the attributes that are in our seed when we're saving seed," says Kathy. "If we don't select, something will select for us...Every year you save seed, something new might be picked up and something that had been there might be dropped."

Listen to the entire interview below for specific steps and additional resources for seed saving. Registration is now open for the annual Back to Basics workshop in Pine River. This year's theme is "Navigating Changing Currents." More information is at the Happy Dancing Turtle website.