Monday, November 19, 2012

What's New at the Farm — Before the Ground Freezes Up

Pumpkin and Squash Seed Harvesting

The week before Thanksgiving finds the farm still buzzing with activity. Trying to get everything wrapped up before the ground freezes keeps us busy in the not-so-pleasant weather of November. Much of our time this week has also been directed toward the cucurbit (pumpkins and squash) seed-harvest.

A local farmer here in mid-Maine grows several squash and pumpkin varieties for us; here’s a shot of bins full of fruit being delivered to us prior to processing.
The fruits are loaded onto a hay elevator and dumped into our vine crop harvester. where they are crushed to release their seeds. Here’s a shot of the end of the vine harvester where the pulp comes out.
 At this point the seed has been extracted from the fruits and is being deposited underneath the rotating drum. What comes out the back are the fruit rinds. These are collected and made into compost, to be reapplied to feed another crop.
Once the seed depth has built up, we take the seed out of the collector on the vine seed harvester, for processing it in the coner.
This machine has rubber paddles inside, which, when injected with large amounts of water, gently wash the pulp from the seeds.
As you can see, it’s a wet job, with water going in every direction!
Here’s the business end of the coner and the washed seeds coming out.
The seed mixture is comprised of seeds, pulp, and a few rind pieces. All the seed is collected, whether it be good, plump seed or flat seed that isn’t good. It is all placed on our paddle dryer and dried down to where it can safely be stored whilst waiting for seed cleaning to begin.
Here’s the seed being agitated and dried. 
Once the seed is dried it goes into our controlled atmosphere storage.
After being cleaned on one or more of our seed cleaning machines, it gets a final inspection on a “Bean Table.” A bean table is a small table fitted out with a belt that carries seeds (originally beans; hence the name) along in front of a person, to be visually inspected. The small boxes on either side are for holding broken, dirty, or otherwise subprime seeds that are being taken out. The good seeds drop into a bucket and, when the batch is done, are sewn up and put back into seed storage.

And that wraps that up — well, 20-something varieties — and we’re done harvesting.
Aside from that, we’re trying to pull all the plastic from the fields that we can, before freeze-up. There may be warmer weather for pulling it in the spring, but that would be leaving one more job undone for the spring, and we’ve got enough to do that time of year. It’s nice to get it all pulled up before we’re done for the season — sort of a closing task to the season.
There are a lot of other projects we can do around the farm before winter, but I’m sure we won’t get to them all. There are a few trees that need to be taken down, and some limbs to be trimmed off. Getting as much equipment gone through and stored under cover is always a challenge. And we’re getting our hoophouses planted for our overwintering crops — we’ll have fresh succulent greens in March.
Spring is closer than we think!

Until next time,

11/16/2012 — Albion, Maine

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Johnny's Attends Tradeshows in New Hampshire & Maine

Johnny's Maine-based Territory Sales Rep, Chris Hillier, recently attended UNH's North Country Fruit & Vegetable Seminar & Trade Show, held in Whitefield, New Hampshire, on October 30th, and MOFGA's Farmer-to-Farmer Conference in Northport, Maine, from November 9th to 11th.

The North Country Fruit & Vegetable Seminar was held at the Mountain View Grand on the day Hurricane Sandy began to roll into New England. Due to the storm, unfortunately, some of the promotional materials we'd sent via UPS to the conference never made it there! Nevertheless, Chris Hillier was able to set up Johnny's booth with a selection of crops on display, as well as various useful informational handouts. Below are photos of our booth and some other shots from Chris of the conference.

A look at our booth – set up and ready to go!
Our pumpkins labeled and on display
Another look at our specialty pumpkins
Katsko Zintchenko, a home gardener from NH, won Johnny's door prize!
A view of the conference room, where the workshops took place
Workshops at the conference covered such topics as using cover crops to manage weeds, how to distinguish beneficial from harmful insects on your crops, and a discussion on growing crops in high tunnels. 

The following week, Chris headed to MOFGA's Farmer-to-Farmer Conference in Northport, Maine, November 9th-11th. Along with Chris, a member of our Contact Center, Dave, a Canadian Sales Team member, Randy, and Steve and Kelly from the Johnny's Research Farm also attended the conference from Johnny's.
Johnny's visits MOFA's Farmer to Farmer Conference
Our-Farmer-to-Farmer booth, all set up
Chris was able to bring a preview of Johnny's 2013 catalog to this event, which allowed customers at the show to see what we would be offering as of November 15th. Attendees also got to check out the brand new product images that were displayed on the backdrop of her tradeshow booth, and grab handouts on new items, as well as new growing tips and charts that will be debuting in the new catalog and at on November 15th.
Learn more about MOFGA's Farmer-to-Farmer Conference at >>

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Johnny's Is Sponsoring & Attending MOFGA's 2012 Farmer-to-Farmer Conference

Hope to See You There!

This Friday, November 9th, 2012, Johnny's Maine-based Territory Sales Rep, Chris Hillier, will be attending MOFGA's annual Farmer-to-Farmer Conference. This year's conference — which Johnny's is sponsoring as well — is being held at beautiful Point Lookout in Northport, Maine from Friday through Sunday.

According to MOFGA, the Farmer-to-Farmer Conference...

  • Is based on the idea that farmers learn best from their peers and other practitioners.
  • Features prominent and accessible university faculty, extension educators, and other agricultural professionals.
  • Features a unique 3-hour workshop session format, in which one half is dedicated to talks by both agricultural service professionals and farmers, and the other to a round table discussion intended to solicit and capitalize on the accumulated knowledge of all the farmers in attendance.
Chris, a regular at the conference for several years, is looking forward to its open format to connect with Maine growers, hear how their growing season went, and learn what they will need for a successful 2013 season.

This year, Johnny's will be raffling off a $100 Gift Certificate at our booth, providing a preview of our 2013 Catalog, and answering your growing questions. Be sure to look for us there, and stop by to say hello!

Get all the Conference Details today.

A look at the venue – Point Lookout in Northport, ME
Find out more at

Friday, October 19, 2012

Johnny's 2012 Common Ground Fair Raffle Winners Announced

2012 Common Ground Country Fair — Raffle Winners

Johnny's Selected Seeds is pleased to announce the following raffle ticket winners from the 2012 Common Ground Fair:
  • Janis Albright of South Portland, Maine won a $100 Gift Certificate
  • Karelyn Closson of Portland, Maine won a $100 Gift Certificate
  • Alan Schultz of Worthington, Massachusetts won a $100 Gift Certificate
  • Johanna Davis and Adam Nordell of Songbird Farm won the High Tunnel raffle. Songbird Farm is a certified organic vegetable and grain farm situated on six acres of fertile bottomland along the Sandy River in Starks, Maine. 

Johanna Davis and Adam Nordell of Songbird Farm

Johnny's 2012 Fryeburg Fair Raffle Winner Announced

2012 Fryeburg Fair — Raffle Winner

Johnny's Selected Seeds is pleased to announce and congratulate the winner of our 2012 Fryeburg Fair Raffle:

Mikaela Ebitz of Bangor, Maine won a $100 Gift Certificate

Johnny's Demo Plot at the 2012 Fryeburg Fair
Johnny's Selected Seeds — 2012 Fryeburg Fair

Jordan Gardens' 2012 Fall Pumpkin Festival

Great Pumpkins !

Owner Wayne Lobley, together with family, friends, and the Jordan Gardens staff in Machias, Maine hosted the Annual Pumpkin Festival on September 15th, 2012, and Johnny's Maine-based Territory Sales Representative, Joy Frost, was on hand at the event as a judge again this year.

The three Pumpkin Growing Contest categories were 'Smallest,' 'Largest,' and 'Best Decorated Pumpkin.' Those eligible to enter the contest were children 12 years and younger (at the time of planting) and living in Washington County, Maine. Johnny's Selected Seeds donated all the pumpkin seeds used to grow entries for the event, and Jordan Gardens provided the planting instructions in April.

This year’s Annual Pumpkin Festival offered hay rides, a donut-eating contest, a pumpkin patch, a maze in Jordan Gardens' hay field, and many more activities and games, such as pumpkin bowling and floral arranging.
Below are some photos of the many great pumpkins grown this year...
The Pumpkin Voted 'Most Creative' by the Judges
A Look at Some of the Great Entries This Year
The Check-in Booth at the Event
Another Line-up of Great Contest Entries
Some of the 'Best Decorated' Pumpkins
The Winner of the 'Smallest Pumpkin' Category
Winners of the 'Largest Pumpkin' Category
(pumpkin weighing in at 90 lb.)
'Best All-Around Pumpkin' Winner
The Crowd — Awaiting the Judges' Declaration of Winners
Learn more about Jordan Gardens >>

Check out Johnny's wide selection of superior pumpkins >>

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

What's New at the Farm

Harvesting Tomatoes for Seed

After a hiatus of several weeks I’m back to writing about what’s new at the farm. The cool and sometimes crisp mornings signal that the end of another growing season is fast approaching. The days are noticeably shorter, and there’s less heat in the sun than there was. On a brighter note, the humidity has dropped off and it’s great working weather.

We started harvesting tomatoes for seed this week, so I thought I’d share some photos of the process:
We’re harvesting Brandywine tomato here. This is about a quarter of an acre in this field; we have another three-quarters of an acre, too. Our “Vine Harvester” is on the right side, hooked up to our Farmall 200. This machine separates the tomato seed and juice from the majority of the pulp. We only use this machine on larger seed productions, as it’s harder to clean than our smaller unit. The first stage of the seed harvest involves picking the tomatoes, filling up all the buckets, and starting up the seed separator.

 As the tomatoes are dumped into the hopper, they are crushed to release the seeds and the juice. Not ground, for we don’t want to damage the seeds, but rather crushed. The crushed fruit are then dumped into the rotating drum, where the separation takes place.

 Once the slurry is collected at the bottom of the machine...

 ... it is placed into barrels to ferment overnight.

 The next morning it looks like this.
The gel coating around the seed has broken down and the seed is ready for sluicing.
The sluice is filled with water and the slurry mixture is added. The good seed sinks to the bottom while the skins, dirt, pulp, and immature seeds float off. Here’s a shot of the good seed waiting to be removed from the sluice.
Once the seed has been taken out of the sluice it goes into one of our seed dryers, and then into our controlled atmosphere storage to await milling. In October, it will be cleaned further and then sent to our warehouse for storage and packaging.

Working for a seed company like we do, we get to see what we call seed-to-seed. We start the seed in the greenhouse, grow the plants, and harvest the seeds from these plants. When we grow these crops again, we’ll use seed that was grown here previously—a full circle, you might say.
Until next time, I’ll be in the field. Enjoy the changing of the seasons

09/17/2012—Albion, Maine

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Johnny's Attends the 2012 Growing Power Conference

Johnny's Maine-based Territory Sales Rep, Ken Fine, recently attended the 2012 National-International Urban & Small Farm Conference in Milwaukee, WI on September 7- 9.
Growing Power first hosted this event in 2010. Nearly 1500 participants gathered at the Milwaukee State Fair to share ideas for building healthy and resilient community-based food systems. The conference was diverse in every sense. It included farmers, aspiring farmers, renewable energy experts, urban planners, corporate executives, politicians, academics, chefs, microbiologists, and people from countless other walks of life. (
Growing Power offered tradeshow participants and attendees tours of their various farm sites throughout the Milwaukee metropolitan area. There were 5 different tours of these facilities, based on specific growing interest.

Ken Fine had a booth set up at the conference, #302, where he offered tradeshow attendees a shot at winning a $100 Johnny’s gift certificate, provided growing advice and spoke about Johnny’s newest products. Ken also presented a workshop on "Strategies for Growing Produce on Any Scale-Session" Saturday, September 8th.
You can learn more about the Growing Power conference at their website >>>
Learn more about the Conference at: Learn more about the Conference at: Learn more about the Conference at: http://www.growingpowerfarmconferenc
The first day at the Growing Power Conference

Trade show participants at the Johnny's booth

Johnny's customers Barry Colley and Patrick Faulkner at the booth

Learn more about the Conference at: Learn more about the Conference at: Learn more about the Conference at: http://www.growingpowerfarmconference.

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Johnny's Attends the 2012 Bejo Seeds Open House

At the beginning of this week, members of Johnny's staff traveled to the 2012 Bejo Seeds Open House and Demonstration Trials in Geneva, NY. Members of our Purchasing Department, Research Department and several of our Territory Sales Representatives attended. Our staff drove the 7+ hours to upstate New York on Monday morning and back to Maine again on Thursday.

At the Open House, Johnny's had a demonstration plot of Basil, Beans, Squash, Tomatoes, Swiss Chard, Melons, Eggplants, and Peppers. In addition to our Demonstration Plot, we had a booth where members of our staff were on hand to answer various questions and catch up with customers. We also had equipment demonstrations of our latest tools and supplies.

See photos below of our booth, the Demonstration Plot, and some of the Johnny's staff interacting with customers and members of the Bejo Seeds company.

A Look at the Demonstration Plots
The Johnny's Booth

A Close-up of our Chard Growing
in the Demonstration Plot

Two of Johnny's Territory Sales Reps,
Amber and Rod, Speaking with Customers

A member of the Canadian Sales Team,
Randy, and Tony of Caltabiano Farms using
Johnny's Quick Hoops™ High Tunnels
Cabbage Trials

Johnny's Territory Sales Rep, Amber, Speaking with
Sandy Arnold of Pleasant Valley Farm

Some of Johnny's Sales and Research team
speaking with members of the Bejo Seeds staff 

Johnny's staff going through the Demonstration Trials