Favorite things from the farmers and gardeners at Johnny’s Seeds

How could any beginning farmer go into a company like Johnny’s Selected Seeds, find themselves surrounded by a spectrum of farmers and gardeners and not want to pick their brains for useful bits of information? I already knew what I wanted to ask when I finally bucked up the nerve to approach colleagues at work for this series of articles. And it began with their favorite things; so get a cup of coffee or tea and take a break and read what the farmers and gardeners at Johnny’s had to say!Favorite Things FI

Chance Gonyer ─ Seasonal Call Center representative; farms at Collective Roots Farm in Cornville, Maine.

What is your favorite crop/critter to grow/raise? Why?

comb tooth mushroom by collective roots farm

Hericium americanum, aka-Comb-tooth mushroom. Grown by Collective Roots Farm.

Mushrooms. They’ve taken such a different evolutionary path than the rest of us: they feed on decay and can handle some extreme conditions; they’re amazing and good for you─filled with micro-nutrients and they taste great!

What is your favorite or go-to tool? Why?

The scythe. It’s fun to use, it’s an art form, and it doesn’t rely on fossil fuels.

Kamala Hahn ─ Call Center representative; farms at Buttermilk Hill Farm in Belgrade, Maine.

What is your favorite crop/critter to grow/raise? Why?

Asian greens. They’re dead easy to grow and keep on producing, offering a huge bang for the buck. They’re versatile; you can use baby leaf in salads, stir-fry larger greens and ferment the end of season stuff.

pigs on pasture

Pigs on pasture at Buttermilk Hill Farm in Belgrade, Maine. Photo credit: Kamala Hahn.

My favorite critter to raise is the pig. They break sod, get rid of perennial weeds like raspberry canes and Virginia creeper. They provide a lot of entertainment, are sweet, clean and affectionate. They also are delicious.

What is your favorite or go-to tool? Why?

A good knife. Harvest, pry, cut baling sting for any number of projects, cut away random burdock. Yup a good knife.

Ken Hahn ─ Seasonal Call Center representative; farms at Buttermilk Hill Farm in Belgrade, Maine.

What is your favorite crop/critter to grow/raise? Why?

favorite critters to raise from the employees at johnny's seeds

Chickens on pasture at Buttermilk Hill Farm. Photo credit: Ken Hahn.

That’s a hard question to answer. One of the things I love about our method of farming is the diversity of the operation. We often have a wide range of animals and plants growing and I see each of those species as filling a niche in the system, which otherwise, would go unfilled. So many animals and plants are useful in so many ways it’s hard to pick. So really, my answer will change depending on the day you ask me. Lately, I have been thinking about ways to leverage my chickens on the farm to help us improve some of our perennial and grazing systems.What’s great about chickens is they have so many uses and those uses result directly in a wide range of yields. If we just think about chickens as yielding a couple of commercially viable products (say eggs and meat) then really they are a losing proposition. But, the way I see it chickens give us that plus high quality – bio active – nitrogen, pest control – they eat bugs by the thousands and mice too, function as a garbage disposal – our chickens eat all of our food scraps, they help make good quality compost, and are entertaining to watch.

What is your favorite or go-to tool? Why?

My Scythe. I love it for a lot of reasons: it’s hand made, it can be fixed by hand, and it doesn’t produce fumes. The scythe makes a beautiful sound when used correctly, gives the user immediate feedback on their technique and it turns mowing in to a meditative, centering job.

Erin Reardon ─ Contact Center and Scheduling Lead; avid gardener.

What is your favorite crop/critter to grow/raise? Why?

My favorite crop to grow I think would be pumpkins. I like to watch the vines wander through their paths and as I watch the pumpkins grow and change colors I am always reminded of Linus from Charlie Brown waiting for the Great Pumpkin to appear. Each year my husband and I will harvest the pumpkins, process them and freeze a portion of the meat for pies and breads for the holidays and the rest we make into Pumpkin Butter.

As far as critters it would be my Chickie Babies! I love chickens. When I was younger I never wanted to have anything to do with them and thought they were nasty creatures. We were given six a few years ago and I was instantly hooked. My mom was still living at the time and I can remember her saying “well, we’ll never go hungry!” I love to watch them wander around scratching for insects and other great treasures. My chickies knew they were loved. Each day when I would pull into the drive they would come running to me from wherever they were and it was almost like children running and saying “mama’s home! Mama’s home!”. I know that people say that you should not get attached to your livestock but I do, they are a part of the family and in return they give me beautiful fresh eggs and hours of laughter.

What is your favorite or go-to tool? Why?

I’m not really a tool person….but I guess it would be Agribon as it can be used for so many things.

Brittany Iafrate ─ Contact Center Night Lead; avid gardener.

What is your favorite crop/critter to grow/raise? Why?

Tomatoes. I like that they’re so needy and that I can trellis them.

What is your favorite or go-to tool? Why?

bachi gataI love this Bachi Gata- it is a short handle tool that is great for breaking up soil, but I love it most for transplanting! It is great for striking into the soil, pulling it back, and then just popping that seedling in!

This is where I bought mine.

Bernadette Heyse ─ Call Center Representative; avid gardener

What is your favorite crop/critter to grow/raise? Why?

My favorite crops  to raise are greens ─ beet greens, greens mix, lettuce mix, and swiss chard. I love growing different colors, types and textures for salads.

What is your favorite or go-to tool? Why?

I have to say my favorite tool has to be my square shovel as I would be lost without it.

Jason Albert ─ Call Center Representative; works part-time farming at Moss Flower Farm in Sangerville, Maine.

What is your favorite crop/critter to grow/raise? Why?

Garlic. It’s the most rewarding and profitable crop; but if I’m growing just for fun I’d have to say tomatoes and peppers because they’re my favorite thing to eat. Lettuce would be my least favorite thing to grow because it’s a struggle every year.

Tractor. It eliminates labor and saves me work; I can do anything with a tractor-except weed.

Sarah Ingalls ─ Seasonal Call Center Representative; avid gardener.

What is your favorite crop/critter to grow/raise? Why?

Sunflowers. There’s a huge variety to choose from, they’re easy to grow and they’re beautiful.

What is your favorite or go-to tool? Why?

Stirrup hoe. It’s super effective and easy to use.

Paul Gallione ─ Johnny’s Information Specialist; farms at Moosehead Trail Farm in Waldo, Maine.

What is your favorite crop/critter to grow/raise? Why?

Tomatoes as there are many types and flavors, along with it being a great commercial crop.

What is your favorite or go-to tool? Why?

I always find myself with a colinear hoe during the growing season. I find it to be one of the most effective weeding tools around. I am looking forward to the Tine Weeder for post-sowing blind cultivation especially in sweet corn.

Me! Samantha Burns ─ Seasonal Call Center Representative; farms at Runamuk Acres Farm & Apiary in Starks, Maine.

What is your favorite crop/critter to grow/raise? Why?

My favorite crop is a tie between greens and squashes. I love a variety of greens─greens for salads, greens to put in sandwiches or on a burger, greens for braising. I like the different colors and textures and flavors. I like that I can start them early in the season, can grow them late into the fall and keep them into the winter in my mini hoop-house. But squashes are immensely satisfying to grow too because you get these big, beautiful leafy green plants that just sprawl through the garden; I tend to allow my squash plants free reign and I’m just mindful of their vines as I move around the garden. There are a wide variety of squashes to choose from─summer squashes and winter squashes. The winter squashes are an invaluable storage crop because their fruit tends to keep late into the winter and in some cases, even into the spring. And I love the different textures and flavors of the squash flesh, so delicious!

favorite critter to raise

Honeybees at Runamuk Acres Farm & Apiary. Photo credit: Samantha Burns

My favorite critter to raise is, of course, the honeybee. They’re beautiful, industrious, and vital to almost any ecosystem. It’s a joyful thing to open a beehive to see those fuzzy little bodies come boiling up from within the frames of the hive─a wonderful assault to the senses to smell the intoxicating scent of honey and beeswax, to be surrounded by the sound of thousands of buzzing bees. I love to see what they’ve been doing…building fresh white combs? laying eggs or feeding up larvae to become new worker bees? making honey? How they fascinate me!

What is your favorite or go-to tool? Why?

My favorite tool is going to depend on the job at hand. Much like Kamala, I always have a good knife on hand; I feel lost without it. In the garden though, my favorite tool is the stirrup hoe, because, as Sarah said, it’s super effective, quick and easy. But in the apiary my favorite tool is my silver hivetool. It’s got a flat edge on one side, which works great for prying frames apart or scraping burr comb, and on the other end a j-hook that I can slide down between frames to hook under them and lift them up so that I can grab hold and pull it up out of the box. I’ve tried a couple of other hivetools of varying design, but this one is the one I prefer.

Just a few of our favorite things

call center reps at johnny's selected seeds

Here I am with another seasonal Call Center representative, Chance Gonyer who farms at Collective Roots Farm in Cornville, Maine.

The Johnny’s Seeds company is comprised largely of farmers and gardeners, homesteaders and diy-gurus of all ages and walks of life. I was only able to “harass” a handful of co-workers in the call center for these articles. My friends and colleagues there have been good sports about my writing obsession and this weird need to document life, and I am grateful for that. Next week’s article is about resources the farmers and gardeners at Johnny’s have found most helpful along their respective journeys. I know that all of my colleagues are happy to be able to help new gardeners and beginning farmers, so stay tuned folks!

Share your thoughts, comments or questions!