When it comes to building a resilient food system, organic farmers are the architects of the foundation, which is the healthy soil in which our food is grown. And if organic soil is the foundation, then regionally-adapted seeds are the pillars.
In 2022, we launched the Happy Dirt Seed Story Project to raise awareness of the importance of regionally-adapted crops. Growing regionally-adapted crops creates resilience as the climate continues to shift and extreme weather becomes more unpredictable. Since we are located in North Carolina, we are focused on crops adapted for the Southeast.
For our first Happy Dirt Seed Story, two of our North Carolina growers trialed Comfort Farms’ Motherland okra seed. Jon Jackson, founder of Comfort Farms, introduced this variety of okra, which is from West Africa, to the Southeast. For 2023, we’re partnering with Common Wealth Seed Growers and Wild Hope Farm to trial the South Anna butternut squash.
about south anna butternut squash
South Anna is a downy-mildew resistant butternut squash, developed from a cross between Seminole pumpkin and Waltham butternut squash. Edmund Frost, of Common Wealth Seed Growers, made the cross in 2011. He continues to intensively select for downy-mildew resistance, productivity, eating quality, brix, dry matter, keeping quality, and shape.
Wild Hope Farm is excited to grow South Anna butternut squash for Happy Dirt this summer. As a certified organic farm, Wild Hope uses practices that are at the core of Happy Dirt’s values. The farm takes care of the soil while growing nutritious food for their community. Wild Hope Farm is planting South Anna butternut squash into an organic, no-till plot and directly into a roller-crimped rye and clover cover crop. This cover crop will suppress weeds, help with water retention, and supply nutrients to the butternut squash. The cover crop will also build more organic matter within the soil.
Along with sharing the reason for regionally-adapted seeds, we also want to lift up the importance of open-pollinated varieties. Open-pollinated varieties allow growers to save seeds and select the traits that work best in their context without the fear of retaliation of saving patented seed. You can learn more about the Open Source Seed Initiative at osseeds.org.
South Anna butternut squash should be available at the beginning of September, so look out for updates throughout the season! If you’re interested in supporting this new, unique variety of butternut squash, let the Happy Dirt sales team know. If you are a wholesale buyer and don’t receive the Happy Dirt Field Notes newsletter, we’ll sign you up. And if you are simply interested in learning more about organic farms and what’s in season, you can sign up for the Happy Dirt Field Notes newsletter as well!