The incredible thing about interviewing Judy Owsowitz is how much she knows. This is true of just about everyone I interview, and I always learn something, but in a way it’s more startling when the topic is one that I actually think I know something about, such as starting seeds and caring for the seedlings.
Judy’s been farming for decades up in the Whitefish area of Montana, not so far from Glacier Park, though a heck of a lot lower. She used to do it with horses, but had to give them up; they’re much more expensive than tractors, she told me. She’s got a certified organic operation where she raises not just vegetables, but herbs, flowers, and edible flowers, and she also collects and and sells the seeds from many of her crops. Finally, she actually develops lines of organic, cool-season crops, including a spinach and several tomatoes.
And if that doesn’t keep her busy enough, she’s involved with the Organic Seed Growers and Trade Association (OSGATA), with the Montana Organic Association (MOA), and she actually helped establish Montana’s organic certification program.
So I suppose I shouldn’t be surprised that she knows so much, and so much more than I do.
Here’s one thing I learned: that it helps to put a little dent in the soil before dropping in a small seed, since the slight compression will help hold water.
And here’s another: that lots of things, including peppers and tomatoes, can be sowed super-densely in flats (Judy calls them the “moma-trays”), then gently transplanted after sprouting their second sets of true leaves.
And another: that it’s important to fill pots almost full, to improve air circulation around seedlings, which helps prevent damping off disease.
And this: That eggplant germination rates vary with the age of the seed, and that bottom heat helps a lot.
So it went. Every time I turned around, verbally speaking, Judy was way out ahead of me, scattering information before and behind, broadcasting it to the winds. I conducted this interview, but I’m going to have to listen to it again at least once to make sure I didn’t miss one of her great tips.
Judy Owsowitz, owner and manager of Terrapin Farm, in Whitefish, MT.
There’s no website, but the facebook page, Terrapin Farm, has some wonderful photos, including the one at the head of this post. And if you’re interested in ordering seeds, you can reach Judy via her e-mail:
Judy Owsowitz <firstname.lastname@example.org>
And don’t forget that she’s got an internship program. Makes me wish I were a lot younger and stronger than I am.