Field Diaries - Shawn (October 5, 2017)

It has been quite a busy 3 weeks for me with the Southwest Seed Partnership. We were in Taos for a few days for the Native Plant Society of New Mexico annual meeting. A few of us drove down to Clovis, NM and Muleshoe, TX for a couple days to visit Curtis & Curtis Seed & Supply, and their friendly competitors Bamert Seed Company across the border in Texas. Just a few short hours at home after that trip, we loaded up and headed down to the Gila River Festival in Silver City. To cap all of that off, I extended my travels to Patagonia, AZ to visit friends and collaborators at Borderlands Restoration.

Travel may sound like fun, but this was a lot of work! In total, we covered over 1,650 miles in two weeks, met with partners in 3 states, held a workshop, and got to mingle with dozens of fellow plant lovers. This is a grassroots campaign that requires significant effort from all involved to sow the seeds of success to build a better way to implement restoration activities in the southwest (and there goes my budgeted amount of metaphors for these blog posts).

The Native Plant Society meeting was inspiring and educational. The theme of the entire meeting was SEEDS! Needless to say, we were very involved. We and our partners gave presentations, participated in the poster session, we hosted a seed collecting workshop, and we advertised at a table during the course of the conference. Set at the Ft. Burgwin campus of the Southern Methodist University, it was a relaxed atmosphere that encouraged contemplation over the value and importance of seed. We really enjoyed the meeting, and I hope people got as much from our participation in the meeting as we got from interacting with them.

The trip to the High Plains was really exciting. We probably got to see more than most people would, but that assumes that other people get excited to tour seed production facilities. But given that we're in the early stages of the blog here, and if you're reading this, you're probably just as big of a plant nerd as we are, then you probably get my drift. We've been so dialed into seed collection (by hand), that this was an excellent opportunity to see the next step in the Southwest Seed Partnership: putting our seed into production. I should clarify - neither Curtis & Curtis, nor Bamert are putting our seed into production yet. But we got to tour their facilities to see how they take seed, put it into production, and harvest seed that would go into restoration marketplaces. They are working with quantities of seed that dwarf our bags of hand collected seed. But working with Blake, Mark, Brett, and Rhett gives us optimism that they can help to scale up our operations to service the southwest, and provide more locally-adapted seed to restoration projects across Arizona and New Mexico.

The Gila River Festival provided a fun opportunity to experience the cultural delight that is Silver City. The festival organizers allowed us to host a table at the main seminar venue, so we were able to talk to folks from around the country who came to celebrate the Gila River. So many people were excited about our Forest Bound curriculum, and our efforts to collect and produce milkweed to support pollinators. It was a rejuvenating experience after spending so many days on the road at that point.

The last stop on my min-odyssey was a trip to Patagonia, where I was reminded of the beauty of southern Arizona. On the way down highway 83, I even got to take a glimpse from the road of my masters research project site. If you haven't been to Patagonia, or seen the Borderlands Restoration facilities, you're really missing out. The whole team, but Francesca and Allegra in particular, have really created something special down there. The seed lab at the old Patagonia Elementary school, the nursery, the production fields - it's all so encouraging!

I know I only briefly touched on events that deserve more thorough reflections, but I don't want to spoil upcoming entries from new contributors. Stay tuned!