This spring, Bloomingfoods is again offering a broad selection of seeds from Nature’s Crossroads, a local company providing gardeners in Indiana and surrounding states with organic and Earth-friendly seeds, fertilizers and supplies.
“There’s a lot going on in that name,” said Art Sherwood, co-founder of the company. “Indiana is the crossroads of America, and seeds are in the crossroads between sun and soil -- it fits with our Sustainable Plus mission.” Three tales of the effort to start the company are offered at naturescrossroads.com, and more information about the mission is available here: issuu.com/naturescrossroads/docs/livingourmission.
Employees are all knowledgeable growers, with a history of working to advance the local food economy. Avid vegetable gardeners and experienced farmers Gwen Fluhr (head designer/artist) and Laura Brown-Cano (fundraiser coordinator) created much of the distinctive hand-drawn packaging. Team coordinator Maggie Sullivan received the 2010 Emerging Leader Award from the City of Bloomington Commission on the Status of Women, recognized for her work on the “Growing Healthy Communities” project. Sullivan is a former director of the Local Growers Guild.
Much of Sullivan’s time is now spent managing on-line seed sales and representing Nature’s Crossroads to the public. The company also runs a fund raising program through schools, fostering educational components of its mission at Project School and other locations. “Community seed savers and educators have championed the effort, and Libby Gwynn from Harmony School has helped us research seeds,” Sullivan said. Learn more at the fundraiser site: earthfriendlyseeds.com.
Operations manager Bobbi Boos oversees the time-sensitive task of gathering and packaging seeds in compliance with state regulations and the requirements of organic certification. The job fits well with her seasonal work on LIFE Farm, the organic farm and community supported agriculture (CSA) enterprise started by the families of Sherwood and agronomist Jeff Evard. Like the two of them, Boos was one of the founders of the Local Growers Guild.
On the cold February day that I visited the Nature’s Crossroads office on Walnut Avenue, Boos was hand packaging Chile Head pepper seeds. We checked on flats of tea-soaked seeds, germinating in a small heated room. She is testing to ensure that each meets necessary sprouting ratios.
Sullivan mentioned the fact that the company was profiled in January in Acres USA magazine, a prominent journal for eco-agriculture. “We are getting quite a few orders from people all over the country now, and expanding our retail sales into neighboring states and to other food co-ops,” she said. “But our focus remains on the Midwest, on preserving seeds and offering supplies that we know do well here.
“We are trying to protect and rebuild the local seed supply, locating heirlooms like our Trusty Tomato, and hard-to-find varieties like the Chile Head seeds grown from rare pepper varieties collected by Susan Welsand, the Chile Woman. “The response has been tremendous,” Sullivan said. “We hope Bloomingfoods shoppers will buy our seeds at the co-op, and look to our packaging and website for helpful information. We really like to help people garden!”