— Liz Kammeyer, High Rocks AmeriCorps Member, Hillsboro, WV

Here at High Rocks, we are in our eighth year as a Grow Appalachia site.  Can you believe it?  We hardly can!  But that doesn’t mean we aren’t always looking for ways to refine and improve our program — in fact, that’s a big part of how we’ve managed to keep going all these years!

This year for our Garden Planting workshop, we wanted to revisit the way that we order and distribute seeds for our gardeners.  Specifically, we wanted to find a way to save money while still making sure that everyone got what they needed, as efficiently as possible.  And what’s a good way to do that?  To order seeds in bulk!  So several spreadsheets, many measuring spoons, and two energy-filled workshops later, we feel that we’ve come up with a pretty good system.

Because we were going to be ordering larger quantities of each type of seed, we first created a list of the crops that were most requested by our gardeners, and then a specific variety for each of those crops.  Next, we figured out how many feet of growing space each crop would need in order to feed a number of people.  This let our gardeners easily decide how much of each crop they would need to plant by taking into account how many they have in their family.

Seed order form

Once all of our gardeners had filled out their seed orders, we put all of that data into a spreadsheet that calculated just how much of each seed we needed to order.

Seed weight calculator

Then all it came down to was placing our order on Fedco‘s website and waiting for that magical day when a big box of seeds arrives at the front door!

Next we needed to figure out how we were going to accurately distribute the right amount of each type of seed to each gardener.  We have lots of measuring cups and spoons on hand here at High Rocks, so we created another spreadsheet that figured out which would best measure one person’s worth of seeds for each crop.  For an average size garden you might need a teaspoon of cabbage seeds and 2 cups of bean seeds.

Measurement calculator

Then, referring back to gardeners’ order sheets, we figured out how many scoops of each seed everyone needed and gave them a note card with their list. Then came the fun part!  At our Garden Planting workshop, we set up seed stations around the room (accompanied by an abundance of measuring spoons, of course!) and let the gardeners measure out their seeds into blank seed packets which we also ordered from Fedco.  We used our spreadsheet to merge and print labels with the crop and variety names, days to maturity, and year (2018) for them to stick on their envelopes.

Filling up on seeds!

We were also delightfully surprised to be donated a huge smattering of seeds from Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds which our gardeners also selected from!

Seed packets from Baker Creek

We are really pleased with how this first-time system worked for us, and are definitely excited to replicate (and improve upon!) it next year!  If you have any questions, or would like to know more details about the spreadsheets, etc., please don’t hesitate to email us at growappalachia@highrocks.org 🙂