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Seasonal Transitions & Extended Volunteer Opportunities at the Seed Barn

Sow, grow, harvest, plow. Although Borderlands Nursery & Seed, Borderlands Restoration Network's native plant program doesn’t exactly follow these agricultural cycles, each year does indeed have a rhythm at the farm, and our activities are informed by the natural cycles of the landscape around us. As we begin the New Year, we are entering the seed cleaning season, which is one dominated by repetitive, meditative activities as we begin to process everything from the harvest season and take stock of what needs tending at the nursery in order to support robust growth in the spring. This season is marked by internal reflection and a slowing down of our usual busy bee energy as we take stock of all that we accomplished in the last year and prepare ourselves for what's to come. 


Education Support Coordinator, Grace McGuire, harvests seeds of Burroweed at the Borderlands Wildlife Preserve.
Education Support Coordinator, Grace McGuire, harvests seeds of Burroweed at the Borderlands Wildlife Preserve.

This winter the program has much to be proud of, including an incredibly successful harvest season. With a team made up primarily of BRN staff from the native plant, watershed restoration, and education programs, we harvested over 565 lbs of bulk seed from our farmed seed increaser plot and from wild populations during the fall collection season. After expanding the number of species and plants in the seed production plot at the farm this past summer with the Borderlands Earth Care Youth youth interns, we were able to harvest more than twice as much seed as we did in the fall of 2022. We also harvested more than twice the amount of seed as 2022 from the wild, in spite of the poor monsoon rains, by adjusting our target species list to focus on the species with abundant seed sets and getting the harvest timing just right. 


The seed collection crew prepares to harvest seeds of Sotol near the San Rafael Valley.
The seed collection crew prepares to harvest seeds of Sotol near the San Rafael Valley.

The fall harvest of locally adapted, genetically diverse seed will provide source material for numerous restoration projects, including our multiyear project with the US Forest Service to revegetate Mansfield Canyon following mine reclamation efforts, contribute to the Joint Chiefs’ Landscape Restoration Partnership project, which will mitigate erosion and restore native plant communities on Coronado National Forest lands within the Fort Huachuca Sentinel Landscape, and work with the Arizona Land and Water Trust’s Emerson Ranch project which will improve watershed and habitat health on the private ranch that is protected in perpetuity with a conservation easement. 


Seeds of San Pedro Matchweed being separated from chaff (non-seed vegetative material, like stems, leaves, and flower parts).
Seeds of San Pedro Matchweed being separated from chaff (non-seed vegetative material, like stems, leaves, and flower parts).

The start of our seed cleaning season also aligns with the return of seed lab volunteer days! Volunteer days at the seed barn will begin Monday, January 8, 9 am-noon, and the native plant program will be extending this volunteer opportunity in 2024 to be a year-round endeavor that will include more seed-related activities in addition to seed cleaning, such as germination testing, seed sowing, dormancy breaking, and seed pelletizing. We love spending time with our regular Monday volunteers and are looking forward to diversifying the type of activities offered to follow our seasonal cycles and make the experience more dynamic and educational. All are welcome! Visit our website for details and to sign up.


The fabulous group of seed cleaning volunteers at the BN&S barn in early 2023.
The fabulous group of seed cleaning volunteers at the BN&S barn in early 2023.

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