December's Member of the Month

Tom Stearns In this monthly feature, we recognize one of our members as a way to celebrate all the wonderful people who make up the NOFA-VT community. This month we talked to Tom Stearns, Founder & Owner of High Mowing Organic Seeds in Wolcott, Vermont. 

Why are you a NOFA-VT member?
The work that NOFA does and the community NOFA builds is something I want to both be a part of, and contribute to. It’s really meaningful work.

What do you value most about NOFA-VT’s work?
NOFA has been a core part of the ethic of sharing in the Vermont food system community. The broader community of people working in the Vermont food system is deeply collaborative, and that doesn’t just happen. NOFA has held that spirit.

How long have you been a member?
Since 1996.

Do you identify as a…. (eater, gardener, homesteader, farmer, etc.)?
Farmer, business owner.

How have you been involved with NOFA-VT in the last year?
I got reengaged with NOFA as Enid was dying, through a desire to reconnect with her at the end of her life. Having been a board member, long-time friend of Enid’s, and supporter of the organization and its development, I spent some time with Enid in the last month or so of her life, talking about NOFA's future, legacy, her values and wishes for the organization. Through those conversations, I felt compelled to help give some form to, contribute to, and be a part of the Farm Hop and the Enid Fund, in addition to High Mowing sponsoring the conference and doing the seed swap every year.

What's the best garden/farm experiment you did this year?
One failed experiment this year was scaling up a project too quickly. I thought I had learned enough from a small-scale experiment to jump right in to a much larger scale. We went from 100 plants to 12,000 plants of a very tricky seed production, and the big one failed. I should have done an intermediate step. The lesson for me was when things are complicated, it's better to make incremental progress.

Why does organic matter to you?
I don’t see an alternative. It matters to me because the health of our planet is at stake and organic promises with each acre we grow, we help heal the earth as opposed to damaging it. It’s not about decreasing our impact, it’s about changing the impact from negative to positive and that’s what organic is doing.

What's your number one priority for NOFA-VT this year?
To tap into its boldness and courage. To step into the realities that we’re facing. In Vermont right now you could think of that as the dairy crisis, plus climate change and the influence of our crazy national political environment. I want to see NOFA step into that reality eyes wide open and boldly engage.