Gardens Across America Interview – Ben Cohen

Ben, Anakin, Joseph and his rare corn (Photo courtesy of Ben Cohen)
Ben, Anakin, Joseph and his rare corn (Photo courtesy of Ben Cohen)

This is the secound in my series of interviews with participants in the Gardens Across American program. Today I am talking with Ben Cohen of Small House Farm. Ben is known for producing small batch fresh pressed oils (sunflower, hemp seed, sesame, etc). Read more about his oils in an interview conducted by Detroit Metro Times.

a Small House garden(Photo courtesy of Ben Cohen)
a Small House garden(Photo courtesy of Ben Cohen)

Here is my e-mail interview I recently conducted with Ben.

1. How did you first hear about Gardens Across America?
We first discovered GAA through a post on the Baker Creek Facebook page. We were very interested in participating and sent them an email to inquire.. Imagine our surprise when Joseph Simcox himself replied to accept us into the project!

2. Why do you think this project is important?
For a multitude of reasons. The best seed bank is in the ground.. By creating a network of growers across the country, we all work together to maintain and multiply a diverse collection of rare specimens. At the same time, GAA is building a community of like minded individuals.. bringing us together with a common goal of self realiance and a desire to do our part to maintain the history and genetic diversity of these seeds.

Anakin and his beans (photo courtesy of Ben Cohen)
Anakin and his beans (photo courtesy of Ben Cohen)

3. What is your favorite seed you have grown out so far?
We might be a little biased. Last year Joseph stopped by our house for a visit and to bring us our seeds for the year.. He also brought us a special gift! The day of Joe’s visit also happened to be my youngest son Anakin’s  first birthday.. Joe had brought with him a rare bean he had acquired in a village called Kavillii in the country of Georgia…the bean had no name. In honor of my son’s birthday, Joseph named it Anakin Kavillii Giant. We’ve grown a number of rare and beautiful beans for Joseph and GAA, but Anakin Kavillii Giant is certainly a family favorite!

Anakin Beans (Photo courtesy of Ben Cohen)
Anakin Beans (Photo courtesy of Ben Cohen)

4. What has been your biggest challenges in this process?
One of the most challenging parts of growing anything is the unpredictable weather. Last year was quite wet at times and we got some very heavy rains… Which is not something you want when you’re drying bean seed out  in the field! Some of the varieties we have grown out from only 4 or 5 seeds..and we take our work very seriously.. Having the weather potentially spoil a harvest can surely be a challenge.

Final Thougts
My favorite part of this whole thing is that Ben’s son got a variety of bean named after him. How sweet is that! Who knows how far that name will be carried now as more people grow out this bean and pass it on.

I also admire how serious Ben takes this work (it may be fun, but definitely work). When you are given the care over even a small amount of a rare seed there comes a responsibility to treat those seeds like the rare jewels they are – and put the effort into increasing their supply. That first year with only 4 or 5 seeds you have to focus on just growing more seeds without really being able to enjoy the fruits of your labor until you can built up a greater supply. That takes a lot of patience.

If you enjoyed this interview, make sure to sign up for the pea project e-mail newsletter, and you will be notified via your inbox when I have more interview available (along with all the updates from my personal garden this year).

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1 Comment

  1. Great interview Ben and Eric, Thanks for writing this up. It should inspire others to think about growing rare seeds!

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