235. Seed Saving – Seed Libraries | Small House Farm | Ben Cohen | Central Michigan

So one of my listeners Alan Denko said you gotta interview this guy Ben, he just moved to where you are, and I sent you an email and here we are talking already! I’m a big hemp seed girl! 

Are you thinking of you starting a podcast?

No, I’m too busy. Do you know where your listener heard me speak?

At a seed library event in Michigan.


Small House Farm

Tell us a little about yourself.

I’m in Central Michigan, my wife and two children we call Small House Farm an effort in sustainable living

attempt to grow the majority of our won food

keep our pigs etc

we do a lot of growing our own food

seed crops here

my 9-5 cold press seed and nut oil


herbal wellness products

Across from 1100 acres of forest

Do a lot of education


there’s a heave focus on heriloom seed saving

Michigan seed saving

45 seed saving libraries

I was just taking pictures of birds on our bird feeder. My listeners know I’m interested in growing enough seeds for my bird feeders.

our farm

total property is about 3.5 acres

don’t grow our hemp seeds here

Hemp production is not something that is happening here in Michigan yet

organic farm in Canada

15-1800 pounds a month, hemp seed

It’s Canadian grown.

Are you close to Canada. We’re about 15 miles from the border.

We’re right on the border here in Michigan


I wouldn’t say they’re super expensive

we bring in the seeds

Cold press the oil on site

mill the seed cake into a hemp powder

People use that as a

  • supplement
  • gluten free baking
  • I feed the animals

That’s why I get so frustrated, everyone always says put hemp protein in your smoothie or use hemp seed oil and Mike can’t grow it and its sooooo expensive. You’re importing them. What’s your cold press like, is it a commercial machine?

I got a hand turned oil press, anyone can do it at home. 

Piteba Oil Press https://amzn.to/2LaJmxW

I got a Piteba hand turned oil press.

 It’s got a little kerosene lamp  for heat

It’s hand turned, I joked it’s Ben powered

very first round


I pressed 6-8 bottles of sun flower oil and took them to the farmer’s market just to test the water with it, it went really well!

people really responded well

  • local
  • freshness of the oil
  • pressed that week

You can’t get it at the grocery store!

our sunflowers are grown here in michigan

dont have the space to

source locally

Michigan pumpkin seeds

proven to be the best option to bring it in from Canada

working out those details

relatively new thing here in America

The regulations aren’t in place to allow commerce from state to state that we’re looking for.

Tell me about your first gardening experience?

That’s a good question. I’m from Michigan. I was born and raised within 50 miles of where I live right now. 

When I was a kid we lived in an apartment. I’d have a flower pot type of thing out  on the balcony that I grew radishes in I was always planting seeds even when I was little. I didn’t grow up on farm. 

Ben cohen Small House Farm Dad

transitional phase

definitely a change in my life. Having kids, made that more significant to raise a family and be responsible for other lives. I live right close to where I grew up.

For me, the story I like to tell is not really my first gardening experience but my first time I ever saved seeds. That’s the story I like to share.

Well let’s here that! My listeners are really interested in saving seeds.

We all should be.

Chippewa Nature Center Seed Saving

I was in Midland in the Chippewa Nature Center, is a wonderful place! 

  • 1200 acre nature preserve
  • beautfiul place
  • they have an old homestead farm – it’s a Re-enactment of what life was like in the 1800s
  • old school house
  • sugar shack
  • heirloom and things


introduction talking to the garden manager there

One day he  reaches into a bean pole and says Ben, take these seeds home and share in your friends! That moment in time changed my life! Sometimes you don’t realize how significant things are but that had such an impact on me. 

I spend most of my time talking to people about the importance of seeds.

Bill McDorman came on and talked about how the people who save our seeds are having the biggest impact on climate change and saving our planet. How essential it is.

It’s essential, without seeds  we would have no food.

Heirloom seeds right?

something we talk a lot about helping people understand the difference between

  • open pollinated
  • and say a high bred

vegetables we get at the grocery store, they have great improvements

When it comes to saving seeds

those seeds wont come true

you oddest really know what your gonna get second season

  • open pollinated has been the focus of the movement
  • old heirloom varieties
  • part of history
  • so many reasons to saving your seeds

How did you learn how to garden organically, was that from the guy at the Heritage Farm?

I didn’t learn any specific gardening skills from him, he kind of lit the fire in me to learn more about saving seeds is what impact Rod Maxwell had. 

I think you should think about starting a podcast… just to plant a seed, the seed starting podcast.

Through that its had on some many

gardening organically

to me it’s obvious there is no other option

is this the way

  • is this the choice that I want to make
  • there is no other option
  • for my family
  • community
  • no second choice
  • the way we always have done it

has always

I’m always asking people wanna be on my show? I just always assume everyone’s organic because I just can’t imagine any other way.

consumer point of view

make sure that the food that I purchase is locally grown

I can get my food locally grown, grown with organic methods

I know the actual practice on the farm is that they are following the standards I want to

meet the farmer

see how their growing the food in the field

with then the label or certification

I’m surprised that people I know say that’s just a fancy price tag people are putting in the stores. Surely I can’t afford to buy organic all the time or even most of the time, I have to buy conventional groceries it would be nice to shop from the farmer’s market more. I’m always surprised that people don’t realize that the food today is grown different then when we were growing up

the more people that I speak with that I think is commonly accepted knowledge I’m surprised that it’s new.

do find that a lot people don’t know, when I go share my ideas I take for granted people know, who are people are interested in gardening

  • a lot of education
  • share ideas
  • in a constant state of growth
  • can never make assumptions
  • we just have to all learn together


Tell us about something that grew well this year.

Here’s a fun story about something that grew well

last year i was in Midland county

historic flooding in mid June

majoirty of gardens well planted along the way

peppers already out there

Robert's Royalty Beans Small House Farm

Robert’s Royalty beans

purple potted bush bean

  • 100 ‘ row
  • well established
  • historic flood

pretty much we lost everything

standing water, up to my knees in places

pump out of field! So much water. A few days go by, we get the water pumped out

Out of the 100’ row of beans, these beans were submerged.

15’ section bounced back! They produced handfuls of arm loads of beans! Just that section. The rest of row died!

As a seedsaver! 

  • things that can adapt
  • valuable seeds
  • challenges that I had
  • opportunities to collect very great seed collected

maybe somethings in there is gonna help out we need to be prepared for that.

That’s a huge thing we talk about is resiliency, a woman wrote a book about it that I saw at the AERO conference. Joyce Pinson who I interviewed a few years ago down in Appallacia, they also got totally flooded out last year, their pictures were so sad. Taht’s alot of loss you had still 15 feet out of a 100 feet.

  • pattern that’s
  • well you know if I was a market farmer that would have been a devastating loss
  • to only have 15%
  • point of view of growing the seeds
  • adversity involved
  • definitely

Joyce Pinson is a friend of mine, I know her quite well

I’m headed down to a seed swap

They organize down in Pikes Ville

incredible seeds swaps in the nation

I sent her some squash seed so they could do some replanting. That’s a great example of all of us getting together, it was great that we could send her some squash to replant.

Do you want to talk about saving seed, that business model.

we certainly could

talking about gardeners


listen to we should talk about if they’re not already incorporating seed saving into their routine

economic benefits where you don’t have to purchase

adaptability – climate issues, pest issues you will definitely have more resilient crops from the

historical preservaion


When I met Joyce down in Kentucky

saving seeds passing them down

hundreds of years

We always have grandmas heirlooms, knick knacks and photos, but when you get the tomatoes that’s just such a  special thing

every organic

offer some seeds online on our website

selection of unique seeds that we grow here on our homestead. I’m not gonna pay my mortgage growing seeds.

share interesting seeds with folks

seed sales at events

  • really work
  • community seed sharing programs
  • give away so much seed
  • donate in programs
  • libraries
  • here in Michigan
  • 45 seed libraries
  • only 500 in the whole country to have this many right in Michigan


Robin Kelson Good Seed Company

I didn’t know what it was til Robin Kelson talked about them.

absolutely right

just like a library

encourage folks from

give them the reason to start using the

grow some fresh produce

try to educate them to save those seeds to bring back to repopulate the seed library just like you bring books and repopulate the seeds for your community.

It’s not like a book where you borrow one book, bring one book back, with seeds, its like you get 100s of seeds from one tomato or flower or melon or cucumber.

next year

exponential it’s

each melon is gonna have a couple of seeds i

enough seeds to repopulate your seeds to grow a whole field of melons the next year.

the way seeds multiply themselves


I can’t believe how ignorant we were I would just always go to the store and buy new seeds, I never knew it was even a thing.

We are taught to think to buy things every year, definitely part of the conditioning of  our society

traditional, lifetimes, generations

This concept of purchasing seeds every year is relatively knew but at least there’s a pushback to that.

we can produce all of our seeds!

Is there something you would do different next year or want to try/new?

one thing I’m really excited about is this book I’m working on, I do a lot of traveling and talk to a lot of seed savers and there’s wonderful stories that come with these seeds.

Met some inspiring people! Collecting these and put together in a book. Hoping it’s ready to release this fall of 2018!

I get so excited when people share their story and I love to get it down on paper.

What’s your book called?

We’re still working on a title.

From Our Seeds And Our Keepers a Collection of Stories is what we’re thinking now.

Ben Cohen From Our Seeds and Their Keepers

I always encourage listeners to leave a review if they like it! That sounds like it’s gonna be an awesome book. Saving seeds is pretty easy but there are some things you have to know.

It’s one of those things where it was inherently natural, I think saving seeds was part of preparing a meal should be included in a cookbook.

pumpkin pie

way that we think about things

reteach our selves and relearn

some technical skills


cleanning wet seeds

compare it to riding a bike, it’s a subconscious barrier you have to break down, almost inside of you and you just have to reawaken it, it’s natural.

My kids at school always laugh at me, I say I’m born without out 2 senses, a sense of humor  – I hardly ever laugh and I have no common sense – but I’m pretty teachable –  you have to teach me everything~

a lot of programs in the fall where you can learn how to save seeds

  • power point type of things with a photo
  • do it live and in person together
  • scoop the seeds
  • handson

people can

  • see it
  • hear it
  • do it themselves

skills to save your seeds

happy and successful

but it’s something everybody can do it! No reason not to at least try.

Tell me about something that didn’t work so well this season.

WE’ll come back to that Flood

not everything faired as well as those beans were a happy accident


I grew some anasazi squash

SW Utah

big winter squash

beautiful squash

I was excited to grow those again this year, but something again lost in the flood

terrible weather really set us back on a lot of different things

so many things that you have control over and things you don’t

mother nature gets the best of you! Can be tough, we worked extra hard on weeding those rows that year

take what you can

accept even the challenges mother nature gives you

Kate Erickson came up with this saying “Gratitude is the first seed of abundance”

Before We Get To The Root Of Things Let’s Thank Our Sponsors and Affiliate Links!

Good Seed Company Seeds

Good Seed Company


Seed Voyage ~ connecting Growers with Eaters

Let’s Get To The Root of Things!

Which activity is your least favorite activity to do in the garden.

  • cleaning the chicken coop
  • chickens do a lot of great inputs


What is your favorite activity to do in the garden?

Harvest stuff

fruits of our labor

I love to see my kids out there to enjoy the proces

shear joy children can bring to the garden

always a lot of fun to have the kids out there!

And they love it, I feel like some of the only time we see the grandkids is to come pick carrots or something in the garden.

What is the best gardening advice you have ever received?

Be patient

To slow down like mother nature does

  • Sometimes I get a little anxious. People tell me, look at how slow a plant grows
  • don’t over think it
  • don’t stress
  • go at their own pace
  • Sometimes I just stop
  • look up and appreciate

April 2, 2018 ~ snow in Montana!

I know my husband is just chomping at the bit, but we woke up to like 6 inches of snow this morning (April 2, 2018), last year and so many years we have things in the ground by now. I know usually I think he is so patient.

A favorite tool that you like to use? If you had to move and could only take one tool with you what would it be.

bare hands

they definitely seem to be the most versatile tools I have and I love digging in the dirt. 

What are your beds like? Do you have raised beds?

  • we have some that are open ground
  • raised beds
  • edible landscaping
  • hoop houses
  • little bit of this and that

What is your temp like there? What zone are you in? Are we the same zone? I think we are 4B

I’m 5b

We have supposedly a big storm tonight

North of me they’re gonna get a foot of snow

Looks like we’re gonna skate out with some icy rain

winter has been sticking around  little long

I’m gonna say for sure we had planted peas by this time last year.

have not started

He just plasticed our porch in, which he usually does in Feb, and he ended up bringing the plants in anyway because it’s too much to heat with the wood stove this year. Good thing he didn’t do as much as he has in other years.

Yep patience.

Yes, I think he will still get a good season and it’s reminding him don’t put things in too early.

Trust in Mother Nature.

A favorite recipe you like to cook from the garden?

Now you’re gonna put me on the spot, my wife is far better cook.

I like to eat everything she cooks!

One thing I do enjoy if we are gonna talk about gardening

eating my weeds

so many handy weeds that grow in my food that do 

  • purslane
  • lambs-quarter
  • chickweed
  • plantain
  • wood sorrel

lambs quarter cut it and bring it in and put it in a vase so we remember it’s there, 

pick leaves off it

that’s it! I put it in eggs

I want to describe it like a tender spinach.

A lot of people describe it like a wild spinach


tender soft spinach

  • kina podium alum
  • kina podium quinoa

Lots of people like to buy the quinoa seeds in the health food store

closely related

Can you eat the seeds like rice?

similar to how you use rice

  • kina podium quinoa grows a tighter head

lambs quarter is a little more sparse

take the time to harvest

lambs quarter with a nice tight seed head theres a million dollar idea

find somebody that wants to do that, they’ll never work again.

That’s what I was thinking because it grows everywhere

Yeah, and it takes no inputs

don’t have to water it

completely adapted to this environment

It tastes really good, I like lambsquarter a lot! 

A favorite internet resource?

my internet is pretty shabby so I’m gonna say Organic Gardener Podcast!

A favorite reading material-book, mag you can recommend?

always read books

so many great books


Collards: A Southern Tradition from Seed to Table


Peppers of the Americas https://amzn.to/2A0VoVe

Peppers of the Americas

incredible resources

modern culinary uses


My son Elijah is 9  worm farm built out of an event

Wanted a book about vermiculture

  • really in to it
  • up to the book culture
  • the worm book
  • get that down

Excellent! My first episode was with Denny Krahe, who talked about vermiculture and it was the best day with the kids when we got the worms. My experiment didn’t go so well last year, breakfast vegetables tend to be fruit like grapes and citrus, and I think the worms would prefer lunch things like lettuce and salad etc. I also think they weren’t getting enough air I had a lid on top.

  • reading about this book about Collard and they seem to like those.
  • teach it
  • collard greens lately

If you have a business to you have any advice for our listeners about how to pressing oil or saving seeds anything?

seed business heirloom oil and

recommend follow what you believe in

do the things that you enjoy

business decisions based on profitably and bottom line maybe you wont be as happy with your time

If you do what you

  • believe in
  • the thing that you love
  • passionate for
  • it will all work out

AND at the end of the day you’ll be happy!

don’t make my business decisions for small house  based on that

can see where that’s gotten to us

beliefs and passions

There’s probably someone out there on the fence and you’re helping them make the decision if this is the right choice! 

Final question-

if there was one change you would like to see to create a greener world what would it be? For example is there a charity or organization your passionate about or a project you would like to see put into action. What do you feel is the most crucial issue facing our planet in regards to the environment either in your local area or on a national or global scale?

I think globally, nationally, and locally all fall into the same category if we made our decisions on a more local scale that would impact the world in so many ways. 

If we focus on production of our own things and less on consumption of other things it would make a big difference

taking our time to put our energy outward into changing others and turn ourselves around and focus on our selves 

making our world better

One small change to use a little bit

  • less electricity
  • water
  • time on the road
  • few bit of our own food

small step would have a big impact on our road

I know my husband’s always worried about that how can we combine two trips to the store!

too much time thinking globally

Do you want to tell people about your website business etc.

They can see it all at Small House Farm


One Handy Place


What’s pumpkin seed oil like?

It’s so good! Delicious

pumpkin seed oil from Small House Farm

  • hullless pumpkin seed
  • Interesting the seeds are green
  • has this beautiful reddish

They call it the green gold!

Use it in a lot of

skin care

soap makers

huge it in the kitchen

great oil

With Avacados! Salad Dressing! 

Last fall I saved some seeds from those pumpkin pie and I was hoping those would grow. How many pumpkins or seeds does it take to make a bottle of oil.

A pumpkin will have quite a bit of seeds, a few bottles of oil out of a pumpkin


how fresh the seeds are

on average a couple of pounds of seed will make a bottle of oil

Our bottles are 5-6oz lb about a pound and a half or two pounds of seeds.

How did you learn how to press the seed? Did it come with an instruction book when you bought the press?

I learned through trial and error

story goes

we bake our own bread, I had to take it to the next step, If I’m gonna bake my own bread I’m gonna grow my own grain

That’s what mike wants to do.

I read this story about this couple that had an old style wind powered grain

I thought I would love to do something like that! 

On a hunt for a grain mill,  I found this oil press and said oh ahaha! I’m gonna try this out! I had no intention of doing it intentionally.

Did you find a good mill, do you have one to recommend?

No, we didn’t really pursue it any further.

stone mill – 2 stones

rigged it up to a motor

home made contraption

  • mill corn
  • corn flour
  • stone ground

never really pursued it any further, we got so caught up with this oil press thing that really took off. I have upgraded from the hand turn machine

2 electric cold presses that we use

I could never keep up with a hand press

We moved into a licensed commercial facility that’s why we offer it to coops people can see on the website.

Do you have an inspiration tip or quote to help motivate our listeners to reach into that dirt and start their own garden?

Keep planting seeds never stop planting seeds!

  • figuratively and literally
  • moving forward
  • trying that thing

is this gonna grow? Just plant it!

How do we connect with you?


we do have a Facebook page/smallhousefarm

Central Mi seedswap

Michigan Seed Library

book released in fall of this coming year!

and don’t forget if you need help getting started check out our new 

Free Garden Course.com

free organic garden course.com

 Free Organic Garden Course 

Remember you can get the  2018 Garden Journal and Data Keeper to record your garden goals in 


You can  download the first 30 days here   while you’re waiting for it to come in the mail. 

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About the author, Jackie Marie

I'm an artist and educator. I live at the "Organic Oasis" with my husband Mike where we practice earth friendly techniques in our garden nestled in the mountains of Montana.

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