This week, I bring your attention to my first Featured Creature in nearly 4 years, (I’m going to have to change that name, I think…), Hanna Jacobs of Matchbox Garden & Seed Co.!
Hanna’s journey into creating Matchbox weaves between culinary and horticultural disciplines. Formerly a chef, her world has never been too far from growing vegetables and gardening. Born to American parents, she was raised in Canada and moved to the US for a few years in her 20’s. She was a chef for many years until she hit burnout and returned to Canada and settled in Toronto in the Trinity-Bellwoods area. For another 7 years, she was still in the kitchens until one day, she started to grow vegetables and flowers in a disused parking space around the corner from her house. That was 2006.
It quickly expanded into a full operation called Matchbox Garden & Seed Co. As the business grew, so did her need for space as the farming venture ping-ponged at various farming hubs from Downsview Park, McVean Farm and The Living City Campus. She finally settled into her permanent location just outside of Caledonia in 2013. Along the way, she has connected organizations like the Bauta Family Initiative for Seed Security, USC, Seeds of Diversity, The Bowery project, Twisted Lemon, among many others. And she started Matchbox as a single mom! She eventually met her husband during her time at McVean and they have been together since. (*ahem – any mama’s out there looking for some inspiration for a life-switch, here you have it.)
Today, Matchbox is in its 16th year of growing and selling vegetable seedlings and seeds (she runs germination tests regularly to ensure quality and reliability of her product!). Hanna has also launched (just last year) a slew of online classes webinars and a full growing course!
By the way: Seedling pre-orders are OPEN NOW!
Nice, but are there freebees? – YES. (not seedlings – we all gotta eat!) A good starter for any curious beginner, is her introductory downloadable Organic Kitchen Garden Manual. This is a dabble-and-a-taste of the Seed-to-Table-and-Back Again course. The free download gives details on 5 basic vegetable crops and what you need to know about them specifically. Beautifully pictured, she walks you through the bare essential characteristics and growing needs of each crop so you get the best harvest as possible!
Got a taste and got hooked? Her Garden Workshops also offer spotlight featured how-to’s on various aspects of the growing season, but much more information than the manual, but not as intense as the full course. You can cherry-pick what you want to learn for the frugal fee of $45-$50.
Wanna skip the basics and go in guns-a-blazin? her full course (Seed-to-Table-and-Back-Again) is the next level feet-on-ground class that walks you through the entire growing season from beginning to end. She teaches seed selection, germination, soil, temperature control, irrigating, troubleshooting your crops, planting, maintenance, weeding, collecting seeds, and starting all over again! Seed to Table costs a “whopping” $435 ($110 instalment rate). To put it in perspective, the courses I took from the University of Guelph cost $500/course x 5 courses for Sustainable Urban Agriculture. I got a very nice piece of paper that said I was smart; I got broad exposure to theory, food processing, food/environmental politics, and a list of vegetable crops with ideal conditions. No in-person guidance. If you want just vegetables, Hanna’s fee is a drop in a bucket and a beeline to the good stuff. Yes – she will discuss pollination and pests too!
OKAY – If you have either green jitters or green fatigue, or both, or still don’t want to be bothered and just want a trustworthy source for fresh farm vegetables – you can also BUY fresh seasonal veg as pre-order or weekly order throughout the growing season.
Gobsmacked by how she does it all? Farming does have its advantages, as does a great farming network!
I highly encourage you to check out her website if you’re looking for a great guide for growing organic in your back yard, organically certified vegetable & flower seedlings, or reliable seeds.
Next week, I speak to Kat Granger of Seeds of Imbolc, to talk organic, biodynamic and the backyard food fight.
Until then! Lindsay