Know Your Farmer: Nature & Nurture Seeds

MMeet the crew at Nature & Nurture Seeds! Together with volunteers and interns, co-founders of Nature & Nurture Seeds Erica Kempter and Mike Levine run their organic and sustainably-grown seed company out of their Dexter farm.  

Erica and Mike both have roots in Ann Arbor, so they knew they wanted to start their farm close by. Erica grew up in Ann Arbor and went to the University of California Santa Cruz to study sustainable agriculture. Mike, who is originally from Southfield, graduated from the School of Natural Resources at the University of Michigan. After graduating, both Erica and Mike pursued opportunities surrounding organic and sustainable agriculture. In 2001, the two met and started Nature & Nurture LLC, which started as an organic landscape management and gardening service.

Do you know where your seeds come from?

In 2013, the two started their seed company and bought their farm just outside of Ann Arbor. To the gardeners who are reading this, do you know where your seeds come from? This is one of the questions that started Erica and Mike on their journey of starting their company. They realized that farmers, including themselves, were buying seeds from around the world. Most of these seeds, many controlled by large multi-national organizations, are bred in regions very different from where farmers end up planting them. 

Nature & Nurture Seeds is taking back control over their seeds. They focus on growing heirloom seeds that are adapted to our regional climate, and breed seeds to be hyper locally adapted. By growing a genetically diverse selection of crops, Erica and Mike end up with more resilient and adaptable varieties. Every time they grow a crop, they are inherently selecting the ones that do the best in their region’s climate. When planted in the region they were adapted for, the crops thrive compared to crops grown from seeds that were adapted to grow across the country or world. 

While breeding regionally adapted seeds aims to make plants healthier and easier to farm, the actual process of seed farming is far from easy. In fact, there are a lot of complexities to seed farming that can make it more difficult than farming for produce. The date from planting to harvest is a lot longer for every single crop. Some crops like beets actually take two years to produce seeds for harvest. These extended harvest times take large investments in resources and time, and increase the likelihood that something will damage the seeds during their growing and curing period.

Despite those difficulties, Erica, Mike, and the whole Nature & Nuture crew are passionate about growing regionally adapted seeds for future generations. They want to be able to provide heirloom seeds that are owned by humans, not big corporations. Erica’s current passion project is the tomatoes. This year, Nature & Nurture is growing 50 varieties—testing new crosses and regionally adapted heirloom breeds. Erica said, “one of my big goals in life is to create some tomatoes that grow really well in the field and have the disease resistance and flavor that customers are looking for.”

Get Connected

If you want to try all of their tomato varieties, join Nature & Nurture Seeds for their Harvest Festival on Saturday, August 17 to celebrate food food and community! You can give feedback on your favorite varieties, and join others for fun activities like a potluck, live music, and farm tours. Make sure you stay up-to-date with Nature & Nurture Seeds on their facebook page @natureandnurtureseeds and Instagram @nnseeds. If you’re interested in working with Nature & Nature Seeds as a volunteer or intern, feel free to reach out at [email protected]. In the winters, find Nature and Nurture Seeds at Eastern Market, and check their social media for other markets they may attend. You can also buy their seeds on their website to grow local varieties in your home garden!