The day after Earth Day 2020, during the April new moon, Emma and I planted flax seed on her farm in Pottstown. We gathered our cross back aprons in front of us to form carrying pouches and filled our makeshift sacks with the sweet smelling seed. Next, we dipped our hands into our seed bounty and broadcast the small, precious kernels by casting handfuls in one direction, then tossing more handfuls in the other direction, until the entire field was covered. The flax seeds were glossy, impossibly smooth to the touch, and scattered gracefully when released before falling steadily to the ground. I could already envision them growing into a glorious field of flax for future linen making. What a joyous activity!
Besides planting flax, it is exciting for me to connect Germantown, the neighborhood in Northern Philadelphia where my parents lived when I was born, with our newly germinating flax field. Germantown was an important flax producer as early as 1700 when German settlers brought their knowledge of flax and linen production to the United States as they emigrated to America. Each family grew roughly two acres of flax that would produce all the linens they needed for clothing and home goods. I love imagining that the view from my studio, which is just two miles from Germantown as the crow flies, likely included flax fields whispering in the wind and people working the fields.
Although I do not have a direct line of sight to the Kneehigh Flax Field as I gaze out my window while I work, I am already picturing the many potentials of our flax project. This 1/8 acre is the beginning of what we hope will become a much larger farming venture. Inspired by the work of the Rustbelt Fibershed (The Cleveland Project), the Chico Flax Project, and other fiber shed affiliates striving to build a sustainable textile future, we look forward to contributing new knowledge about this traditional industry to others. Among other benefits, we hope that local flax crops could eventually help sequester carbon and help revitalize our local fiber industry. Plus, this first flax field will be our chance to get familiar with the plants and see how they thrive in our locale. We’re excited to learn how the local bees, pollinators, and other beneficial insects take to the flax flowers and help bolster the farm crops. And of course, we look forward to reaping a bountiful harvest!
This is a true community undertaking and we are working on the details of how to invite all of you to join us in supporting our Pennsylvania flax field! Look for an invitation from us here and keep an eye on inbox for more information on how to support our endeavors.
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