May 5, 2023
Dear Fruition Family,
It is with humbled, heavy hearts that we reach out to share hard news with you today.
Emergent Viruses Around Us
Plants are susceptible to viruses just like humans and we’ve just learned that an emerging disease, Tomato Brown Rugose Virus (ToBRFV), has infected the Brandywise tomato seeds we recently shared with you. The affected lot is #Ns10-ll-br; at this time, we do not have any concerns about previous lots of Brandywise. Lot numbers can be found on the back of your packet & if you no longer have your packet but you purchased Brandywise between December 20, 2022 and May 4, 2023, you received this lot. This virus can affect tomato and peppers; current research shows ToBRFV does not affect eggplant, tomatillos, potatoes, and other common solanaceae species. To learn more about ToBRFV, the American Seed Trade Association shares this resource and here are three additional sources we trust, shared with us by our colleagues at Cornell:
We are so sorry for the immense disappointment as well as immediate implications. Since the virus is most readily transmitted by tomato or pepper plants coming into contact with other nearby tomato or pepper plants, we encourage you to:
~ Throw away (do not compost) any Brandywise seedlings you have grown, as well as all other tomato and pepper seedlings that may be sharing the same tray. (Update as of 5.17.23: Also consider throwing away any tomato and pepper seedlings that may have become infected through handling. Use your best judgment, realizing that this virus can have long term consequences for future tomato growing.)
~ Throw away all potting mix and the tray itself, since close planting can create the conditions for transmission. (Update as of 5.17.23: If you’d prefer to not throw away your trays, clean them thoroughly and sanitize them with a 10 percent bleach solution, a dilution of household bleach of 9-parts-water to 1-part household bleach.)
~ Wash your hands before touching anything else.
~ If you’ve already planted your Brandywise seedlings, be sure to remove and dispose of all Brandywise plant tissue from the field, including the full root mass, and disinfect your shovel afterward.
As we grow alongside this emergent virus, we’re sharing with you our current understanding of Brown Rugose and anticipate our understanding to develop with time. As always, as we learn more, we’ll share more.
And did you know? Your local agricultural extension office is here to respond to any of your garden questions and they’re connected to the frontlines of Brown Rugose research, so know you not alone, wherever you are.
If you’re concerned about a tomato or pepper plant expressing potential virus symptoms, send photos and tissue samples to http://plantclinic.cornell.edu/
Good News & Hard News
Like many in the small-scale seed world, our seed production work is very hands-on, both on the Fruition farm in Naples and in collaboration with a small community of very skilled seed growers. While this artisan level of attention to detail promotes high quality seed, there are always new challenges (hello, emerging diseases) prompting us to deepen our knowledge and lean into community. There’s good news and hard:
The good news: The only seeds we share that are affected are Brandywise, so please sow and grow all our other seeds with confidence. The infected seed lot of Brandywise hybrid was not produced at the Fruition farm.
The hard news: Brandywise tomato is an F1 Hybrid, which requires specific and controlled crossing between 2 parent lines. Our organic Brandywise hybrid seed was produced in a greenhouse environment, which can increase virus transmission vectors. Going forward, we will explore if or when we can again share disease-free organic Brandywise tomato seed.
Always: We’re all doing everything we can to learn more, to prevent disease transmission in the future and to be proactive with our beloved community. All flourishing is mutual.
Also, consider: We’re grateful we learned about Brandywise’s positive Brown Rugose test just before planting season — narrowly averting the devastation that may have ensued, had we not known: can you imagine all the affected seedlings that may have been planted, that now are not? If we are considering the cost to our future selves and future generations, let us give thanks as we grieve together.
May 12, 2023
Brandywise Recall Resilience Map
Friends, this map was discontinued as of July 13, 2023.
Let’s connect and redistribute collective tomato and pepper seedling abundance in the aftermath of the Brandywise seed recall…
~ If you have tomato or pepper plants to share, even just one extra seedling, a profound thanks.
~ If you are using the map because you’ve sown affected seeds and have taken heart-breaking measures to try to prevent the spread of this emerging virus, such deep gratitude to you.
May 23, 2023
Dear Fruition Family so deeply affected by our Brandywise recall,
It’s been a heart-wrenching May: Even as countless leaves unfurl and frog song so beautifully surrounds us, the pain of throwing away so many seedlings as a result of this recall has been excruciating. Molly Costello reminds us: grief and love are sisters. This pain we bear together is borne of a love deeper than pain. We share both this pain and this love with you, Friends.
Together, the courage of our individual and collective acts makes possible so many more tomatoes being grown without Brown Rugose by our sides for seasons and generations to come. Perhaps this is how grief grows love again?
We’ve learned so much in the last three weeks and are so humbled by the constant (un)learnings of life, especially in the face of an emergent virus. Thank you to everyone who was able to join our webinar live and here’s the recording of our
Garden Q & Q: Tomato Brown Rugose Virus & How We Move Forward Together
as well as answers to questions that you asked and we didn’t have time to get to during the Q & Q.
We sent emails on May 5th directly to everyone who has purchased our affected lot of Brandywise, sharing reciprocity as well as more resources to accompany us all. As always, we are doing our best to meet this challenging moment with courage, curiosity and generosity.
We don’t pretend that any amount of dollars covers anyone’s costs in the face of an emergent virus no one could have predicted or planned for, and we know that for many of you what we’ve been able to offer has felt inadequate given the circumstances and how much you’ve recently lost. We are deeply sorry for your time, energy, dollars and dreams lost to this virus. We also appreciate and fully agree: your loss of plants, labor and love is irreplaceable. Our individual and collective losses are truly immense.
Navigating what we are able to offer folx affected by this situation has been a profound challenge. As we grapple with the ripples in our own small-farm budget of what this loss means, the humble truth is that we have offered what we can in this moment, in order to continue sharing all that we can across future seasons.
We don’t claim to justify that any refund / credit can rebuild trust without future actions demonstrating deep commitment to sharing the highest quality seed possible.
Thank you for trusting us to learn, unlearn & always grow beside you; please share any concerns with us anytime at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Finding A Wider Lens
We are here to share developing knowledge as well as deep care as we accompany you and us all in the aftermath of the most devastating disease Fruition has ever experienced. Together, let’s take a step back.
Though this is Fruition’s first experience of a seed recall, this Brandywise seed is far from the first disease-related seed recall and is also not the first Tomato Brown Rugose Virus recall. Though we hope it will be the last for Fruition, it won’t be the last for our larger world. This is much larger than this one incident, much larger than Fruition. Friends, for all the positivity and possibility around local food systems and regionally adapted seed in our time, here are three humble truths:
1) We are deeply intertwined with the realities of food systems where intensive monocropping and short-term extraction mentalities tend to both breed diseases and perhaps encourage avoiding responsibility for their spread.
2) We exist in a system where bigger farms and companies tend to have more economic resilience. Additionally, our system creates incentives for businesses to not test or communicate openly about diseases being present to prevent losing money, trust, or reputation.
3) These realities are further compounded when a sense of community, of personal relationship, of personal accountability doesn’t exist between the growers of seeds, the distributors of seeds and the sowers of seeds. Amid the heartache of being humxn in a system not centering humxnanity, this situation has made us feel (more acutely than usual) the complexities of sharing seeds through a for-sale model. (Particularly – in a world where our farm, our employees, and our customers all simultaneously are squeezed with bills to pay that will not be adjusted based on this loss.) We are so grateful for the ways that, despite these realities, so many of you have met us with practicing a sense of community, and with honest, personal conversations about how this has affected you and how we are relating . Indeed, our interconnection and interdependence seeds resilience in our joy as well as our heartache.
Like climate change, emerging diseases are part of our lives. The devastating impact on many gardeners and farmers in our community who have received Brandywise is both personal for us and profoundly calling us into stronger community: deep, systemic problems we need to be addressing both individually and collectively.
For us, the Brandywise Recall Resilience Map is a community-based form of ‘insurance’ for when insurance and accountability in our current system is out of reach and we look forward to iterating on this profound tool for mutual aid and community building in the future.
In the spirit of the resilient, adaptive growth of the seeds we all love so much, we’d love to share three foundational sentiments for us here at Fruition moving forward:
~ Our network of seed growers is small and extraordinary. We (re)commit to cultivating strong support, sharing knowledge, communicating standards as well as best practices with our seed growers. As we learn better, we do better.
~ We’re grateful for our many colleagues at Cornell and other institutions, researching and sharing information about Brown Rugose and other existing as well as emerging diseases. We (re)commit to nurturing these relationships, doing everything we can to help their work grow capacity and abundance in the world.
~ We grow and share seeds because we believe in community, growth and accountability in love. We take our responsibility very seriously to grow and share the highest quality seed we are able. We (re)commit to doing everything we can to learn more, to prevent disease transmission in the future and to be transparent, generous and proactive with you, our beloved community. We will not be perfect; we nonetheless commit to moving forward, one step and one breath at a time. All flourishing is mutual.
How we move forward together makes all the difference. Thank you for sowing seeds and knowing seeds, like each of us, are not as small as they seem. Thank you for reading, for researching, for your courageous action and for feeling our deep apology as well as abiding commitment to seed and community. Thank you for trusting seeds to grow us more than we grow them. Thank you for leaning in, learning with us, grieving with us and growing with us.
We are here for you in the glory of gardens and in the heartache, Friends.
As always, if you have questions please reach out to us at email@example.com
With deep apology and abiding commitment to seed and community,
with the care of the Fruition Crew
We’ve responded to hundreds of concerned emails and though a small percentage of folx shared a sentiment of hesitancy in purchasing our seeds in the future and surprise at our sharing seeds not grown on the farm, we’d love to share this perspective from Maddie, Fruition’s Retail Lead, with you and with us all:
I’ll share a bit about my experience and some food for thought, in case it’s meaningful context, and I totally respect whatever decisions you make about the seeds you sow. I hope that you feel in good relationship with any plants nourishing you, and that they surround you with abundance.
In 2016, about 3 years before I ever worked at Fruition Seeds (first on the farm crew!), I found my way to connecting with Petra, Matthew, and Fruition when I’d been formally studying seed systems as a graduate student. Fruition caught my attention because I was coming to understand the norm I had been seeing in seed systems: companies that, like grocery stores, don’t grow much (if any) of the seeds they distribute (and don’t name the amount of seed they grow), let alone do the regional adaptation work and breeding for flavor and delight that Fruition has been doing for over a decade. After meeting Petra, Matthew, and the team, the care that was apparent to me in Fruition’s work with seeds has kept me coming back to Fruition over the years – whether as a customer, volunteer, donation recipient, staff member, or friend.
Our current seed system often obscures a lot of practices around seeds. Wherever you turn for seeds in the future, I encourage you to ask lots of questions to those providing your seeds– how much of what they carry have they grown themselves, and where else have seeds been grown? What diseases are they testing for and when? I say this not with an accusatory tone, but fostering a caring curiosity around such conversations, believing that we will be collectively better off encouraging each other to know our seeds and our seed growers a little better. While there is so much about this situation that has been truly devastating, I’m grateful for the opportunity to prompt so many questions about practices around seed growing.