Building a Resilient Local Fiber Flax Seed Source to Support Pennsylvania's Re-Emerging Flax to Linen Industry

Project Overview

FNE24-073
Project Type: Farmer
Funds awarded in 2024: $28,994.00
Projected End Date: 05/31/2025
Grant Recipient: Kneehigh Farm
Region: Northeast
State: Pennsylvania
Project Leader:
Emma de Long
Kneehigh Farm
Co-Leaders:
Heidi Barr
PA Flax Project

Commodities

  • Agronomic: flax

Practices

  • Crop Production: seed saving

    Proposal summary:

    PA Flax Project (PAFP) is a
    cooperative, founded by farmer Emma de Long and textile designer,
    Heidi Barr. Our mission is to reestablish the fiber flax industry
    in Pennsylvania by initiating new production and processing
    capacity.

    A significant barrier to scaling
    fiber flax agriculture in Pennsylvania is the cost and
    availability of seed. There is no significant production of fiber
    flax seed in the U.S., and importing seed from Europe is
    prohibitively expensive and global shortages due to climate
    change make it increasingly difficult.

    Our two-pronged approach of
    identifying and increasing production of open source seed
    varieties and breeding a regional variety provides maximum
    opportunity for farmers. 

    In 2024 we'll contract with
    farmers to grow 1/10 acre plots of open source seed varieties,
    scaling to 10+ acres in 2025. Our seed breeding trial partners
    include Truelove Seeds, The Experimental Farm Network, and
    farmers in Rodale's network. We'll work with Vic Spindler-Fox of
    OpenTEAM to house our data on their open-source platform making
    our seed trial results widely available.

    PAFP’s long-term goal is to
    establish a cooperatively owned scutching mill, processing 4,000
    acres of fiber flax annually. In addition to income from crops,
    our producer-owners will receive a percentage of the sale of
    products leaving the mill. 

    We believe our cooperative has
    the capacity to greatly increase the quality of life and revenue
    streams of small to medium sized farms, who are looking to
    diversify production within the constraints of the growing
    season. This starts with a reliable seed source.

    Project objectives from proposal:

    1 - Expand our Farm network to include 3 - 5 farms committed to
    growing 5 + acres fiber flax seed by 2025

    2 - Grow 3 - 5 open source
    varieties of fiber flax seed in isolation for increase.

    Grow 1/10 acre plots 3 -5 open source varieties of fiber flax
    seed we chose from our 2023 seed trials in isolation for increase
    on the farms identified in objective 1

    3 - Continue work to breed a
    regional fiber flax seed variety making up to 20 crosses.

    Partner with Nate from The Experimental Farm Network and Owen
    From True Love Seeds to breed a regional fiber flax seed variety
    by following the protocols shared with us by Jenny Kling. 2024
    goal is to make our initial crosses.

    4 - Data Collection/Analysis/dissemination. Work with Vic
    Spindler-fox to create a database and protocols for use. Enter,
    analyze and disseminate data from 2020-23. Create protocols for
    future use of the database. Support farmers in collecting and
    entering data.

    Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this publication are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the view of the U.S. Department of Agriculture or SARE.