At Turtle Tree Seed, adults with developmental differences work “side by side” with other staff to produce seed that’s more artisanal than agribusiness.

It takes a village, not a threshing machine, to complete the harvest of pounds of watermelon seeds that will fill the simple, white packets sold by Turtle Tree Seed.

“Nobody minds helping with the watermelon-seed collection,” said Lia Babitch, the seed company’s co-manager. She’s not just talking about their crew: Residents of Camphill Village, in Copake, N.Y., where Turtle Tree is headquartered, are happy to join in.

It’s a pretty sweet task, after all, that involves eating the fruit of yellow-fleshed Early Moonbeam, or perhaps an heirloom like Moon and Stars, and spitting the seeds into cups provided for that purpose — the first step before washing, drying and eventually packing them for sale.

Like everything else at Camphill Village Copake, a nonprofit intentional community of adults with developmental differences, collecting seed is part of the “life-sharing” model of the place, which was founded in 1961. This is the largest Camphill community in the United States, home to some 230 people; today, there are about 100 Camphill communities worldwide.

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