Tuesday, June 2, 2009

A Seed of a Thought

I have come across some disturbing information over the past couple of years, and it has finally bothered me enough to write about it.  I have enjoyed gardening for many, many years.  In fact, it's probably a surprise to even my mother, that I enjoyed it as a kid - but would have enjoyed it much more if she had me do more than weed the flower beds.  I was always curious about the flowers, the vegetables, (we had a HUGE veggie garden out back) and could watch the bees and butterflies pollinate for what seemed like hours.  Many years ago, my step-father gave me a subscription to the Seed Savers Catalog.  At first I thought, "Hmm.  How odd."  But then I read it, and was hooked.  For those out there not familiar with their services, Seed Savers has collected tens of thousands of varieties of seeds, primarily from organic, and many heirloom plants, making them available to people who want them.  The catalog is a clearing house, so to speak, of quality plant possibilities, linking gardeners up with long lost, or 'seldom found in the grocery store seed bin' seeds.   Their headquarters, in Iowa, is Heritage Farm - a wonderful place to check out not only seeds, but heirloom animal breeds as well. 
Although I have not ordered from Seed Savers for quite some time, the whole idea inspired me to save my own seeds.  As mentioned previously, I attend the Gore Estate plant sale annually, to obtain heirloom plants from days gone by.  Had they not saved those seeds way back when, we would not be able to benefit from the plants' existence now.  The flowers and veggies of the victorian era are living well and prospering in my yard today thanks to some kind and thoughtful soul's act of reaching in and saving the seeds at just the right time.  I started saving my seeds from the garden, replanting them the next year to expand the flower beds.  I sent packs of seeds to family so they could enjoy a part of my garden at their homes.  When we ate a new species of organic melon we loved, we saved the seeds and planted them the next year so we could enjoy the melons again and again from our own yard.  We still come across old packs of seeds from the past years, shoved in a drawer, or lost in a pile of magazines, and find they are still viable, able to produce beautiful flowers and tasty vegetables.

It pains me to read about big agri-businesses buying up the seed businesses.  The intention here is to control the seed market, moving away from heirloom and organics and toward genetically modified, pest resistant varieties.  Companies such as Monsanto, Syngenta and DuPont focus on developing seeds that can be protected by patents, making it very expensive for growers to save the seeds (not that you'd want to).  Heavy fines are placed on those who get caught saving seeds, making it much more challenging for the small farmer to be successful.  
According to Organic Gardening Magazine, a report issued by the Kerr Center for Sustainable Agriculture has warned that our seed supply is in grave danger.  Over 2000 varieties of seeds have been eliminated in one year alone.  Those are seeds that will never be replaced, at least not by agri-business.  However, if folks have saved seeds, those plants are not gone forever.  It has been estimated, the magazine article goes on to report, that at least 75 percent of genetic diversity among our agricultural crops has been destroyed.

So what does that mean for us?  Buy organic.  Always.  When you can, buy heirloom veggies at the store or farmer's market.  If you have the time and space, plant a few heirloom varieties and save the seeds.  It's really quite zen-like to harvest seeds, and can give you the sense that you are helping to save the world.  Well, it gives ME that feeling - saving it one seed at a time.  Check out what Seed Savers has in store - if not for this year, then perhaps for next or another in the future.  The more seeds we save now, the better off future generations will be.  Think about the victorian plants in my yard - someone had the foresight to save those seeds a very, very long time ago.  And - the seeds and plants are free that way!

1 comment:

Lisa said...

I would love some of those victorian seeds! I have some cool red poppy seeds to trade...