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Tuesday, March 23, 2010

WHAT'S HAPPENING WITH OUR SEEDS?

CLASSIC BOOK ON HEIRLOOM SEEDS

I bought William Woys Weaver's book in 1997, titled Heirloom Vegetable Gardening. Since the time of its 1997 copyright it has become a classic for heirloom seed savers. In the book he provides in-depth research, cultural history, and personal stories related to the heirloom seeds that he is familiar with. He traces how family vegetable gardens moved to industrial gardening (gardening for profit) in the mid-nineteenth century. Weaver's book was and still is an important piece for people wishing to know more about heirloom seeds.
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Moving on from Weaver's well written book lets take a close look at heirlooms. Well, they are open pollinators and have adapted themselves to certain regions of climate and soil over eons of time. They often are resistant to local pests, diseases, and extreme weather. They are tough "guys" if planted in their regional domain. What they aren't is hybrid or GMO seeds. They contain strong genetic traits while industrial seeds or hybrids contain weak genetic traits. Heirlooms are important to the world as they can override many of the problems of modern day seeds such as disease and pests. Heirlooms are vital to the world's food system.

The South contains rich pockets of heirloom seeds saved from family to family, friend to friend over many years of growing vegetables, flowers and fruits. More so than other regions of the country.


COLLECTING SEEDS
Flickr Photo -- schill
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So why are we encouraging corporate, industrial farming when we know their genes are weak? A simple answer is, profit.

Corporations have been buying up many of the old seed companies that had heirloom seeds resulting in many of the seeds from these old companies being lost. The pool of seed diversity shrinks with the passing years.

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What are we doing about this shrinking cache of heirloom seeds? Many things. In the past decade part of the seed savers movement was about establishing world seed banks around the globe attempting to save this rich diversity. Actually there are 1,460 banks around the world. One bank, ICARDA, has 131,000 varieties within their stores of 5.4 million seeds. These banks need to keep the seeds in long term storage under ideal conditions -- where there are regional conflicts or little money the seed banks are at risk.

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The largest seed bank is the Svalbard Global Seed Vault that opened in February 2008 in Norway. It is the ultimate in safety for seed biodiversity and protection of our global food.

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Here is an idea how you can help save the threatened heirloom seeds. Start planting some (better yet all) heirlooms in your gardens and flower beds each year. Maybe even start trying to save seeds from these plants for next year's garden. You will be rewarded with hardy plants and you will make a difference to our world by saving a bit of our plant heritage.
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Below are some links on heirloom seeds, seed banks:
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Svalbard Global Seed Vault from the Decorah Tribune, Decorah Iowa.
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Seed Banks and the Global Crop Diversity Trust from World Changing: Bright Green Blog
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Bakers Creek Heirloom Seeds
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Seed Savers Exchange

1 comment:

  1. Barbara,
    What a wonderful choice of a topic to tackle! There is a LOT of "food" for thought in your post. It took me awhile to post my comment because I wanted to find some documentation of the recently initiated anti-trust investigation by Vilsack (Secretary of Agriculture who is from Iowa) and Holder, our Attorney General. Apparently, even though Vilsack is a notable industrial farming spokeperson...he and Holder assured 700 farmers at a recent workshop that the Justice Dept. was SERIOUSLY going to conduct an investigation of Monsanto's practices. This is good news. If you Google the triad of Vilsack, Holder, Monsanto...you get tons of stuff. As people close to the earth, as gardeners, as self-sufficiency advocates...we need to pay attention. Here's a link that will get you (and others) started:
    http://themiraclemerchant.com/articles/at-iowa-vilsack-and-holder-say-expect-action-on-antitrust-issues-1929

    It may be the start of something BIG! (hoping it will be huge curbs on Big Agri!

    Also, I am heading to Amazon.com to buy the book you featured, Heirloom Vegetable Gardening.

    Thanks for a SUPER post! Took me awhile to mosie my way through, but I read every word and I thank you! Have a great day!
    Elora

    ReplyDelete