Sunday, April 19, 2009

Open Polinated Seeds Only, Please!

I have often been asked, "When did you decide to garden organically and why do you prefer open pollinated seeds"? It was in the late 70's while living in Arizona. I knew that I wanted to pursue a simple lifestyle that included gardening. I was reading some Ruth Stout, Scott and Helen Nearing and Communities Magazines. One Tucson spring, I signed up for a class presented by "Meals for Millions"; a group working to develop a traditional approach to local gardening. I fell in love with the entire process of growing my own food, consuming it and saving seeds for the next season. I poured over Farmstead Magazine and Organic Garden and became very interested in saving seed, which led me to the Seed Savers Exchange, Gardens for All, biodynamics and alleopathy.

By the time I arrived in Bloomington, I was very interested in seed saving and establishing an heirloom garden. It was in searching for info on setting up my seed storehouse, that I found the Graham Center. I think that was in 1982 or 83. Some information in the publication sent ( I still have it in my garden files) shocked me. There was information about the poor state of our USDA Seed Banks and a statement (this is not verbatim) that of all the food resources that the USDA had cataloged at the turn of the century, less than three percent were left according to the current catalog and that the majority of the seeds maintained were mostly in tomatoes! I was horrified at the staggering losses and have never gotten over the shock of those numbers. The thousands of years of human work in creating a stable food source, and its loss in a short time, because of lack of attention and appreciation. I was already for open-pollinated seeds, and now knew that I would have trouble purchasing any other type.

Even then, it was clear that there were patterns at work to take control of food away from people. I learned that a number of countries had seed laws, that other countries were fighting to keep them off of their seeds. That there were places where it was illegal for farmers to save, and in some cases to sell, saved seeds.
That there are seed list and that there were a few companies beginning to buy up seeds. I saw companies pushing hybrid seeds out left and right, and people gobbling them up along with the fertilizers. I had never been fond of fertilizers. Even as a kid, I had decided that they were connected to my allergies.

Something in me said that the greedy folks were going to make things worse for everyone. I became further committed to open-pollinated seeds and in 1983 I hosted my first seed exchange in Brown County. I shared seeds I had gotten from gardeners all over the country. I shared seed I had gotten on my search in the community. I contacted old farmers and got seeds or starts. One year, I had a small seed business, Clear Sky. I saw the blooming of people interested in sustainability and community on my local level.

Now I leap into the present, and the nightmare of seed loss has increased. The seed companies have been reduced in numbers, of course the varieties available for use have been reduced, farmers are being sued. Some companies are working hard to make laws to take control of our food (and water), modify them and couple the seeds ability to grow with varieties of chemicals, many petroleum based.

Genetically modified seeds and chemical weed killers, are poison and toxic to the life on this planet.

No comments: