Written By: FarmTina
I’ve written about seed saving in the past, especially with my prized Brandywine tomatoes whose heritage can be traced back to the people who first brought them to the US in the 1800s. But why are seeds important, and why does it matter where gardeners get them from?
If you’ve seen documentaries such as The Future of Food or Food Inc, then you are aware of the way big businesses are reinventing farming and food production. Growing food used to be a community effort, and even when farmers started making money on their crops, it was still a family business. Fast forward to today when seed company Monsanto has actually created seeds that, when planted, produce a fruit filled with sterile seeds so they can’t be saved and planted the next year. While people all over the world (and even in our own city) are going hungry, we are actually creating food that limits future food production and makes us more dependent on the seed companies to sell us new seeds every year. WTF?
The original idea for big businesses taking over the farming industry was this: if we can turn farming into an efficient system that is run more like an industry, we’ll be able to produce more food that can feeds more people for less money. Voila, a solution to the world’s hunger crisis! Good intentions, right?
But then people got greedy. Big seed companies created genetically modified seeds that were hybrids or immune to herbicide, and even seeds that produced a corn which could act as its own pesticide, killing any bug that tried to munch on it. And we’re eating the food that is produced from those seeds! Ick. I don’t want to eat or grow those kinds of seeds.
I try to be responsible about where I get my seeds, and saving my own seeds from previous years has been a good solution. I was excited to get an email recently from Astrid at The Living Seed Company, a family-run farm that sells their heirloom seeds to people like us. They also donate seeds to school groups and small gardens, which proves to me that they actually believe their mission: “to help supply the fundamentals of a joyful human life.”
Astrid was kind enough to answer some questions for me (she is pictured below with her fiancé Matthew).
Why are seeds so special?
Seed are magical. Each seed is a miracle waiting to happen. After selecting seeds from the most robust plants in your garden and replanting these same seeds the following year, the plant will become more and more adapted to your soil, your climate and to you. The more you collect your seeds and continue that process the more they will adapt to you – now that is amazing!
So, for someone who is just learning about the big business of seeds and agriculture in the United States, can you please explain why your seeds are different from the ones I buy from (for example) Burpee or the garden center at Home Depot?
We do not sell any hybridized seeds, all of our seeds are open pollinated which means that you can save the seed and propagate a plant exactly like the parent. You cannot do that with hybrid seeds. Something a lot of people are not aware of is that a lot of seeds, even Organic, are being grown overseas, and all of ours are grown in the US. Seeds become adapted to the region where they are grown. If seeds are grown overseas, they are adapted for a completely different climate and soil structure.
We created the Founder’s Collection as a way for us to help people plan their gardens throughout the year. We selected the best of the best and have chosen these 22 varieties for being widely adapted, productive, naturally disease resistant and nutritious. Every single variety has many uses other than being just a squash or a tomato. Many of them dry, can, ferment, freeze and preserve very well. Our winter squash, for example, can be kept for up to 6 months in a cool place such as a garage. It can be used in baking as well as in savory dishes and best of all, the longer it keeps the sweeter it gets! Increasing the diversity of our food is so important, many companies are no longer offering the rare gems that still exist and need to be propagated. The world has lost 95% of our food diversity in just 100 years, and we are inspired to change that. We are also really inspired to revive the ancient art of seed saving in every gardener.
Why don’t more people supply seeds the way The Living Seed Co does? Is it an issue with money, time, labor, laws, etc?
There are seed companies that do, but we have not seen companies offer a collection like the Founders Collection. It is a complete garden. Ultimately what we want is to get as many people as possible in the soil and reconnecting with the land. Our collection is a superior deal offered as a whole, perhaps it can be a lower profit margin but we want to insure people having a substantial amount of seeds for a relatively low cost. There was also a lot of time involved the creation of the collection. There was a lot of research that went into choosing each seed and its complement to the whole.
The Living Seed Company has a big vision. How can seeds help save the world?
We feel that gardening is a way to bring people and communities together to grow food, it helps people find their inner peace and outer prosperity. Also, gardens act like a small oasis for birds, bees and insects – offering a refuge to pollinate, mate and grow the biodiversity of a neighborhood. Even a window box can offer this on a smaller scale. Ultimately, we see growing food and seed saving as a way for people to thrive and learn things about themselves they did not know. The reward one gets in the act of growing food is indescribable and what you offer in return to the biodiversity of your area is so much!
Please tell me about your donate-1-for-every-10 program
We became inspired to create this program as an opportunity for us to give back. There are a lot of school programs and low income urban gardens that need access to good seeds and we want to be that source! We want to inspire people all over the world to begin growing their own food. So for every ten collections sold we donate one to a school garden program or youth group.
Learn more at livingseedcompany.com