Organic, Rare and Heirloom Seed Collections
The Living Seed Company is an heirloom seed company dedicated to supporting families, friends and communities growing healthy food and saving their seeds.
To take some of the guess-work out of gardening we have developed collections of organic heirloom vegetable and herb seeds, suited to your region and growing needs.
All of our seeds are open pollinated, non-GMO, untreated, organic or grown on small natural farms and were selected for their versatility in the culinary arts.
The Founders Collection Our original widely adapted collection suited for most climates
Northern Collection Our long season collection, suited for shorter climates
Southern Collection Our short season collection is suited for longer climates
Urban /Small Space Collection This mini collection is perfectly suited for Urban settings or small gardens and even container gardens
Salsa Collection Our salsa collection is suited for all the fresh salsa lovers out there!
Over the recent months, we are often been asked what the difference between heirlooms and hybrids. The answer is quite simple and straight forward. Heirloom traditionally means that the seed variety has been bred for its desirable traits, superior taste and vigor, having been passed down from generation to generation. The common timeframe for a seed to be considered heirloom is usually 50 years and represents that it is an open pollinated cultivar, not hybrid or genetically modified. Heirlooms are, in essence, a treasure, as they are packed with genetic information. The ritualistic tradition of seed saving, that has been occurring in our civilization for millennia, was developed using heirloom, open pollinated seeds. Many folks are familiar with the term open pollinated, but are not sure what it represents. In short, open pollinated varieties are non-hybrids and are originated from two open pollinated parents that will create an offspring similar to the parent plant with desired characteristics. Open pollinated seeds produce offspring that are true-to-type and are pollinated by the wind, insects, birds or other natural ways, they naturally adapt to your local micro climate, your soil and to you, hybrid seeds do not, as they are static. Open pollinated seeds are not hybrids or are genetically modified.
Heirloom vegetables have been relatively new to the average consumer as of the past 10 – 20 years, but have been an integral in creating the global food heritage we know of today. Heirlooms are generally characteristic of their unique appearance, outstanding flavor and texture and of course a compelling history. Many people are surprised to learn that there are thousands of heirloom varieties unknown to the public and many of them disappearing.
So why are treasured heirloom varieties disappearing? Currently, 75% of the global seed market is governed by 10 companies, uniformity, mass production, perishability and transportation are essential in their business model. These represent some of the many characteristics of heirlooms, from their quirky appearance, to their delicate nature and of course their inability to be mass-produced. The reality is that it took our ancestors 10,000 years to establish the array of foods that are available to us, a mere 100 years we had 96% more varieties to choose from. So why are heirlooms so much better? They conserve the genetic diversity of crops, preserve history and culture, promote bio-diversity and strengthen our eco-system through building soil and creating disease/pest resistant and drought tolerant seeds.
The graph to the left gives an amazingly stark contrast to what has happened in our food system over such a short period of time and the sparse variety that we are left to choose from. The empowering part about this is that we are at the neck of the hourglass, that point in history, where we can make the right choices that are going to allow our future generations to continue to enjoy rare and delicious vegetable and fruit varieties.
Farmers markets are a wonderful place to begin to acquaint yourself with what varieties are being grown, but if you truly want to see what is available, seek out heirloom seed catalogs. If you are gardener, consider only growing heirlooms and begin to explore some varieties that you may not have ever heard of or even considered, but you can be assisting in the reclamation of many of these treasured seeds. Most of all, save your seeds and share the with others. This knowledge is integral in the art of gardening and needs to be reclaimed. Keep in mind that many of these heirloom vegetables are not organic, do not let that hinder you from purchasing them. All you need to do is grow them our for one season organically, save the seed and you technically have an organic seed! Another wonderful way to support the genetic diversity in our food system is by supporting your local farmers market and/or CSA (Community Supported Agriculture), both support small-scale farms and your local economy. Not sure where to find those near you? Check out Local Harvest.
There has been much talk about hybrids lately, both good and bad and ultimately it is a decision that should be made, understanding what that means. Hybrid seeds originate from two different parent plants of the same specie, that were genetically crossed to create the hybrid offspring. Seeds of hybrid varieties can be sterile or commonly fail to breed true to type, usually resulting in plant varieties that you do not know what you are going to get. Hybrids are generally referred to the acronym F1 (means first generation or filial offspring). Either F1 or the word hybrid has to be on the packet or plant to prove that it truly is a hybrid.
Hybrids can be stabilized, which means that the variety can begin to cultivate offspring that are more true to type. Stabilizing or de-hybridization can take about 8 generations of growing it out, until it gets to a point where the offspring are clearly stabilized. A common example is the famous Early Girl hybrid tomato, a now stabilized hybrid that became popular among home gardeners for its characteristics in early fruit ripening. Although it is considered stable, it is still marketed as a hybrid. It would not be conducive for seed companies to change the classification because then gardeners would begin saving their own seeds and opt out from buying that variety year after year.
These modern hybrids have been developed by large corporations to suit their needs and demands, as they have been bred to yield high while compromising hardiness, pest resistance, flavor and quality.
Generally the hybrid market sets a barrier to the re-integration of seed saving for the simple fact that companies make it very difficult to save hybrid seeds and you generally would not want to. It is a market that is also dominated in Asia, making the seeds you purchase, adapted to a very different climate and soil. Keep in mind that Organic seeds can be hybrids, know who you are sourcing your seeds and your starts from.
There is a lot of information available to us and learning about it, makes us better consumers. Here at The Living Seed Company, we believe every gardener should have the right to save their own seeds. Check out our newly created FAQ sheet or frequently asked questions, where we have compiled some of our commonly asked questions on the basis of seed differentiation – enjoy and pass it on!
The greatest service which can be rendered to any country is to add a useful plant to its culture. – Thomas Jefferson
Last week The Living Seed Company hosted Seed School in Marin 2011 featuring veteran seedsman Bill McDorman. It was a five day intensive, where we were taught the seed industry from its inception as a form of currency, to our current global state where 10 companies own 75% of the world seed stock! Since 1903, almost 96% of the commercial vegetable varieties available to to us are now extinct. We are here to change that by planting those varieties that are rare, while empowering everyone to grow their own food and most of all to save their seeds. This are beautiful times where we are being offered the opportunity to turn some of these statistics the other way, so that our children and our children’s children can see our generation as the one that regained control of our most innate daily ritual – eating.
We were honored to have Bill walk us through this new path, he is the Executive Director of Native Seeds/S.E.A.R.C.H and having founded Seeds Trust/High Altitude Gardens he holds over 30 years of experience in this industry. With a beautifully positive attitude and the wisdom of this industry he offers a light for those of us working to inspire everyone to rise up to this historically moment in our lives.
Last week the folks that attended Seed School 4, not only joined the age old tradition of seed saving, but we began to understand that the strength of our ecosystem is in our diversity. This tradition is the very thing that allowed for mankind to create and succeed in building civilizations. And it will be the very thing that will allow us to thrive and emerge from these times, once again with a diverse seed culture. We were visited by Rebecca Newburn, the brilliant shape shifter that created the Richmond Seed Lending Library in conjunction with the Richmond Public Library, they offer free seeds and education about growing and saving seeds. It is their hope that seed library patrons will return some seeds from their harvest to make the library self-sustaining.
Later in the week, we took a field trip to visit International renown permaculturist Penny Livingston at her farm at the Regenerative Design Institute, as always it is a treat to visit Penny and James in their slice of coastal paradise in Bolinas. We learned about the varieties that thrive in this foggy climate, tasting their honey, touring their natural buildings while also witnessing two of their seed gardens in full creation!
Personally, I have been unveiling the magic of seeds and participating in this course gave me the tools and the understanding to be able to ask the right questions. I will continue to formulate the tapestry of this mystery embodied in a seed.
Check out our trailer for a peek on seed school Marin!
“The greatest service which can be rendered to any country is to add a useful plant to its culture.” Thomas Jefferson
A Kids corner going on all day Saturday with some amazing activities happening there. Mini Cob House construction, seed balls and rocket stoves, nature games and more. The kids will have a blast!!
Music from amazing local musicians, free giveaways, organic meals. There is so much going on and yet ticket prices are just $125 for camping or $150 for bunkhouse (ask for special kids discount codes).