Less variety in our food crops means it hurts that much more if a virulent disease or insect decimates crops the world over. As food production became industrialized and along with the loss of small family farms, food crop varieties were lost as seed companies narrowed down the varieties they offered to increase efficiency and profits. This situation became worse as companies began to genetically modify their seed so that it could withstand their custom chemical herbicides and pesticides to again increase production on large industrialized farms.
As this particular topic will lead me deep into the myriad of issues in our current food system, I will just leave you with some links and return to the topic of this post:
- For more information about international seed conglomerates and genetically modified food, see here.
- For info on toxic chemicals in food, see here.
- For top ten GM crops facts, see here.
|From left: Appaloosa dry bush beans, Purple podded pole beans, |
Trofero filet bush beans and in front are French Cranberry bush beans
Seed saving is one of the simplest ways that each one of us can help to slow this loss of valuable and important diversity in our food sources, and at the same time take control of our personal food system. I collected the beans above from my garden a couple weeks ago. I have amassed a large collection of seed over the last couple of years. From my own garden, family, friends and during walks around the neighborhood....no one usually minds (or notices) if you pull a seed pod off as you walk by....
It is important to only save the seeds from the healthiest of plants, that produce the best quality vegetables, fruit or flowers. That way the future plants have a higher chance of presenting with the qualities you desire. Most seeds you can harvest after the seed pods have dried out (but before the first rain!).
|Love in the Mist seed pod|
|Poppy seed pod|
I have a nice area in my basement that my mother set up (when it was her house) with a potting station and a sink with running water. I keep all my seeds here in little baby food or spice jars with labels of what they are and the year.
It is also important to note that when I purchase seed I almost always buy heirloom, self-pollinating varieties. Heirloom plants have been grown for many years and in some cases handed down generation to generation and generally remain genetically intact. Hybrid seeds may not be stable and seeds that you save may not create the same plant the next year....they may revert back to the parent plant's characteristics, or the seeds may be sterile. This is one of the ways that large seed companies that supply industrial farms ensure that farmers come back year after year to buy more seed.
I personally sleep a little better at night knowing that somewhere in the Arctic there is a place that is storing the genetic diversity of our global food crops. The Svalbard Global Seed Vault stores duplicate seeds from seed collections around the world. In addition, the Seed Savers Exchange is a non-profit organization dedicated to sharing and saving heirloom seeds.
If you live in the Portland metro area, I just learned that Portland Homestead Supply is starting a seed exchange at their store location in Sellwood.
Note: I just found out about a local seed saving organization, SE Portland Seed Bank. They look to be a great local resource for finding other urban farmers in your neighborhood, learning about seed saving, and connecting with other seed exchange parties and events!