Why You Should Be Saving Seeds (Even If You Don’t Have A Garden)

Watch this movie to get inspired about saving seeds. And then do it.


Published:

A scene from Seed: The Untold Story, directed by Taggart Siegel and Jon Betz (2016).

Photo courtesy of Collective Eye Films

As I was writing this I got my Seed Savers Exchange catalog, which comes to me annually out of Decorah, Iowa. Seed Savers is one of the stars of Seed: The Untold Story. If you’ve not heard of them—or of the idea of saving heirloom seeds—I’ll not be surprised. There aren’t that many of us growing our own vegetable seeds. If you’re already a seed saver, this is a swell movie about our people. If you’re not, it will tell you why you might want to join us.

I know about these things because of Mary Schultz, who was lettuce curator for Seed Savers when I met her (nearly 25 years ago). She showed up at my office and commanded I appear at her garden outside Monroe, Washington. She had 300-plus varieties of lettuce that she grew out on a three-year rotation, 100 a year. For a few years I helped set out a thousand or so lettuce starts (multiples of each kind to keep up genetic variety) on whatever acre or two Mary rented that year, in addition to 80 or so varieties of potatoes, a slew of beans, and vegetables for market. Since then, I’ve saved some sort of seeds most every year. This year I grew and saved three kinds of beans, six varieties of potato, and five garlics.

But why bother to save seeds at all? As you’ll see in this movie, seeds are history and heritage, seeds are insurance and power. Most of all: no seeds, no food.

For the first several thousand years of agriculture—until a century or two ago—seed savers were called something else: farmers and gardeners. In many places, they still are. You didn’t buy your seeds; you grew enough to eat or sell, and enough more to plant next year and maybe extras to swap with your neighbors. With dry corn and beans, what you eat is the same thing you plant. You can save seeds right out of the tomatoes that you eat; same for winter squash and melons. For most other plants, you let the plant grow—it will flower and, when the flowers dry out, you’ll have seeds. All those farmers and gardeners ended up with plant varieties adapted for local growing conditions or that had desirable characteristics—color, flavor, long storage. That’s why Mary had 300 lettuces. That’s why Seed Savers has 1,186 different kinds of beans collected by one guy, John Withee.

But, Seed: The Untold Story tells us, the last time the U.S. government studied seed diversity, in 1983, it found available just 28 varieties of cabbage, down from a historical tally of 544. For cauliflower, it was nine left of 158. Beets, 17 of 288; rutabaga, three of 55; artichoke, two of 34.

That happened because, as agriculture got mechanized, and farms got bigger, and packers required uniform produce, farmers started buying seeds. It saved time and effort and produced what the market demanded. In the case of corn and many vegetables, seed companies developed hybrid seeds that were pushed as bigger and better. But you can’t save seeds from hybrid crops. They don’t grow the same stuff. As environmental lawyer Claire Hope Cummings says in the movie, “Hybrid corn was the atom bomb of agriculture.”

And now the problem is patented biotech seed. If you save patented seed, you’re in line to get sued. A fair chunk of the movie focuses on Vandana Shiva’s work in India, where, she tells us, Monsanto has made an aggressive push to get farmers off traditional seeds and on the genetically engineered ones they have to buy each year—with disastrous consequences, including debt-induced farmer suicides.

As a result of the commercialization of seed, we’ve lost more than 90 percent of our food plant varieties. But there’s a coterie of people who aim to hold the line on that, and we meet them in Seed: the Hopi farmers and people from Tesuque Pueblo in New Mexico who are preserving the heritage represented by their corn and other heritage seeds; Will Bonsall, an old hippie who grows 2,000 plant varieties in Maine; the swashbuckling Simcox brothers, who travel the world in search of new varieties; and a large cast of others.

As Bill McDormand, of Native Seeds/SEARCH, says, “We just don’t have the time left on this small planet to recreate this stuff. Once it’s gone, it’s gone.”

And the thing is, we don’t know which one of those varieties has resistance to the next plant disease or which one will thrive as the climate changes. Every one contains genetic information that goes back to the beginning; each has some unique twist. Every time we lose a variety, we’ve lost that uniqueness forever.

Here’s where you come in. Watch this movie to get inspired about saving seeds. And then do it. If you don’t have a garden, all you need is a pot big enough to grow a tomato plant or some beans or whatever you decide to plant. Seed Savers curates 24,000 varieties. Adopt one of those, or one from somewhere else, and grow it. Save seeds and share them. Your variety might be the one that we really need in the future. And if it’s not, you’ve still got some cool beans.

Doug Pibel wrote this article for Why Science Can’t Be Silent, the Spring 2017 issue of YES! Magazine. Doug is a freelance editor and former YES! managing editor who lives in the Pacific Northwest.

This article was republished from YES! Magazine.

See also:
Interview With Joseph Simcox, The Botanical Explorer
Seed Libraries Fight for the Right to Share

Edit Module
Edit ModuleShow Tags
Edit Module Edit ModuleShow Tags

Daily Astrology

November 25, 2017

If you awaken with a great idea illuminating your mind, take note. Mental Mercury is in trine to Uranus, the planet of genius and invention. The sociable Aquarius Moon’s late morning trine with Mars has people eager to share news and get pals on board…
Edit ModuleShow Tags

Alternative Health Directory

Browse all listings »

Edit ModuleShow Tags
Edit ModuleShow Tags

Calendar

November 2017

Free admission, 10%-20% discounts! Quality crystals, minerals and jewelry! We have an amazing display of merchandise for your viewing pleasure and purchase. We constantly add new items to our...

Where:
Cape Cod Center for Whole Health
116 State Road
Sagamore Beach, MA
View map »


Sponsor: Down to Earth Crystals and Minerals
Telephone: 508-680-6195
Website »

More information

Here we will gather with those of like mind & spirit to discuss various topics about how intuition and the spiritual world can present itself, and how to make a stronger guide connection....

Cost: $25 per person

Where:
The Studio at One Earth
191 Emery Mills Road
Shapleigh, ME  04076
View map »


Sponsor: The Studio at One Earth
Telephone: 207-636-2500
Contact Name: The Studio at One Earth
Website »

More information

January 14 - December 9, 2017 With Tom Frederick Novice — This 12-month program is designed to assist you on your journey to spiritual enlightenment. Here we study a variety of esoteric...

Cost: $1300

Where:
Women of Wisdom
118 Washington Street
North Easton, MA  02356
View map »


Sponsor: Women of Wisdom
Telephone: 508-230-3680
Contact Name: Women of Wisdom
Website »

More information

The new Moon of Sagittarius gives us a sense of security. As such, we may feel more comfortable taking risks this month and stepping out of our comfort zones. Accepting temporary discomfort in...

Cost: Free

Where:
MGH at Charlestown Navy Yard
Building 114, Room D1
114 16th Street
Charlestown, MA  02129
View map »


Sponsor: Kabbalah Center
Website »

More information

Show More...
Show Less...

January 14 - December 9, 2017 With Tom Frederick Novice — This 12-month program is designed to assist you on your journey to spiritual enlightenment. Here we study a variety of esoteric...

Cost: $1300

Where:
Women of Wisdom
118 Washington Street
North Easton, MA  02356
View map »


Sponsor: Women of Wisdom
Telephone: 508-230-3680
Contact Name: Women of Wisdom
Website »

More information

The Daoist Benevolent Association offers free classes on traditional Wudang style tai chi. 

Cost: Free

Where:
Brown School
42 Milk St Newburyport
Newburyport, MA  01950
View map »


Sponsor: Daoist Benevolent Association
Telephone: 978-462-4617
Contact Name: Barbara
Website »

More information

Nancy's therapeutic and healing nature stems from her own personal journey through health struggles. Her style is open to everyone, no matter physical or mental challenges, or age....

Cost: $15 drop in or $12 with 10 class bundle

Where:
HeartSong Spiritual Wellness
23 Pine Street
Milford, MA  01757
View map »


Sponsor: HeartSong Spiritual Wellness Center
Website »

More information

Show More...
Show Less...

January 14 - December 9, 2017 With Tom Frederick Novice — This 12-month program is designed to assist you on your journey to spiritual enlightenment. Here we study a variety of esoteric...

Cost: $1300

Where:
Women of Wisdom
118 Washington Street
North Easton, MA  02356
View map »


Sponsor: Women of Wisdom
Telephone: 508-230-3680
Contact Name: Women of Wisdom
Website »

More information

The Daoist Benevolent Association offers free classes on traditional Wudang style tai chi. 

Cost: Free

Where:
Brown School
42 Milk St Newburyport
Newburyport, MA  01950
View map »


Sponsor: Daoist Benevolent Association
Telephone: 978-462-4617
Contact Name: Barbara
Website »

More information

A unique divine healing meditation, lead by Bhavna, to help you in your life; with your relationships, money, work and family. Also, the meditation helps with letting go to release...

Cost: $10

Where:
Bhavna’s Wellness Group
512 Main St.
Penthouse Suite
Shrewsbury, MA  01545
View map »


Sponsor: Bhavna’s Wellness Group
Telephone: 508-970-5620
Contact Name: Krista Bennett
Website »

More information

Daoist Priest Zhou Xuanyun teaches traditional Wudang style kung fu.

Cost: $110/month

Where:
Boston Ultimate Fitness
72 Beach Street (4th Floor)
Boston, MA  02111
View map »


Sponsor: Daoist Gate Wudang Arts
Telephone: 508-245-8305
Contact Name: Zhou Xuanyun
Website »

More information

Beginning, Tuesday, November 7th, 2017 Clarity. Knowledge. Personal transformation. No matter what you’re looking to find more of, Kabbalah 1 is the first step in your lifelong journey of...

Cost: 8 Weeks, $49.95

Where:
WeWork
31 St. James Ave
Boston, MA  02116
View map »


Sponsor: Kabbalah Center
Telephone: 1.800.522.2252
Website »

More information

Show More...
Show Less...

January 14 - December 9, 2017 With Tom Frederick Novice — This 12-month program is designed to assist you on your journey to spiritual enlightenment. Here we study a variety of esoteric...

Cost: $1300

Where:
Women of Wisdom
118 Washington Street
North Easton, MA  02356
View map »


Sponsor: Women of Wisdom
Telephone: 508-230-3680
Contact Name: Women of Wisdom
Website »

More information

This gentle yoga class is good for all skill levels. Scheduled perfectly in the middle of your week; the movements will be a welcome respite to your usual morning routine.

Cost: $10

Where:
Bhavna’s Wellness Group
512 Main St.
Penthouse Suite
Shrewsbury, MA  01545
View map »


Sponsor: Bhavna’s Wellness Group
Telephone: 508-970-5620
Contact Name: Krista Bennett
Website »

More information

Weekly yoga classes with Rev. Michelle Caron, RMT, CYT, ZIN of Harmony Way on Wednesdays at 12:15 PM and Fridays at 9:30 AM at the Wilbraham Senior Center. Class welcomes all ages and uses a...

Cost: $5

Where:
Wilbraham Senior Center
45 Post Office Park, #4502
Wilbraham, MA  01095
View map »


Sponsor: Harmony Way
Telephone: 413-636-2475
Contact Name: Rev. Michelle Caron, RMT, CYT, ZIN
Website »

More information

Are you ready to embrace more self-compassion and nurturing into your life? Take the plunge now! This 6 week group will weave yoga, creative arts, meditation, journaling and...

Cost: $180

Where:
Integrated Psychotherapy
31 Hastings Street
Mendon, MA  01756
View map »


Telephone: 508-335-6732
Contact Name: Sherri Snyder, MA, LMHC
Website »

More information

Show More...
Show Less...

January 14 - December 9, 2017 With Tom Frederick Novice — This 12-month program is designed to assist you on your journey to spiritual enlightenment. Here we study a variety of esoteric...

Cost: $1300

Where:
Women of Wisdom
118 Washington Street
North Easton, MA  02356
View map »


Sponsor: Women of Wisdom
Telephone: 508-230-3680
Contact Name: Women of Wisdom
Website »

More information

Show More...
Show Less...

January 14 - December 9, 2017 With Tom Frederick Novice — This 12-month program is designed to assist you on your journey to spiritual enlightenment. Here we study a variety of esoteric...

Cost: $1300

Where:
Women of Wisdom
118 Washington Street
North Easton, MA  02356
View map »


Sponsor: Women of Wisdom
Telephone: 508-230-3680
Contact Name: Women of Wisdom
Website »

More information

Weekly yoga classes with Rev. Michelle Caron, RMT, CYT, ZIN of Harmony Way on Wednesdays at 12:15 PM and Fridays at 9:30 AM at the Wilbraham Senior Center. Class welcomes all ages and uses a...

Cost: $5

Where:
Wilbraham Senior Center
45 Post Office Park, #4502
Wilbraham, MA  01095
View map »


Sponsor: Harmony Way
Telephone: 413-636-2475
Contact Name: Rev. Michelle Caron, RMT, CYT, ZIN
Website »

More information

Daoist Priest Zhou Xuanyun teaches traditional Wudang style kung fu.

Cost: $110/month

Where:
Boston Ultimate Fitness
72 Beach Street (4th Floor)
Boston, MA  02111
View map »


Sponsor: Daoist Gate Wudang Arts
Telephone: 508-245-8305
Contact Name: Zhou Xuanyun
Website »

More information

Show More...
Show Less...

January 14 - December 9, 2017 With Tom Frederick Novice — This 12-month program is designed to assist you on your journey to spiritual enlightenment. Here we study a variety of esoteric...

Cost: $1300

Where:
Women of Wisdom
118 Washington Street
North Easton, MA  02356
View map »


Sponsor: Women of Wisdom
Telephone: 508-230-3680
Contact Name: Women of Wisdom
Website »

More information

Show More...
Show Less...
Edit ModuleShow Tags
Edit Module Edit ModuleShow Tags