I thought of so many clever titles for this entry about seed saving, the alternative was “Saving Seed Saves Lives!”, but I really like the idea of a bunch of organic farmers saving civilization after some inevitable natural disaster hits with their loads of stockpiled heirloom seeds. I will explain.
Yesterday, when I was talking about the awesome varieties of heirloom vegetables I failed to list an important factor in all this which is that because of the industrialization of the produce market, vegetable and fruit varieties are literally disappearing.
Heirloom variety plants are being replaced by genetically-identical mass crops of industry owned genetically modified seed. This seed is easier to ship, store, and grow, but, most importantly, it is able to be turned into profit by large companies.
Because of this, we are losing the genetic diversity of the produce in the world, and the crops that we do have are not the hardy vegetables which have been cultivated for centuries to be able to withstand pests and disease. So what happens if a disease or fungus gets into one of these monocultured fields? Anyone who has ever lived in the suburbs and seen a grass disease infect one lawn should know the answer to this: everything dies. Every single blade of California Blue turns Arizona brown until the whole neighborhood looks like it was victimized by some sort of lawn-blowtorching gang with an anti-suburbs agenda. A gang that knows how to hit suburban dads where it hurts.
To quote Barbara Kingsolver quoting someone else (just to confuse you more): “Jack Harlan, a twentieth-century plant geneticist and author of the classic Crops and Man, wrote about the loss of genetic diversity in no uncertain terms: ‘These resources stand between us and catastrophic starvation on a scale we cannot imagine…The line between abundance and disaster is becoming thinner and thinner.‘”
And what are these resources? Heirloom and other open-pollinated varieties of plants. And who has these resources? Farmers, like Lisa and Pat, who save seed.
This summer, unsure of what I should be doing with my life in this crazy world, I set out to find people who are trying to make a difference: I have found some of these people.
My blog title is ‘sustainablesummer’ and I chose it because I thought that sustainability was the word that, to me, was the closest you could get to being synonymous with ‘saving the world’ (not just because it’s the latest hype word). Well, saving seed is pretty much the epitome of sustainability:
It is self-sustainable for the farmer because they don’t have to repurchase seed every year, and it is sustainable for the plant which will need the genetic variety of open-pollinated breeds in order to be able to survive disease and plague….and, of course, that means sustainable for humans.
“So what can I do?” you ask as you skim through this post looking for pictures. Well you could grow your own heirlooms….or you could just start eating heirlooms.