Sunday, July 13, 2014

Saving Seeds with Our Hands and Our Hearts

"Institutions do not save seeds- humans with hearts do."
- Dr. Gary Paul Nabhan, 2013 Annual Conference and Campout, Seed Savers Exchange

Recently I re-read the transcripts of speeches given by some of the keynote speakers from the 2013 Seed Savers Exchange Annual Conference. I admit to getting particularly misty-eyed by Dr. Gary Paul Nabhan's speech.  It hit home how important it is to sow our seeds, save them, and pass them on to our family, friends, and neighbors, and to keep them safe for the next generation.  As he explained, it's not some retro, quaint activity and a hanging on to the past, saving seeds is about the future. And beyond the seeds themselves it's about our connections to our culture and our links as a community, and to the earth. 

Why We Should Care
The loss of biodiversity of many types is a hot topic these days, and it certainly applies to seeds from our favorite edibles. As for me, I'm not willing to depend solely on seed companies as a source for the edibles I've come to love and count on and look forward to each season. And more urgently, our changing climate and other environmental pressures demand that we keep a pool of diverse food sources ready to meet changing growing conditions.

We don't have to settle for less, and we do have the ability to shape our futures.

The strikingly colored Christmas Lima, available from SSE

Seed Savers Exchange 34th Annual Conference and Campout
Pumped with these energizing thoughts, I'm really excited that I'm finally going to make the trip out to Iowa this year for the Seed Savers Exchange 34th Annual Conference and Campout in Decorah, Iowa.  The conference is July 18 to 20th, with a members only day on Friday. I can't wait to see the test gardens and the seed saving operations at Heritage Farm after reading about them for several years!

Maybe the best part is that I'll be spending hours and days with my people: like minded gardeners, farmers, and dedicated seed conservationists. No chance of boring anyone with lengthy conversations about seeds and their stories, or the nuances of various bean varieties, or the ideal isolation distances for lettuce, etc.

Flower: Little Lady Bird Cosmos; bean: Rattlesnake, a pole bean

We Can do Nothing or We Can do What We Can
Check out this nice graphic from National Geographic. It's sobering and even frightening. It illustrates the findings from a study done in 1983 that found a 93% loss of crop varieties since 1903 (of 66 crop types). 

They became extinct.

Photos: Patricia Larenas, Urban Artichoke


  1. Having read about you in the Seed Savers Exchange magazine, I've found your blog and hope you'll post about the SSE conference. Glad to have found you, and thanks for the important work you're doing!

    JJ from Alabama

  2. Hi JJ- thanks for your kind words. wow the conference was spectacularly inspiring ! So beautiful there on the farm too. I took camping gear on the plane with me so I camped all weekend- lovely.
    Yes, I have plans to write about it soon when I get some time here and there. I'd like to post photos too. Perhaps I'll do a photo album, then write about some of the talks- some very important messages about seed stewardship. I met and connected with wonderful people too.

    I also have a sort of funny story about my favorite winter squash (find it in this blog) 'Stella Blue Hokkaido'. While at the conference I realized with panic that it's in some danger of being lost (I had no idea) as not too many seed suppliers carry it (two of them are out of stock!), so I just bought up some seed packets that I'll carry forward and hope to offer in the SSE yearbook in the future.
    If you haven't made it out to Heritage Farm I hope you can go some time!

    best regards, and know that as a fellow seed saver your support of SSE and this cause is so valuable,

    1. Hi Patricia,

      When I was clicking over to your post on Stella Blue Hokkaido, I wondered it "she" would be the beautiful blue pumpkin I've seen but never grown or eaten, and she is! Glad to hear you went home with some seeds. It would be hard to imagine not seeing that pumpkin again. The pictures in your post are lovely!

      Thanks for the preliminary report on the SSE conference. I hope some day to get to Heritage Farm and hope you'll be able to go back.

      Looking forward to seeing your pictures and posts from the conference,

  3. What's the name of the lovely beans in your last photo?

    1. Hi CAC, I think you may mean the second to last photo above? those are the gorgeous 'Christmas Lima'. You can buy beans for cooking or seeds for planting (although I'll bet you can plant the eating beans) at this link from SSE catalog:

      Also available from Rancho Gordo, in Napa, Ca. It is a true lima, (Phaseolus lunatus) so it will only cross with other limas if you are interested in saving seeds.

      If you mean the last photo showing dried beans and the pod, those are Rattlesnake, pole beans that are very good as a snap bean (green bean) and also as a dry bean.

      Let me know if I answered your question...I should have labeled them, and perhaps I will!


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