I was born in Chile, and when I get to thinking about seeds and my ancestral origins, strong emotions stir within. I'm passionate about seeds- they truly stir up my emotional side. It's taken me a while to understand why and to be able to begin to express it words. Seeds, especially for edibles, have been saved by humans for many thousands of years.
First Nation Indigenous people consider them as living, breathing, relatives in a literal, not figurative sense. Seeds are culture, memory, and carry our heritage. Some of these people are my ancestors, that still live in Chile. As a "mestiza", my ancestors are indigenous as well as a mix of colonizers.
In fact, viable seeds ARE alive, and they are handed down through families and communities to this day, although alarmingly, much less so. These are real heirloom varieties that are an essential means by which we carry on our cultures, whether rooted in Indigenous traditions or in a family group of immigrants, generations ago.
This led me to study horticulture and landscape design through the Environmental Horticulture and Design Program at Foothill College, in Los Altos Hills. I designed low -water and edible gardens from 2013 until the summer of 2020. In parallel, I began saving seeds and learning all I could about this practice.
I now devote myself to helping others grow edibles and save seeds, as one way forward in these times.
Other TrainingChez TJ Kitchen Garden
Seed Seva Seasonal Mentorship with Rowen White, Sierra Seeds
This is a unique online mentorship course with seed advocate/activist Rowen White (as well as a teacher, author, farmer and more), who weaves her indigenous practices with botanical "Western science". I met Rowen at an EcoFarm conference and was so grateful to be able to participate in her online offering in 2017, and I'm still participating as an alumni. There is a lot to say about Rowen and the beautiful restorative work that she is doing. Read about her here. A life-changer for me, in fact, through her I discovered why my work with seeds affects me in such a powerful way.
Member Grower Evaluation Network (M-GEN), Seed Savers Exchange
(Currently known as their Citizen Science Corps)
I've participated in seed trials for several years for this important seed stewarding organization. In 2017 I trialed 'Leer bean' for Seed Savers Exchange'. This project helps the organization gather information on the cultivation of rare heirlooms so that they can offer them in their catalog, and keep them in cultivation. It's exciting to have a rare variety and be part of a team effort, and it's also a sacred responsibility to the plants that feed us.
|Heirloom Leer beans: cooking and taste |
evaluation is part of the seed trial
|Prepping beds at the Chez TJ restaurant garden|
Formal training in horticulture for two and a half years. It's a rigorous program- the same one that edible gardening guru Rosiland Creasy attended, although at that time in the 1970's there was no such thing as landscaping with edibles, so she paved the way for the rest of us!
Photos: Patricia Larenas