The Hanover Garden Club sponsored two inspiring seed saving-related events this past week: The documentary Open Sesame: The Story of Seeds on Monday and a presentation by Ken Green of Hudson Valley Seed on Tuesday.(Watch “Open Sesame” trailer) Genetic diversity is being lost at an alarming rate as the seed industry consolidates and focuses only on the most profitable seeds, much of which are GMO and cannot be saved. But we individual gardeners can do something: We can support independent local organic seed businesses such as Solstice Seed in Hartland, VT; and High Mowing Seed in Wolcott, VT., And we can save seeds!
A bit farther afield is Hudson Valley Seed in Accord, NY. Hudson Valley Seed is preserving the stories behind seeds they save, and are using art as a way to honor the story. They select an artist, tell the story behind the saved seeds, then leave it to the artist to capture the story in visual form. (Hudson Valley sells prints of the art work as well as beautiful seed packets that make lovely gifts and wedding favors.)
The story: Pepper seeds had been saved by Horace Pippin, a black farmer who found relief for his arthritis in bee-sting therapy. He developed a friendship with a beekeeper/farmer, and in exchange for the bee-stings, shared his pepper seeds which were popular within the black community. The farmer stored the seeds in a trunk, and when he died, his grandson discovered the seeds. The grandson, William Woys Weaver, was a seed saver; he grew out the seeds and kept the variety alive and eventually shared them with Hudson Valley Seed.
A few Canillas gardeners have been inspired by these presentations and by the threat of our seed supply being controlled by Monsanto and other chemical/pharmaceutical giants. We will be buying seeds from Solstice, High Mowing, and Hudson Valley, etc and trying our hands at seed saving, with the intent to share our saved seeds with other gardeners. As of now, Helen will be saving sweet basil, Paula – Sugar Ann pea pods, Suzanne – sunflowers, Jean – Ganti tomatoes, Pat – Yellow of Parma onions, Polly – Anna Swartz winter squash; given that the seed packets are generous, we will probably have seeds to share this spring.