Digging in life's Garden with ReeAnna
If you’re anything like myself, you never really thought about the difference between a seed bank and a seed library, it seems obvious but it really isn't something that crosses my mind often but since the Seed Libraries just reopened and warm weather creeps into the forecast, I figured why not? So let’s dig!
Seed banks are somewhat a gene bank-- their universal purpose being to preserve certain genetic traits in a certain species of plant. In times of drought, disease, and nutritional inequality, these specific, genetically diverse seeds can be quite literally the pivot point in life and death. Seed banks are extremely important as they also preserve certain genetics with historic and cultural value. As of 2006, there were about 6 million accessions, or samples of a particular population, stored as seeds in about 1,300 gene-banks throughout the world.
Seed Libraries are a community specific effort to increase accessibility of seeds to individuals within that community. Libraries allow residents to check-out seeds just as they would do with books, it is not required to return seeds but it is certainly encouraged. Give back to the same program that gave to you!
While both of these ‘seed saving' programs are important, it is even more important to understand just what these banks and libraries provide, as well as the pivotal role they play in our survival as a the human species! Our quality of life as everyday citizens within a community can only be improved by these seed programs.
Digging in Life's garden with ReeAnna:
Lasagna Gardening also known as Sheet Composting is a set it and forget it method of preparing your garden bed for beautiful, healthy plants. Lasagna gardening is relatively easy and inexpensive, as well as appropriate for all ages to allow for great family project, so grab your kids! Grab your friends!
~Let’s talk Lasagna Gardening!
There are a few tips for starting your garden that will guarantee success in this method of no-till no-dig gardening. The idea is to build up layers of organic material that over time will break down, allowing for a beautiful, nutrient rich soil that your plants are going to love. Much like building a lasagna in the kitchen, your garden will have alternate layers of browns and greens. You can start your garden any time of year but fall is a good time due to all of the good browns you can find all around your yard. If you do plan to start in spring or summer, just plan to add some topsoil at the end so you can begin planting sooner!
To begin your masterpiece, there is no need to even break the ground, just add three layers of newspaper or a layer of corrugated cardboard to the ground where you wish to start your garden!
Give the layer a good soaking of water to help the newspaper (or cardboard) begin breaking down and start the decomposition process-- weeds and grass will be smothered and the damp, dark place is perfect to attract worms
Begin layering! You’ll simply alternate bown layers (leaves, shredded newspaper, pine needles) with green layers (kitchen scraps, grass clippings, plant trimmings) there is no perfect way to do this, just layer your browns about twice as deep and your green layers. In total you are making around a two-foot tall “lasagna”
And that’s all folks! Just let your garden decompose for a few weeks and when your ready to plant-- go ahead with your regular method!
Digging into life’s garden with ReeAnna:
There is something about growing your own garden from start to finish… germinating, sowing, that little plant first popping up out of the soil… it’s therapeutic if anything. Maybe it’s personal gratification or maybe it’s just because YOU can! Let’s talk seed starting tips~
Seed Scarification, Stratification, and Soaking are just another step to ensure seeds that can be difficult to germinate grow happy and healthy. Though these terms may seem “harsh”, trust me when I say you are helping-- not hurting your precious babies!
Let’s break it down:
“Remember: seeds that are large or have hard coatings are usually the ones that need to be scarred to allow them to absorb moisture. Seeds that need to be stratified are usually perennials, tiny seeds like those of poppies or seeds for trees and shrubs. Seeds that need to be soaked before planting are usually seeds that are wrinkly, or seeds that you have scarified.”
For a full list of Germination instruction and method on specific seeds click here!
Digging into life's garden with Katie:
Digging into life's garden with Olivia:
Integrated Pest Management is an approach to controlling pests that is environmentally sensitive, yet effective. There is not one particular method for IPM, rather it is using current common-sense approaches that evaluate the natural life cycle and behavior of certain pests and then applying the most ecological, economical and least-hazardous solution.
The idea behind IPM is to find alternative methods other than traditional/routine application of harmful pesticides. Although some IPM methods may result in limited and controlled use of pesticides, those methods are not common or harsh as regularly spraying pesticides on crops. IPM methods turn to non-chemical practices and find
natural solutions that are equally as effective.
Integrated Pest Management takes more intentionality. IPM requires correct identification of the pest, continual monitoring, troubleshooting prevention methods to reduce the attractiveness to pests, evaluating when to take control actions, and documenting the results. IPM requires knowledge of specific pests so that pest control solutions can be tailored to the one specific pest problem without affecting other species that provide benefits to the garden.
IPM can also be used in more places than just the garden. According to the EPA, IPM is highly recommended in schools because it is a “smart, sensible, and sustainable approach to pest control.” There are numerous benefits to IPM such as health (human and environmental) and economic. IPM reduces allergens associated with pests, pesticides and asthma. Using IPM practices in schools where allergens and asthma are particularly high can be very beneficial. Economically, since IPM is focused on prevention it can be very cost-effective in the long term.
With IPM, you are finding the root of the pest problem which can help you have longer lasting prevention reducing the need to spend money continually on pesticides and other control efforts.
Although IPM may take extra attention in the process, it results in longer lasting pest control rather than covering up the pest problem with pesticides which may or may not have long term results.
This weekend, Blue Ridge Women in Agriculture hosted a CRAFT Workshop at Waxwing’s FIG Farm that was dedicated to talking about IPM. Two Agricultural Extension agents came out to the farm to talk about IPM and help the participants get hands-on experience with some of the local pests that were present at this particular farm. One big thing the agents talked about was the knowledge that comes with IPM. It is very important to take the time to learn about the signs of disease and pests, what they look like, and how to resolve the issue. They reiterated that it takes a good bit of time and research but can be very cost-efficient and long lasting.
Digging into life's garden with Katie:
Native plants are those who have adapted to a set climate over a number of years, forming a number of symbiotic relationships with their surrounding environment. These plants tend to have little trouble growing, since they are already suited to the environmental conditions around them. Insects and wildlife depend on native plants to maintain stable living conditions. These native plants stand in contrast to non-native invasive species, some of which propagate enormously due to the non-balanced traits they bring to the new environment.
Not only are native plants easy to grow in their native environments, but they’re an enormous part of indigenous culture around the world. As food systems become more commercialized, the connections formed between cultural groups and their land can easily be understood as less authentic and important, as one Lakota man laments in this article (http://www.takepart.com/article/2014/10/20/native-american-seeds).
Place-based knowledge has been shown to be of more importance in many American Indian groups in contrast to modern US culture, and plant-based life is a huge part of how people connect with the land. So, not only can the modern seed industry undermine cultural knowledge within America, but native sovereignty can be affected due to American Indians’ inability to grow essential food without relying on outside parties for help.
Native plant preservation and heirloom seeds can overlap in discussion, although they don’t refer to the exact same process. Heirloom varieties refer to plants grown from saved seeds of older plants--the children and parent plant are essentially the same crop due to open pollination. Heirloom varieties stand in contrast to hybridized commercial varieties of plants designed to have a high yield as well as to be resistant to disease and pesticides. Native plants are merely those that are and have been staples within the geologic time environment they find themselves.
Digging into life's garden with Christina:
At the heart of every sustainable food system, lie the seeds that grow the myriad of produce that people consume daily. These seeds are so much more than meets the eye, beyond their ability to grow food, they tell stories of culture, subsistence, and even resistance. Without the maintenance and cultivation of open pollinated, heirloom seeds, communities around the world will lose the biodiversity of the flowers, vegetables, and fruits they have cherished for generations. This reduction of biodiversity can and will greatly affect communities’ cultural foodways.
Some of the bean varieties donated to the Ashe and Watauga Seed Libraries from community members in Western North Carolina.
In today’s growing global economic system, corporations worldwide have been mass producing seeds to be disease resistant, yield more, have specific coloring / growth patterns, etc. According to the Ashe County Seed Saving Workshop I attended on May 18th, 2017, Agricultural Extension Agent Travis Birdsell, explained that there are
“roughly ten seed companies that account for 67% percent of the global proprietary seed market.” These commercial seeds will decrease the selection of crops we have available to grow and it will also consequently increase the risk of getting wiped out by future disease / insect infestation, and climatic changes. Commercial seeds often are unable to change with their environment decreasing their viability for the following season causing growers to have to buy new seeds each year. With this reduction of genetic diversity, comes the risk of widespread food insecurity.
Organic and open pollinated seeds have the ability to better adapt to local conditions, and can be improved over generations. These seeds will be able to be saved year after year, through proper cultivation and storage. This seed saving process also gives people the opportunity to connect with the community of farmers, gardeners, seed savers, growers, etc. that play a role in their local food system. It is so important to create these networks, in order to create a base of individuals that work to fight food insecurity in their community.
The time is now to fight these corporations, in order to take back our local food system. With the work that Blue Ridge Women in Agriculture is doing to promote the seed libraries, through events such as the Ashe and Watauga County Seed Saving Workshops, the High Country community will have an opportunity to take part in the global movement to save the genetic diversity of plants. Seed saving can not only, help build strong communities in a number of way but also it can help to protect the natural environment.
By saving local heirloom varietals, pollinators such as plants and animals, will have a chance to thrive in their natural environment while also helping to play a part in maintaining local biodiversity. According to Birdsell, “seed saving provides an opportunity to engage in the cycle of life, which then turns the consumer into the provider.” Through seed saving we can work to ensure that future generations will have access to viable produce that will provide nutrition to their friends and family. There are a number of resources available to teach individuals how to properly save seeds. Through education and discussion, we can create a global movement to protect our local food system and prevent food insecurity worldwide.
Digging into life's garden with Madison:
Food deserts are defined by the USDA (US Department of Agriculture) as geographic areas in which residents have limited to no access to fresh fruit, vegetables, or other healthy foods. These areas are typically impoverished and lack farmer’s markets and grocery stores with fresh, affordable produce. About 23.5 million people in the US live in food deserts. (3) The largest three are located in New Orleans, Chicago, and Atlanta.(2)
Food deserts are primarily found in low income areas in which the majority of people do not own cars. This means people rely on public transportation to get to supermarkets which can require several long trips. A NY Times study shows that wealthy districts can have up to three times more supermarkets as poorer ones. The NAICS (North American Industry Classification System) found that small corner stores and larger grocery stores are statistically grouped together, meaning if a community had two corner stores and no large chain grocery store they would still be counted as having two retail food outlets despite its limited stock. (1)
There are growing health concerns for people who live in food deserts due to their dependence on the low prices of local stop and shop markets. These markets and small convenience stores offer primarily processed foods such as snacks, chips, cake, and sodas. Fresh fruits are usually sold individually with no price marked allowing store owners to change the cost based upon the customer. Buying food from these small stores also makes it difficult for many to find culturally appropriate foods that work around many dietary restrictions or allergies. For quick, easy meals these areas are filled with fast food chains, around a 2.5x higher exposure than those living in wealthy areas, only providing meals with processed meats high in fat, sugar, and salt. Between 1985 and 2005, the price of fruits and vegetables increased by 75% while the price of fatty foods dropped by over 26%. (1) Although eating cheaper food saves low income families money now, in the long term the lack of nutritious food leads to expensive health problems such as obesity, diabetes, and cardiovascular disease.
For more information follow the links below:
Digging into life's garden with Olivia:
Livelihood + Self Determination
Food sovereignty is an agricultural movement that encompasses challenges of ecology, society/culture, politics, and economy. The movement fights against the shifting values of the food system that is moving towards unnatural, cheap, and nonlocal food. The formal definition of Food Sovereignty is: the right of peoples to healthy and culturally appropriate food produced through ecologically sound and sustainable methods, and their right to define their own food and agriculture systems.
Food sovereignty goes beyond just having enough food for all, but also addresses the right people have to make decisions about their food system. This movement asserts that the current food system is broken and is operated by large corporations that control the entire production and sale of food. This causes many social problems, such as unfair pricing and distribution as well as ecological problems caused by large-scale production, mono-cropping, and inefficient water-use. The current food system takes the basic food needs of human and privatizes that food to be sold as a commodity, when it should be a common source of life for all.
This control from a few big businesses that produce huge and cheap crop yields drives out the smaller, local and ecologically friendly farmers, leaving them unable to earn a living. Without local control of the food system, many times both local farmers and consumers are left in poverty and hunger. As well as the people, the environmental health is being compromised by unsustainable farming practices.
Food as a community not a commodity
The movement's goal is to redistribute the control into the hands of the locals so that the community’s overall (nutritional, ecological, political, and economic) health can benefit and be tailored to the needs of the people in a given community. This idea eliminates exploitation of people and the land and gives power and justice to the people of the community.
Food Sovereignty is a global movement that is picking up followers from all over to fight against problems caused by the global food system. Below is a link from Grassroots International of a booklet of farmers and activists devoting their life to promoting food sovereignty and change.