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.