At the public library in Basalt, Colorado you can check out more than books. This library and several others popping up across the nation are promoting seed swapping. It is a simple process. You get a packet of seeds with your library card, take them home and plant them. In return, you harvest the seed from the strongest of the plants that produce the best crop and return them to the library for someone else to try.
Seed swapping like this makes a lot of sense when considering your long-term food preparations. Here are 6 good reasons to swap seeds:
- It protects biodiversity.
- It keeps puts more crops we consume in the garden and less in the laboratory.
- Helps preserve locally adapted varieties.
- It maintains a vital gardening skill.
- It saves money.
- Promotes a sense of community.
Basalt, Colorado does not have an ideal climate for a lot of crops so if someone is able to grow a crop in conditions like the drought, short growing season, and alkaline soil, then a new generation of tougher plant that is more ideally suited for the local growing situation will be made available through the seed.
So much is mentioned about storing food, gardening, and other survival notions. These are not innovative ideas reserved for “Doomsday Preppers”. Gardening in the past was a necessity that meant the difference between life and death. In an emergency situation, things could quickly go back to this way of life and I am certain I would be more motivated to weed my garden if I thought I didn’t have the option of driving to my local market when the crabgrass took over my lettuce plants. Additionally, we should all cringe when reminded of what happened to Cain when he offered God his lousiest vegetables for an offering.
We live in a digital age where doing business transactions with people across the world, making a Facebook friend thousands of miles away, or accessing news from foreign places are common place. However, these are not the best ways to handle the food we want to grow and eat. A hundred years ago a farmer would purchase seeds locally from the selection that came from other local farmers and was guaranteed success because those seeds would develop plants that could thrive in his location. Now the consumer, while sitting in his kitchen, goes online and orders seeds from all over the globe and wonders why he never seems to have the greatest success. After a few failed attempts, most of us throw up our hands, plant over our garden plots with grass seed, and delight in the fact that we won’t have to break our backs weeding anymore.
We have all heard the phrase “Buy Local”, but it should be followed up with “Plant Local”.
For decades, seed companies have offered farmers commercially produced seed which limits the varieties of crops grown. They offer seeds that will grow uniformly so whole fields can be picked at once or by machine and fruits and vegetables harvested stay firmer for longer periods of time. That’s why when you pick up that tomato in the grocery store you should wonder if it’s older than your toothbrush. Additionally, these seeds do not yield the tastiest varieties, but instead equip the farmer with a product that he can gain the most profit from.
Alarmingly, hybrid seeds are increasing in number by artificially cross-pollinating to amplify very specific characteristics that are attractive to the mass-producing commercial farm. However, because of the tampering, the seeds garnered from the “Stepford Wife Crops” are either sterile or will produce weak plants. This in turn is very convenient for the seed companies and it lines their pockets nicely because the farmer will be forever dependent on the alien seeds they offer.
In a nutshell, a plant’s purpose is to create a seed so that it can reproduce. Plants constantly experiment and adapt to new conditions. Since fewer varieties grow, nature cannot make new adaptations that will flourish. It has been estimated that 75% of plant diversity has been lost in the past century. Saving and swapping seeds is vital for our food supplies. In some countries only two varieties of rice are now cultivated where there were once thousands. Seed banks that freeze and store many varieties will be useless if no one is actually growing and saving seeds for the future.