Tatamagouche Summer Free School

Saturday, August 19, 2006

Interview: Cammie Harbottle (Seed Saving)

Maybe we should start with what seed saving is....what is it?

It is quite simple. You just let the plant, lettuce, tomato, whatever, go through its life cycle as it will. It will produce a flower which will develop into a seedpod which, when allowed to fully mature can be collected, processed (dried, or fermented and then dried), and then saved to be re-planted the following year.


There are obvious economic incentives to do this (although they are relatively small considering the low costs of seeds that one can buy from the grocery store) but what are the other incentives? There are environmental, social and political incentives to save seed as well. As control over plant breeding, research, and seed banks becomes increasingly concentrated in the hands of large US and transnational corporations, genetic diversity is lost as heirloom varieties are replaced with hybrid seeds suited for agribusiness. It is becoming more expensive and difficult for farmers and gardeners to grow food due to levies and royalties attached to the increasing number of patented seeds. Federal policies and legislation are shifting control of plant research and breeding programs out of the public domain and into private hands. This is only to mention a few issues. By saving seed we can help to ensure that no more varieties are lost and the remaining seed bank in North America and around the world is maintained, and farmers and gardeners retain their rights to save seed. It is a really important thing to be doing.


Where's a good place to start, for people who have never saved seeds before?

In the garden- whatever garden you can find. Just start observing the life cycle of plants. Some species are definitely less complicated than others to save seed from. These are annual flowers and vegetables that self-pollinate and do not cross with other varieties of the same species. There is lots of information out there, in books, on the internet, with seed saving organizations and in the people around us, especially the generations that have come before us. Just start talking about it. People seem to get really excited about saving seed and love to share what they know, at least I do and those who I have come across... It's an exciting and amazing process. And it feels like you are doing something important.


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