Monday, February 21, 2011

Shopping for Food Security - Part 1

The farm sleeps under a blanket of snow as we plan our seed orders.     

A Word About Seeds.
The French word for seeds is semences.  Yes indeed the French have brought our fundamental need for thriving procreation to the very ground under our feet. Earthy hmmm? Even in the garden, the French are intimate with making food and, of course, making love.

Well then, let's consider what the world would be like if only 5 percent of males were eligible to impregnate all of the women. What would be lost? In fact that is what we're facing in our food supply today. Seed diversity and the basic needs of humanity are overlapping in some interesting ways.

Organic Farmers Cover the Cost of Seed Diversity. 

Each year we're obligated by our certification process to buy organic seed whenever possible.  Ordering organic seed supports organic farmers.  But there's more to it than that. This requirement also drives the market of supply and demand to preserve non GMO and non hybridized varieties. This gives us a larger, wider and more dependable supply of clean seed to buy and plant. Organic farmers are investing in having a bank of seed genetics in the market.

Organic Seed is Harder to Find and Usually More Expensive.
One complaint from consumers of organics is that the product is more costly.  This is true in the short term.
We can prove that fresh, clean, nutritious food is more valuable. But higher seed cost is directly related to what it costs to grow, harvest and market that value. As more organic producers enter the market, prices should come down even as food value improves.

Open Pollination and Seed Saving
An open pollinated variety of plant will breed true from it's own seed. So if you plant an open pollinated variety of beans or squash or peas, you can save the seeds from this year and plant more next year.
Open pollinated plants are not owned under patent law, they don't revert to earlier strains and they are proven under specific climate and soil conditions.  When we order organic open pollinated seeds, we can grow 2 marketable crops - produce and seed - and have clean seed to plant the following year. There is natural selection in this process. Seeds that are sound and strong thrive.  Those that aren't, don't.  You should know that not all organic seed is open pollinated.  At Dunn Creek Farm we are making a business decision to open a savings account with our own seed bank.    
Seed Diversity = 600 Tomato Varieties, Not 5. 
When we shopped for tomato seed this year, we found a grower offering 600 hundred varieties of heirloom, organic tomatoes that he and his partner produce themselves.  Some had been staples in American seed catalogs a hundred years ago.  Some had been locked behind the Iron Curtain for decades.  All had been common in market gardens in a variety of regions and conditions.  Few are being commercially grown today.       

The Hazards of Limited Diversity
When you see tomatoes in the supermarket, you are seeing about 5 varieties now commonly grown for market.  They are red.  They are firm.  But they are not selected for taste or nutrition.  There are better tomatoes to be found.  But you probably can't find them in your market. And that's not all.  Now that most of the people of the world are dependent on a handful of grains, vegetables and plants for survival, it's not hard to imagine that a plant pandemic could detonate like a bomb in the global food supply.  We need a viable market to keep the alternatives on hand. And this is where today's consumer comes in.  In part two, we'll consider how the grocery shopper decides how much bio diversity there is.  

Some of our Seed Sources this year:

Hope Seeds - Organic Vegetable Seeds & Organic Garden Seeds
Vesey's Seeds