Over the last two decades, large, multinational companies like Monsanto have taken over family-owned seed companies and focused on producing their own hybrid and patented varieties.
Why is this an issue? These hybrids don’t produce viable seeds and cannot be collected legally and used by farmers or home gardeners.
This means that both home gardeners and farmers must buy “new” seeds each year from these corporate sources. It also has meant that we are losing the knowledge and techniques of traditional seed saving and plant propagation.
More than that, local, heirloom seeds are better adapted to a local region and become better seeds for that area. They also provide more interesting and unique varieties and are often tastier.
This has led many to recognize the need to preserve the genetic and cultural diversity of the heritage seeds that are left, before they too are gone and in the past year, “seed libraries” are sprouting all over the United States.
One of these is the newly formed Seed Library of Los Angeles (SLOLA). SLOLA, the brainchild of David King, the Garden Master of the Learning Garden at Venice High School is “a new community based effort to ensure a safe supply of open-pollinated heirloom vegetable varieties, unpatented and unowned by faceless, profit based companies.”
Members can check out seeds (like library books) for free, and return fresh seed to the library at the end of the growing season.
King says that in addition to saving heirloom vegetable varieties, the organization is designed to be of service to people who have been marginalized as far as getting food on the table. “There’s a definite divide between those who can buy expensive seeds and those who can’t afford them,” he says.
That’s why they established a $10 membership fee that they hope will remain that low for a lifetime.
SLOLA is having its 2nd meeting this Saturday, January 15, 2011, at 2:30 pm at The Learning Garden. At the meeting, the group will be asking all members to sign the “Safe Seed Pledge” and promise to learn “to grow their plants in a way that will help us provide a long term solution to the crises of our loss of genetic diversity and to keep alive these valuable older seed varieties that gardeners can save to grow next year and be independent of the seed industry that pushes more and more hybrids on the average gardener.”
If you need to learn how to do this, SLOLA is offering a daylong (10 a.m. to 3 pm, including lunch) seminar entitled “Essentials of Vegetable Seed-Saving” on January 29, led by Garden Master King himself, that covers everything you need to learn about seed saving and growing.
You can help SLOLA through cash/in-kind donations or volunteering. “The idea is to make these seeds available to people that are marginalized and donations help us do that,” says King.
They need cash donations to get the website up, purchase seed when necessary, and for printing and mailing costs as well as basic equipment including a seed cleaner and a scale that measures in grams. They are also looking for volunteers to help one Saturday a month.
The group has a big vision: “This is envisioned as being Los Angeles basin-wide. And we are thinking big about being a force and presence that provides a sustainable way that Los Angeles can sustainably survive in a post peak oil world” King says.
For more info.
For more information or to register for the January 29 “Essentials of Vegetable Seed Saving"