Seeds. Those tiny marvels from which life springs forth. Holding the future within, they can grow a giant sequoia, a delicate orchid, or a ripe tomato. Seeds changed the course of human evolution from hunting and gathering to farming and cultivation. And ever since, the future of both seeds and the human race have been linked. Through their growth, we gain sustenance with the food we eat, oxygen for the air we breathe, shelter to keep us safe, and medicine to help us heal. Imagine how many aspects of our lives started with a seed. Life as we know it is utterly dependent on something that fits in the palm of our hand.
These genetic time capsules fascinate me, holding both the past and the future within each grain. The simple act of planting a seed both captures its history and continues its story. And when we pass along those seeds, we preserve that history for future generations. Unfortunately, with our seed supply increasingly controlled by corporations and the breeding of GMO varieties that introduce foreign genetics, we are losing our seed diversity and sovereignty. As a result, thousands of varieties are going extinct, lost to us forever. Thus, it is more important than ever to save our seeds. As you can tell, I’m pretty passionate about this topic. And so, when I saw an opportunity to join Seed School and learn more about the fascinating world of seeds, I jumped at the chance.
Seed School is a course offered through Seed Savers Exchange (SSE), a pioneering organization doing incredible work to preserve our seed heritage. Due to the ongoing pandemic, Seed School was a virtual course with seven live online webinars spanning over seven weeks. Each class featured a new topic and speaker designed to teach seed-saving fundamentals. Topics ranged from the basics of botany to seed saving techniques, preservation, and regional adaptation, to the importance of saving seeds and opportunities in seed saving and sharing. I couldn’t wait to get started!
Notebook in hand, I eagerly logged in for each class, ready to take notes and engage with other members of the seed-saving community. I heard fascinating seed stories, learned about seed diversity, from the smallest seed of the tropical orchid to the largest seed of the double coconut (one seed weighs over 50 lbs!) and everything in between. Speakers demonstrated techniques for saving seeds and revealed the best methods for preserving those seeds. By the end of the 7-week course, I felt that I had gained a greater understanding of not only how to save seeds but why they must be saved and shared. Along the way, I virtually met many incredible seed stewards and felt a camaraderie with them even though I was just getting started on my stewarding journey. It was a great feeling.
And so, here I am, a recent graduate of Seed School! Now what? Well, it was time to get saving. For several years now, I’ve saved garlic bulbs for replanting, and in 2020 I kept my first bean seeds which I successfully grew out this season. But now, it was time to step it up a notch. A walk through the fall garden had me downright giddy as I gathered seeds from my cosmos, dahlias, celosia, sunflowers, and zinnias. I preserved several dry bean varieties and dug up and divided dahlia tubers to replant in the spring. I am gaining confidence in my seed-saving ability with each seed that I gather, clean, and store.
One of my long-term goals is to become a seed steward for the Haudenosaunee Skunk Pole Bean. This beautiful dry bean variety was cultivated for centuries in our area by the Haudenosaunee people. The black and white bean, whose patterns are reminiscent of the night sky, has captured my heart. I feel strongly that its history needs to be preserved for the enjoyment of future generations. If I can play a role in that preservation, no matter how small, then I will be happy. I will continue to grow and save seed from this variety and, once I have an adequate supply, share the seed with others, ensuring its continued existence. How amazing to be able to contribute in this capacity right in our gardens! We have an opportunity to help save a species right in our backyards!
I am so excited to start this seed-saving adventure. I can’t wait to plant my saved seeds in the spring and watch them grow. If they are successful, I will continue to collect and share their seeds so that others can have the opportunity to enjoy them as much as I do. Seed saving is essential work, and we can all play our part and participate. When you save seeds and then share them, you are not only helping to preserve our seed heritage and ensuring that our future is filled with a diverse variety of food and flora, but you are also protecting our seed sovereignty. I can think of no greater gift. Seed savers are superheroes in my book, and they don’t even need to wear capes.