On this mid-February day, the sun shines warm despite the single degree temps. My thoughts turn once again to seeds and the miracle that lies within. For that miracle to reach its full potential, how it was raised and how you raise it in your garden matters.
What? A seed is a seed, right? I thought so too once. If you are an organic gardener or urban farmer, you should strongly consider growing seeds that were produced organically. Why? Not for your health reasons, but because a plant adapts. Here are some reasons: if a plant is used to growing in conditions where harmful pesticides and harsh synthetic chemicals were used, the seeds this plant produces will expect the presence of chemicals to ward off pests later in order to thrive, inorganic seeds are used to getting more fertilizer, organic pesticides are not as strong as the chemical ones. Also, a plant raised to produce seeds has to withstand a longer growing season than crops grown for food production. Conventional produced seed is adapted to receive protection from every insect, disease, and pathogen. Personally, I don't want to chance harsh pesticides and chemical fertilizer in my soil and killing the beneficial insects. The good bugs do a great job at helping my plants survive. Another tidbit about chemical fertilizers and pesticides is that they kill the microbial life in the soil that aid in your plants health. The longer you use inorganics, the more of them you have to use, because the beneficial life in your soil dies off. This is a domino effect that diminishes the flavor of your food, and makes it less nutritious. Ever wonder why your grocery store tomato and strawberry is void of flavor? Your answer? Years of conventional agriculture has killed the soil. Stay tuned in future weeks to read my soil manifesto about how to double your production and flavor.
Before you go out and buy your seeds, it is important to know how they were produced. Organic seeds are more expensive, but they are worth it. I'd rather spend an extra dollar, than wonder why my garden isn't thriving. Do your research. Some companies don't grow the seeds they sell. They contract out to companies to grow the seed for them. Be somewhat cautious if the company does not talk about who grew their seeds. Just because the company address is in Iowa, doesn't mean the seed is produced there.
Buy local. This applies to seeds just as it does other goods. Why does it matter? Imagine you are living in San Diego, Ca. Temperatures are not very variable, you have all the modern conveniences, food is plentiful, and your social life can thrive with many opportunities to meet new people. All of the sudden, you get the news that your job is moving to a town in Ontario with a population of 87 people. You have no choice but to make the move. I imagine your adjustment not be a smooth one. So why would you buy a seed grown in Florida if you live in Saint Paul? Seeds are adapted to the climate they were grown in. They will not thrive in your climate, and will not arrive at the pinnacle of taste potential. According to Tom Stearns, founder of Vermont-based High Mowing Seeds, "A tomato's final flavor is 60% genetics, and 40% environment. You want your tomatoes to reach their ultimate potential. To help realize this, but a seed produced in your region or an area of similar climate". Here in the Midwest, check out Seed Savers.com. High Mowing is another good option for us, as they are a growing zone colder than us, as is Johnny's Selected Seeds in Maine. You can sometimes find seed racks from High Mowing Seeds at your local co-op or whole foods stores I am trying seed this year from the Pacific Northwest amongst others. I hope to save seeds from crops unique to this company to start adapting these seeds to our region. It is similar here to the PNW in that their summers are cooler. As we all know, mother nature can deal us a cold hand every now and then.
Before you buy another packet of seeds, take some time to reflect on your own gardening practices and how the seeds you purchase were raised. Search online for the Organic Seed Alliance for more information on ethical seed practices.