A common motivation for growing food is saving money. Growing food and saving seeds are an economical combination. Purchasing a pack of seeds used to be a small expense but those costs along with others are increasing dramatically. Also buying seed every year for an entire garden adds up. Saving seeds puts those dollars back in your pocket, and gives you valuable materials to share or trade with other gardeners, too.
Become More Self Reliant
From World War I through World War II, home gardens and seed saving was a popular practice, and Victory Gardens were encouraged to supplement food rations and boost morale. The practice died out in favor of growing lawns, but is being revived by gardeners who want to rely less on the industrial food system. Growers want to reclaim the power to produce food for themselves and their families. A natural step in the process is harvesting and saving seeds so growers will have their own stock to rely on in hard times.
Grow More Sustainably
A truly sustainable garden system includes saving and planting seeds, perpetuating the garden year after year. Saving one’s own seeds eliminates shipping and reduces packaging significantly. It also eliminates mechanized seed harvesting and packaging methods that are run on fossil fuels.
Preserve Genetic Diversity
In recent decades, seed production has shifted from farmers and gardeners who saved their own to becoming the property of just a few large companies. These companies tend to produce only the most lucrative crop varieties and a great deal of diversity has been lost. This is unfortunate as it takes away some of the beauty and pleasure of growing. It reduces access to open-pollinated and heirloom varieties that are treasured for their flavor, colors, disease resistance, hardiness and other beneficial traits.
Increasing diversity in the garden subsequently increases crop yields. And it hedges against crop losses; if one variety succumbs to pests or disease, there are other crops to supply a harvest. By growing heirloom crops and saving seeds, gardeners play an important role in preserving varieties that have come close to disappearing.
Connect with Your Ancestors
To save seeds is to preserve food culture. Heirloom crops wouldn’t exist if it weren’t for the gardeners who meticulously grew and saved seeds including the Brandywine tomato, Purple Top White Globe turnip, and many other varieties, passing them on to future generations.
If you’ve got older gardeners in the family you may be able to save seed from something they’ve been growing for years. Thanks to the internet you can also find heirlooms that were developed in regions your ancestors are from no matter where you currently reside.
Even if you don’t know who you’re ancestors were or what they grew, growing some of your own food provides a living tie to history.
Connect with Your Family
Growing crops from seed through harvest is a great educational experience for children and adults alike. Planning, planting, tending and harvesting can be a bonding experience that kids will never forget. You can also start a new tradition of saving open-pollinated seeds and handing them down to your children.
Adapt Seeds to Your Garden
It is easy to adapt seeds to grow in your particular climate and garden conditions by saving seeds from your best plants each year. Not only does this make plants stronger and gardening easier over time, it is a particularly important strategy against climate change. Given the opportunity, plants will adapt to changes in the environment. And gardeners can help by growing diverse gardens of open-pollinated plants and saving seeds.
You don’t need to be a professional plant breeder to help your plants adapt. By saving seeds at the end of the season from plants that have thrived, each year those seeds will naturally become better adapted to your local growing conditions.
Flower and pollinators need each other, and seed savers need both. Plants have to be allowed to flower in order to produce fruit and ultimately seeds. Bees, butterflies and other pollinators feed on the nectar in the flowers, and their activity spreads pollen that fertilizes plants. Working together, seeds and flowers produce the food and seeds that are the endgame of gardening.
Reclaim Rights to Open Pollinated Seeds
In 1970, the Plant Variety Protection Act (PVPA) granted companies a certificate ownership of seeds. This was followed in1980 by the Supreme Court case Diamond v. Chakrabarty, which allowed seeds full patent protection. Today, many cash crop seed varieties are considered intellectual property, and farmers are not allowed to save patented seeds.
Rather than growing a variety of open-pollinated seeds that are adapted to thrive in their particular climate or soil conditions, farmers buy seed annually from big conglomerates that promote the same cash crops all over the world.
In contrast, home gardeners can save and share seed, upholding everyone’s right to harvest seeds and breed plants. Learn more about this over at the Open Source Seed Initiative.
Control Your Food Supply and Food Sovereignty
When you grow your own plants you know exactly what’s going into them. More importantly, you know what’s NOT going into them (i.e., chemical fertilizers, pesticides, herbicides and amendments.)
The Great American Seed Up encourages people to plant the seeds they acquire from us, learn to save them and then take next steps to true regeneration and sustainability. Quite often, gardeners harvest more seed than they can use, which provides the opportunity to share with other gardeners next year. At a time when seeds and other goods are in short supply and becoming expensive, saving and sharing seeds can bring people together, making their communities and their gardens stronger.
Want to learn more about seed saving?
Be part of Seed Chat, a monthly seed saving class and Q&A. Hosted by Bill McDorman and Greg Peterson, chats generally meet the third Tuesday of the month at 5pm Arizona/8pm Eastern. The next chat is on July 19th and the topic is Seed Harvesting. Sign up at SeedChat.org.
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