The Politics of Seed Saving

-cleaning corn in Mexico

I have a garden in a foreign land. Most of the seeds came from my home country.

Seeds are scarce where I live. Organic, heirloom seeds are non-existent.  Honestly, I have been moving seeds from country to country for so long I hardly think of it as an action with a possible negative consequence. But when I was called out for buying some remnants from another ex-pats garden that were obviously not native I thought I should revisit my beliefs regarding the practice.  Especially since I fancy, and market myself as a sustainability proponent.

Because I’m a farmer at heart, I’m practical. Sometimes that means using imperfect methods for better or necessary ends. For example, I want to save seeds, saving seeds is a vital practice as we move toward plant extinctions and despotic control over seed banks. It has also meant I used herbicides because I would not have been able to feed myself or my animals if I hadn’t. I wasn’t happy doing so, but at the time I felt it was necessary.

Are these actions reconcilable with my belief system? Probably not, but, being in a situation where I had to do things I didn’t believe in to survive made me wiser and more compassionate.

The likelihood that my organic heirloom tomato seeds will devastate the largely hydroponic Agri biz in my area is zilch. The hope that my organic heirloom seed-saving garden will inspire and feed my neighbors is high. My goal is to make sachets of heirloom seeds available to any of my neighbors who wish to have a garden of their own.

For me, it’s important to consider, without judgment, the necessity that many farmers worldwide must function under if they want to make a living. Compassion should be paramount to criticism.

What feels important to me is a humane approach, to small growers, to outliers, and to the earth.

Dogma should not be doled out by anyone who has never had a cow to feed, or had to grow a year of corn to make tortillas for their family of 15. Even that many hands won’t keep a field clean, and pest-free organically.

Our ever fewer existing small farmers should not be judged by myopic consumers. Nor should they be exploited by poison conglomerates. If there is a threat to agriculture from disease or pests, by importing foreign heirloom seeds, there would be far less if there weren’t vast mono-cropped fields to infest.

If we only bought from small farmers even if their practices weren’t perfect, eventually our support and earth-friendly preferences would encourage them to upgrade to our ´standards¨ and have a fighting chance against the not so jolly green giants.

I’m not a big fan of shipping pineapples grown with irrigation out of season so that parka wrapped consumers can have a bit of sunshine in January, though I won’t judge you if you serve me tropical fruit in Minnesota.  But it makes practical sense to me that if it grows in another country in the same zone with similar conditions as mine, why not grow it? Especially, if I can save the seeds and pass them on to my neighbor.

More for your consideration:

I welcome your opinions.