Seed, My Food and Me

Why Bother Saving Seed?

Peruvian_custard_apple There are fewer and fewer varieties of edible plants eaten by people today. We are eating only a few kinds of a few vegetables, fruit and cereal. At the same time, farmers need to apply more fertilizer and pesticides to control the plagues that these mono-crops nurture.

Not all Seed survives in seed banks, the seed that survives seed banks is very good at being stored for long periods – it is unlikely to be the best eating, the most highly nutritious, adaptable for a wide variety of climates or resistant to every different fungi or pest.

The seed we grow in our home system becomes (when we carefully select the best specimens) ideal for our climate and growing medium (e.g. soil type – we use just mulch) and most importantly resistant to pests (we have fruit fly resistant tomatoes now). The seed you buy to grow will most likely be accustomed to another climate or micro climate. In the Photo you can see our own cool climate custard Apple.

Perennialising Annuals

Aim to reduce the need for seeds. Save all the seed from the fruit and vegetables you buy e.g. watermelon, rockmelon, tomato, passionfruit, capsicum. Try planting out the soggy left over alfalfa sprouts. Save all the carrot, parsley tops Umbelliferae and propagate these on soggy paper or cotton wool (use whatever you have available, don’t go out and buy it). Cut eyes out of potatoes to sprout in the cupboard then plant under mulch. Buy bird seed and plant it under a layer of shredded paper, straw (one bale will go a long way this way), or grass clippings. This will grow to give you more seed, some edible and tasty and your first crop of mulch.
Need For Specialised Permaculture Nurseries

There is a growing need (and therefore, market) for unusual plants, e.g. perenial vegetables such as perenial capsicum, perenial squash, structural and eating bamboos, fruiting palms, cacti and forage species like Coprosma and Wattle, sometimes it is even difficult to obtain seed for unusual plants such as ice-cream bean, native grasses and other species.
Why buy from small stockists of non-hybridized seed?

Supporting small stockists where possible also increases world chances of diversity in seed sold. It is far better for the survival of our food seed species if they are being produced in many different areas across the world.

The green revolution in Asian areas, introduced ‘miracle’ bumper seeds to them. This promotion of hybrid seeds and heavily fertilised monocropping resulted in triple ruin of

the soil,
the farmers. Their profits spent on fertilisers and interest on loans for the hybrid seeds which they had to keep buying from seed companies, and
their seed heritage, old seed was eaten rather than planted.

Why grow heritage or unusual non-hybrid seed.

Given that you are now familiar with the merits of growing a major part of your food supply, here are some reasons why you should be growing heritage seed:

  • Heritage seed and animals, require just as much work from the designer and gardener, although the produce may be different shaped, tasting, and require care to get to know needs as these are not listed on the packet.
  • Heritage and organically grown seed is free of toxic fertiliser coating.
  • Heritage plants and animals have many resistances that suit your situation, e.g. tomatoes for winter that escape fruit fly infestation, frost hardy species and more.
  • Heritage plants can be educational and increase interest in the food you nuture and cook.
  • They provide more interesting meals and gourmet cooking becomes a lot less expensive.

Certified Organic Suppliers

Support organic growers and at the same time you will have seed that is not dependent on artificial chemical control.

Look for organic seed suppliers with BFA (Biological Farmers of Australia) or a similar international accreditation. An example of a supplier of BFA seed is Neville and Sophia Donovan of Greenpatch PO Box 1285, TAREE, NSW 2430. They are also members of Seed Savers. To become a registered organic producer, you need to have your soil tested by the accrediting body.
Seed Legislation

(P.V.R. in U.S.; U.P.Q.V. in Europe). New Australian seed legislation.

There are recent restrictons for propagators. Plants can be patented which assumes that the patentor invented the plant or was involved in the development of that species. Most plants have their evolutionary origins in either natural environments (where the propagator happened to find them) OR have been carefully selected and grown for certain traits such as the ability to drop seed quickly when being threshed (grain), or grow massive flowers (Brassicas). These plants have been cultivated by hundreds of thousands of people over the centuries. No-one person should have the right to ‘own’ patents to such collective work. Patents also restrict world supply of plants and therefore world food supplies.

Michel Fanton writes in Seed Savers’ Network Newsletter, Spring 94 about the Australian Plant Breeders’ Rights legislation.

“The Plant Breeders Rights Act was passed on 24th August 1994, It contains many changes to the 1987 Act and paves the way for more corporate involvement in Australian agriculture.”

Prior to this bill, farmers had the right to save seeds on their farms whether they were protected by breeders rights or not. The seeds could be used year after year, now farmers are required to keep purchasing seed for each crop, therefore the large-scale seed producers have a lot more control (and money for litigation against farmers).
Some useful contacts and addresses: Seed Savers Australia provide a guide to seed raising, a newletter and self-help permaculture international seed exchange.