Seed saving is crucial for biodiversity and food sovereignty. Farmer Kristyn Leach of Namu Farms provides tips on how best to save seeds.
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The U.S. is in the midst of a gardening renaissance. As the coronavirus pandemic prompts big questions about the future of our food system, people everywhere are buying up seeds, pulling up lawns, building raised beds, and flocking to learn from Master Gardeners.
Most of these new and seasoned gardeners are making careful decisions about what type of plants they want to grow and how to organize the beds, but it’s also a good time to consider another, perhaps more important aspect of food sovereignty: what kind of seeds you’re planting and whether or not you’ll be able to save and share them next year.
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.
In recent years, many Indigenous groups have also used seed saving as a way to preserve their cultures—as well as important crops like Cherokee White Eagle Corn, the Trail of Tears Bean, and Candy Roaster Squash for future generations.
erhaps most important in this moment, saving (and sharing) seeds also makes sense economically. “People are having a hard time right now financially,” says Philip Kauth, director of preservation for Seed Savers Exchange. But saving seeds is free and many seed libraries, seed exchanges, and other groups offer packets of seeds at prices that are lower than those offered by retail seed companies. “There are so many economical aspects to it. You don’t have to buy seeds every year and you don’t have to buy produce, depending on the time of the year.”