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Organic Seed Project
Organic Seed Project
Seeds are at the foundation of our agricultural food system and are our inheritance from 10,000+ years of our ancestor’s selection and preservation. We are fortunate to have this invaluable resource and we must steward it for future generations. Unfortunately, our current seed system is characterized by a limited diversity of hybrid and GMO varieties, owned and developed by multinational corporations whose primary goal is profit, not stewardship of this genetic resource and the development of a sustainable seed system. To ensure proper stewardship of our seed heritage, we need farmers to become the foundation of our seed system… from preservation and improvement to production and distribution. By engaging in seed stewardship and farmer education, Greenbank Farm is contributing to the development of an organic, farmer-based, regionally-strong seed system.
The Greenbank Farm Ag Training Center engages in seed education, variety trials, seed production and genetic improvement activities. This past year we have been awarded three grants to develop our work on organic seed:
- The PSE Foundation provided funds to build our capacity for seed growing by purchasing supplies needed to grow and dry seeds.
- The Sustainable Path Foundation provided funding for community workshops on seed assessment, production and development as well as for the capacity of Greenbank Farm to engage in variety trials and seed production. Click here to see our 2012 variety trial report.
- The WSDA, through its Specialty Crop Block Grant Program, is funding a three-year project to assess and develop a regional organic seed system through farmer training and networking, variety trials and seed production and improvement activities. For more info on this project, please visit our WSDA SCBGP page.
Why Save Seed?
Seed saving helps farmers and maintains diversity in our food system. But why go through all this trouble when there is plenty of seed available through dozens of catalogs across the country? First, seed grown on the farm adapts to the farm’s local conditions and performs better in subsequent generations. By selecting and saving seed only from the plants that thrive best in the fields we can, over the generations, genetically fine-tune a plant variety to thrive in our particular soil type, climate or production system. Better yet, the plant genetics that confer success in our fields are likely the same genetics that would perform best in our neighboring farm’s fields. Thus, distributing this locally grown seed could be a boon for other farmers in the region.
Secondly, while the number of small, organic vegetable farms is on the rise, we still make up a relatively small percentage of the overall demand for seed in this country. Thus, the big seed growers and distributors don’t always have our interests in mind when they decide which varieties to include or drop from their catalogs. Saving our own seed can safeguard against the likely possibility that our favorite varieties will be dropped from commercial production. Already we have lost the vast majority of our heirloom and land race vegetable varieties from consolidation in the seed industry, changes in breeding methods, proliferation of restrictive intellectual property rights, and the overall decline in on-farm seed saving and stewarding.
Until a century ago, seed saving was an integral part of nearly every farm production system. Now, Greenbank Farm is proud to be part of a growing movement to reinvigorate this culture of seed saving within the organic agricultural community. Over the upcoming years we intend to train new and old farmers in the skills necessary for growing quality organic vegetable seed as well as market this locally-adapted seed to other farmers and gardeners regionally.
For questions or more information, contact Sebastian Aguilar at email@example.com / 360.222.3171 or Nathaniel Talbot at firstname.lastname@example.org