Seeds .. vital to life!

Seeds .. without them we would surely go hungry.

Thank you to the amazing Fred Groom of Devon’s new seed company, Vital seeds for reminding us of the importance of them and for a wonderful seed saving workshop. Vital seeds have been supplying Harvest farm shop this season with their range of seed lovingly packed in paper envelopes and no plastic including many varieties you won’t find in standard garden center display racks.

Fred is clearly passionate about his work and fascinated with working with plants throughout the whole life cycle. Most of us only ever get to see the vegetable as it appears in the greengrocer, supermarket or even in the the garden but these plants have a second life if left to grow to flower and seed. We were shown the basic techniques on when and how to harvest and store seed through preparation by fermenting, screening, drying and/or winnowing with very basic everyday household objects like sieves, bottles and even a fan.

Seed is where pretty much all our food comes from, (even varieties of apples and potatoes started off as seed). For 1000s of years, seed exchange was a big part of local economy, rural life and tradition. Farmers and communities valued, cherished, saved and shared seed from year to year, but today farmers do not save seed and almost all agricultural seed is owned by just a few global chemical companies, this has in part resulted in the loss of 95% of food seed varieties and their unique genetics which once gone, is extinct forever, those genes can never be reclaimed.

Today, just 4 global chemical companies control most of the agricultural seed varieties that are either F1 hybrids or genetically modified which have patents and property rights stamped on them meaning literally they own the food on your plate even after you purchased and prepared your meal for the table, also it is illegal to save seed from them in most parts of the world.

Thankfully there are a few amazing small companies like vital seeds, or the real seed company, and seed cooperative to name a few who are keeping alive what’s left of our seed heritage and only grow and sell open pollinated (OP) varieties for us to buy and because they are OPs, this means we can save seeds for ourselves if we wish to.

‘Open pollinated’ means plants breed naturally like wild populations which can evolve over time and adapt to soil, pest, disease and climate conditions, something we will need as our climates are clearly changing whether we believe man made climate change or not. (F1 hybrids can’t do this as you can’t save seed from them and never come true)

Something often overlooked making food choices when were busy is who grew the veg, what seed was used, which company supplied the seed, was the seed treated with pesticide (non organic seed is often treated), were they Hybrids. In almost all cases, veg from the supermarket will be hybrids and if conventionally grown, coated in a pesticide. Seasonal veg grown by our farm shop local suppliers try to support small scale seed companies.

Did you know that most of the agricultural and garden seed sold and planted in the UK is actually produced many thousands of miles away due to our British climate being too damp and not so suitable for large scale seed farming, seed largely comes from countries with drier climates but also cheaper labour.

Big global corporate seed companies don’t like OPs, they have been poorly maintained by them as they don’t make a lot of money and tempt us to buy their F1 hybrids. Unfortunately, many wonderful OP varieties with lovely flavour, size, resistance to pest and disease etc have been dropped from seed catalogues in favour of F1 hybrids and lost for ever. F1 hybrids are far more expensive to buy and companies who own them know that you’ll be back next year to buy more as you can’t save seed from them, some are even bred to terminate and don’t produce a seed at all. Putting the control of seed in just a few chemical giants seems perilous having total control of the food we eat. What’s to stop them from replacing Hybrids with genetically modified seed technology which is still untested on human health. Many arable crops like maize corn, soya, rape seed oil, cotton have been gene modified to be resistant to glyphosate herbicide and can be used multiple times only killing the weeds around them, there is increasing evidence this chemical is linked to many chronic diseases, including cancer and to the effects to soil ecology, wildlife and water pollution.

Check out Vital seeds online shop where you will find a greater range of vegetables seeds or pop into our small farm shop to see what we stock, we do our best to support and prioritise small scale growers who grow from or save OP seeds