Seeds, and the saving of seed from the plants we depend on, is a vast subject rooted deep in our human story and evolution as a society. These last few weeks, our mailbox has filled up with seed catalogs. To a present day gardener or farmer, opening a seed catalog can feel like a smorgasbord: exhilarating, overwhelming at times, and somehow nourishing just to look at. The great sense of abundance can be misleading, as we lose hundreds of varieties of vegetables and fruits every year. Few of us know what seeds our great great great grandmothers may have been collecting in their gardens or forests, let alone still keep them. The pressures of modern farming to be profitable has led many farmers to depend on big seed companies to control what varieties “make the cut” (often those that have an appealing and consistent shape and appearance and keep well for transport and marketing), and what varieties are lost (often the most nutrient dense).
At GeerCrest, we still buy a good portion of our seeds from a few amazing seed companies, passionate about preserving varieties of great diversity, hardiness, flavor and nutrition. However, those lasting relationships we develop with varieties we save seed from year after year provide a deep sense of connection for us and our visiting children, to the past as well as our own responsibility to care for the future. Most every student coming to the farm has the opportunity to relate to some aspect of the cyclic concept of seeds, whether through harvesting seeds of lettuce or millet, planting heirloom beans or squash seeds, or sorting corn kernels, few aspects of farming are so already infused with timeless magic.
In 2016 we were lucky to grow 6 different types of corn, yielding enough that every student coming in 2017 will learn to make (and eat!) fresh tortillas from the jewel-like kernels. Perhaps, next time you sit down to a meal, consider the vast human attention and energy through time that has kept our relationship to those foods alive.