I got into it from trading seeds and wanting to keep the variety going. Tomatoes were the first seeds I saved than beans, than lettuce, than peppers, eggplant, celery, parsley, basil, melons, squash (these two are hard to keep pure, though), arugula, mustard (another one that is hard to keep pure), spinach, cilantro, garlic, potatoes, etc..
My husband and I find the process facinating, home raised seeds are a lot hardier than store bought seeds-better germination rates, fewer deisease problems and I think they taste better each year they are saved.
Of course seed saving is also about the most powerful way of preserving or genetic diversity. since 1900 we have lost something like 10,000 vareities of food crops to the advancements of agricultural science and hybridazation and no GMO's. We seed savers keep important genetic strains alive
I believe it was the Brandywine tomato that got us started and it was the tomato cultivar Glick's Pride that got us hooked. Glick's Pride was found in an attic by some fellow market gardeners. they found 40,000 40+ year old seeds in their grandpa's attic while he was on his death bed. He had been a seed breeder in the 1030's and 40's and this seed they had found he called GL-18. They grew out all the seeds and got 2 plants to survive and I was told the story so I asked if I could have a mater or two for seed. saved the seed and started growing them out. Gave a bunch of the seed to Abundant Life Seed Foundatation and they grew a bunch out and started offering it in their catalogue. So Glick's pride became our first seed introduction.
I hope everyone finds at least one variety seed to really save as we did in their lives. Nothing quite like it and each kind saved and than grown out by many is an important contribution to our seed heritage.
Re: Glick's Pride. What a wonderful story. And it really highlights the problems we face loosing varieties.
It should also serve as a lesson about seed viability. While most of the charts about viability are conservative at best, the fact is that anyone who saves seed should keep in mind that they need to grow-out those varieties on a periodic basis to renew the germplasm.
You continue to be an inspiration to me, to all of us. Your posting is an excellent statement of why we save seed. I have been seedsaving for maybe 50 years, off and on, since my grandmother "forced" me save bean, seed potato, garlic, dill, bread poppy, and other crop seed (some from the old country). I really got hooked in the mid-1980's when I discovered the Seed Savers Exchange and Abundant Life Seed Foundation. Your seed saving progression-history pretty much mirrors mine although I picked small grains and favas as my focus.
Just a note about seed vitality. Some of my bean seed pop out in a few days, tomatoes in four days; just magical how powerful farm- or home-saved seed are and how well the become adapted to site and microclimate.
I save seed because it is the most economic avenue to obtain rarer species of plants unavailable to the average collector . This enables me to propagate endangered plant species way faster than Mother Nature would normally be able to , therefore encouraging them to thrive once more .
Yeah,I've got that addiction too. It's genetic. My great great great great grandfather left piles of documents that he'd collected and all of us family packrats still have them.Some date to the 1820's.
That's how I got into historical seeds really..tracing my ancestors. They were among the first 16 families to settle what is now Louisville KY and came down the Ohio river with Gen.George Rogers Clark to grow vegetables for the troops.They settled an island at the Falls of the Ohio called 'Corn Island'because of the crops that they grew..
***This Update may be forwarded or posted, unedited, without
permission. Edited versions must receive permission before
The heated global dialogue surrounding genetically modified seeds and
food security is about to get hotter--much hotter.
Within two weeks of each other, two reports--one by the scientists
scholars representing seven top international science
academies, and the other by RAFI, the Rural Advancement Foundation
International--cover different, but related, aspects of
the growing international debate over food security. Both point to
components of a sweeping revolution that is dramatically
changing the way the human race is wittingly or unwittingly
positioning itself to feed its current six billion souls, a number
projected to explode to nine billion in a mere 30 years. I will cover
issues from both of these reports in Parts I and II of this
Food Supply Update.
First, the RAFI report. Over the past several years, I have written
you of the gradual disappearance of non-hybrid or
open-pollinated seeds from the marketplace. These were the seeds that
humans have grown, improved, multiplied and saved
from one year to the next to feed themselves and their communities
since the dawn of human agriculture. While earlier food
crop improvements were (and in some places still are) carried out by
individual farmers using traditional breeding methods in
the field, or by public agencies such as the U.S. Department of
Agriculture working to improve the yields and quality of crops
for the farmers it served, the potential profitability of an endless
parade of new hybrids and now, genetically controlled plants
whose seed cannot be saved for future crops, increasingly drew the
attention of private seed companies that historically
offered a wide array of locally and regionally adapted non-hybrids.
Hybrids are revenue insurance. If seed cannot be saved by
individuals and farmers for next year's crops, growers would have to
return to the company for new seed each and every
year. No matter if you cannot afford the seed because of weather
related crop failures the year before. No money, no seed, no
crop, no money--a viscious cycle that guarantees eventual bankruptcy.
Over the years, mergers and acquisitions of seed companies led to the
current, relative handful of transnational corporate seed
giants, many of whom also just happen to be in the pesticide and
herbicide business. Food is good business. Agricultural
chemicals to grow food are good business. People need to eat. As we
move from the present six to the projected nine billion
people in the next 30 years, we must find ways to feed and distribute
food to that many more people and do so in a mere
"speck" of time. It is this knowledge, this pressure of time, and the
obvious recognition of the almost limitless size of the
international food market that has biotechnology, seed and chemical
companies as well as whole countries competing for their
piece of the future food and food marketing pie.
Below is a detailed excerpt of RAFI's report on a recent announcement
by vegetable seed giant, Seminis. The full report can
be found at RAFI's web site. The address is printed, below. I'll meet
you again at the end of the excerpt...
Earmarked for Extinction?
Seminis Eliminates 2,000 Varieties
Summary: Seminis, the world's largest vegetable seed corporation,
announced on 28 June that it would eliminate 2,000
varieties – or 25% of its total product line – as a
measure. Seed industry consolidation is dramatically narrowing
the availability of non-hybrid vegetable varieties and a wealth of
seed diversity is being lost forever.
Back in 1980, seed activists and conservationists protested when the
European Community amalgamated its member states'
National Lists (plant varieties approved by governments for
sale) into a "Common Catalogue." When Brussels'
bureaucrats proposed a common seed roster, the seed companies obliged
by providing a "hit list" of over 1,500 variety
"names" they claimed were only national synonyms of other named
varieties. The 1,500 "synonyms" became "illegal" by
decree. The deletions were not, of course, "synonyms." When the
Catalogue was finalized, nearly 1,000 distinct vegetable
varieties were wiped out of commercial existence simply because they
represented low-profit competition in the form of
non-hybrid or non-proprietary varieties.
Today, after decades of consolidation in the seed industry, it is
corporate financial officers, not government bureaucrats, who
are wiping out genetic diversity at the stroke of a pen.
Seminis – At a Glance
* Subsidiary of Mexico-based conglomerate Savia.
* 1999 seed revenues: US $531 million
* World's largest vegetable seed company
* World's fifth ranking seed company.
* Controls 40% of US vegetable seed market.
* Presence in 120 countries; 70 research stations in 19 countries and
production sites in 32 countries.
Seminis, a subsidiary of the Mexican conglomerate Savia, controls
nearly one-fifth of the worldwide fruit and vegetable seed
market and is the source of approximately 40% of all vegetable seeds
sold in the United States. The company built its seed
empire by acquiring a dozen or so seed companies – most notably,
garden seed division of Asgrow, Petoseed and Royal
Sluis. As a result of its buying binge, Seminis' offerings grew to
approximately 8,000 varieties in 60 species of fruits and
vegetables. On 28 June 2000 Seminis announced that it would eliminate
2,000 varieties – or 25% of its varieties, as part of a
"global restructuring and optimization plan."
No one knows for sure which varieties will be dropped from Seminis'
commercial line, but the older, less-profitable
open-pollinated varieties will be the first to go. Seed corporations
favor hybrids because profit margins are greater, because
gardeners and farmers can't save hybrid seed (thus encouraging repeat
customers), and because the newer varieties are more
likely to be patented or protected by plant variety protection laws.
Thirty years ago, most North American and European seed
companies were small, family-owned businesses that specialized in
varieties adapted to regional climates, with resistance to
local pests and diseases. Today, just 10 companies control 30% of the
commercial seed market worldwide. And just 5
vegetable seed companies control 75% of the global vegetable seed
Operating on a global scale, it's more economical for transnational
seed companies to breed genetically-uniform varieties
suited to the needs of commercial agribusiness, rather than the
regional needs of small farmers or backyard gardeners.
Corporate breeders are more likely to develop varieties that perform
adequately over vast geographic areas, rather than breed
for local climates, or for resistance to local pests or diseases.
Vegetable gardeners are looking for better-tasting, more
nutritious varieties, but the corporate breeder is more likely to
provide tomatoes with longer shelf-life, or vegetables that can
withstand mechanical harvesting and long-distance shipping. And most
importantly, the seed corporation wants monopoly
control over its varieties – and that means high-tech, patented
varieties. Seminis is a leader in the development of genetically
engineered vegetables. The company has 79 issued or allowed patents,
and is seeking patents related to beans, bean
sprouts,broccoli, cauliflower, celery, corn, cucumber, eggplant,
endive, leek, lettuce, melon, muskmelon, onion, peas,
pumpkin, radish, red cabbage, spinach, squash, sweet pepper, tomato,
watermelon, and white cabbage.
Monitoring Erosion: US-based Seed Savers Exchange (SSE, Decorah,
is the world's largest grassroots network
devoted to rescuing garden diversity. SSE concludes that seed
consolidation and the profit-motivated shift to hybrid
varieties is the leading factor behind the disappearance of garden
seed varieties in North America.
"It's impossible to predict how much irreplaceable vegetable
is earmarked for extinction as a result of corporate
cost-cutting and consolidation," says Kent Whealy, Executive Director
of Seed Savers Exchange. "The seed varieties deemed
obsolete and unprofitable by Seminis are now part of the company's
private gene bank, and that rich diversity is lost to the
public," adds Whealy.
According to Jodi Smith of Seminis, "Products that are removed from
commercial sale will remain available to our plant
breeders through our large bank of germplasm, maintaining
as a key part of our research and development
strategy." From Decorah, Iowa, Kent Whealy is doubtful. "That's not
our experience," Whealy regrets. "Conserving diversity
in ex situ gene banks is expensive, especially re-growing older seed
samples that are losing germination. If they're into
cost-cutting, it won't be long before they jettison these 2,000
varieties"... (End Excerpt)
Please note Jodi Smith's quoted comment that the removed products
(seeds in this case) "will remain available to our plant
breeders..." No longer to you, to American or other global farmers,
to gardeners, etc., but to Seminis breeders to use as
Seminis sees fit. Remember, Seminis is a leader in genetic
of vegetables. Please note its 79 patents on vegetables.
If you don't see the significance of the virtually instantaneous
removal of 2000 varieties from its commercial offerings,
consider this: Seed Savers Exchange has been monitoring the loss of
commercially available non-hybrid seeds since 1981. In
that year there were about 5000 vegetable seed varieties available
from mail order catalogs. By 1998, 88% had been dropped!
The world's largest vegetable seed company which controls 40% of the
U.S. vegetable market just announced the dropping of
2000 varieties of seeds in one day, in one bold stroke. Are there
patents down the road that will genetically engineer
varieties among these 2000 dropped seeds rendering them patented,
protected or genetically sterile? I'd bet my dog on it, and I
love my dog.
Food seed biodiversity is critical--absolutely critical--to human
survival. For one reason, whenever one of the inevitable plant
plagues sweeps across huge swaths of land, even across whole
countries, biodiversity is the way we find those varieties that
are resistant. We're not going to find them if they lie aging in the
jars and freezers of corporate labs. Ask the Irish about the
Irish potato famine and the millions who died from that plant fungal
plague. A rich, biodiverse genetic heritage almost ensures
that protected pockets of resistant plants will stand like oases in
virtual deserts of destruction. From these we have historically
bred new seed stock.
Our rich food seed heritage with its God-given biodiversity, the
genetic foundation for human survival, is rapidly being
tampered with, patented, and transferred from gardens, fields and the
free marketplace to reside in the "germplasm banks" of a
handful of transnational corporations. If the seeds you can grow and
save to feed yourself and your neighbor aren't in the
stores or in the catalogs, then you can't buy them. If you don't
already own them, will you ever be able to get them again?
Not likely unless you know a seed saver.
Once again (see Terminator, Verminator and related GURT technologies
at http://www.arkinstitute.com) we see a huge
company making what may be judged as a smart business decision. It
will no doubt improve the bottom line and investors'
portfolios. But when is a smart business decision not smart? It is
smart when it has the potential to hurt people in the long
run. At the very least, this decision will hurt those least able to
afford to buy new seed each year. It is never smart to
encourage dependency, to discourage self-reliance. Removal of non-
hybrid food seeds from the marketplace has the potential
to do just that. This is especially true in poor, developing
Finally, it is definitely not smart to remove millions, perhaps
billions, of genes from the global gene pool in one broad brush
stroke. This amounts to instantaneous genetic erosion. Who knows the
identity and purpose of all of the genes contained in
those 2000 varieties? Answer: No human, and there are natural
and adaptive, evolutionary forces at work among
these genes, the genes of plant disease organisms, and the rest of
Earth's organisms that none of us can even hope to fully
understand, yet our lives may depend on them. It is what we do not
know that can hurt us most. We might inadvertently
throw a baby out with the bath water.
RAFI suggests that Seminis make the list of discontinued seeds
available and insure that duplicates of the retired seed varieties
be made available to international seed banks to be held "in trust"
for the global community. By international agreement, seed
held in trust is in the public domain, is freely available to all
breeders, and cannot be subject to intellectual property claims.
This is an excellent recommendation, though I would also like to see
Seminis reverse or modify its decision. Perhaps they
would also be willing to rotate their offerings of these 2000
varieties over, say, a three year cycle. This would reduce their
current production costs, yet keep these varieties out in the field.
You can find out more about Seminis and several links to
company resources and contacts via the Lycos search engine. Type
"Seminis seed" in the search box.
Going, going, gone...2000 vegetable varieties, a broad swath of our
food heritage and right to personal food security, is
about to be swept from commercial availability to corporate control.
Those non-hybrid seeds you bought, grew and saved
have just become so much more valuable, that much more important.
There is a good likelihood that your collection contains at
least several, if not many, of the varieties in the as yet
2000 about to be retired. Treasure them, reproduce them,
share them, give them away. Educate and encourage others to do the
If you don't have them yet, the Ark Institute will help you. We will
continue offering free non-hybrid into the fall. Yes, they
can be stored for next year. Don't call our 800# for free seeds. You
must go to http://www.arkinstitute.com for complete
details. Please take advantage of it--now. It will not be available
next year. We simply cannot afford it. If you know of
churches, prisons, food banks, etc, that will use this seed for good,
please let them know. We will donate bulk seed in large
quantities, too. Email me. If you need books on food gardening and
seed saving to get started, we'll send them to you at our
cost--50% off their cover price--for those we have in stock. Email us
for availability of the titles at our web site. We will "put
your name on it" to ensure a copy if we have it in stock. There has
never been, nor is there likely to be again, a more
affordable opportunity to get involved in this critical effort, this
mission to preserve the natural genetic heritage of our food
supply, to ensure our personal food security. This is our mission.
Please make it yours, too... Geri Guidetti, The Ark Institute
You have just earned admission into the SEED SAVERS HALL OF
FAME with this posting -- I missed the whole thing about the seed redistribution but knew about Sematis giving up on all those OPs acquired through mergers.
Afraid I didn't read all that, Byron, but maybe people would like to know that Thompson & Morgan are increasing the number of varieties of their seeds that are F1 hybrids, or have Plant Breeder's Rights, so that ordinary gardeners can't propagate the plants themselves from saved seed. Another reason to avoid buying from them?
What, about F1 hybrids? Well, these are seeds from a first generation cross, so you have to do the particular cross every year to get the same seed again. This makes them more expensive, and also means ordinary gardeners can't produce the same seed themselves, as they don't know what the original plants were. You can obviously save the seed, but the plants you get will be all sorts of things, but not the same as the parent F1 hybrid plants.
Plant Breeder's Rights is a relatively new idea. Growers can register their plant 'invention', so they get royalties whenever they're sold, and they come with a warning 'Propagation Forbidden'.
T & M seem very keen on both of these, especially in their vegetable range. J.L. Hudson, on the other hand, doesn't like them.
I've done a bit of checking, in case I was imagining things. Statistics isn't my strong point, but what I've found supports the view that in some varieties, T&M are cutting down on OP varieties in favour of F1 varieties.
In 1990, T&M listed 20 types, of which 8 (40%) were F1 hybrids. In 2000, out of 22, 12 (54%) were F1. In 2001, 14 out of 24 (58%) were F1 hybrids. The F1 seeds cost more than 7 times the price of the OP varieties. (They also had a separate section on Heirlooms, where the price was more than double the cost of the OPs, but about a third of the F1s).
In 1990, they listed 12 types, of which 5 (42%) were F1 hybrids. In 2000, out of 11, 5 (45%) were F1. In 2001, 6 out of 12 (50%) were F1 hybrids. The F1 seeds cost more than 3 times the price of the OP varieties.
In 1990, they listed 12 types, of which 2 (17%) were F1 hybrids. In 2000, out of 7, 2 (29%) were F1. In 2001, 4 out of 8 (50%) were F1 hybrids. The F1 seeds cost more than 8 times the price of the OP varieties.
In 1990, they listed 23 types, of which 15 (65%) were F1 hybrids. In 2000, out of 17, 15 (88%) were F1. In 2001, 16 out of 17 (94%) were F1 hybrids. I couldn't compare the cost, as the only non-F1 seed was not an ordinary cabbage. But in the 1990 catalogue, T&M said there were enough seeds for about 40-60 plants of F1 varieties, and about 150-300 in the non-F1s, and the F1s were at least double the price.
There were some types where they don't list any F1s, and others where they haven't increased the number or proportion of F1s, but I still think it's a worrying trend.