I put the feelers out yesterday on facebook about the idea of some type of regional seed bank for our area here in Northern Indiana. There was some definite enthusiastic interest. I would not necessarily want to limit folks interested to just Northern Indiana. The idea would be a seed bank that reflects a similar climate and zone (5). This could include growers in Michigan, Central Indiana, Northern Illinois, and Ohio, etc. Once something got rolling, people could pull it in a little tighter to reflect their particular community.
There are many existing models for Community Seed Banks out there to learn from. I know we have a dedicated group of seed savers and swappers here in South Bend. The idea of a seed bank would be similar in some ways yet more specific in purpose. That purpose would be forward looking in regards to “seed security” and focused primarily (at least at first) on basic foods we all love to eat, and grow in our gardens. These would be tried and true varieties well adapted (or adaptable) to our region. 100% open-pollinated and sustainably grown on farms, gardens, and porches in pots. Start by focusing on a particular class of vegetables, say cucumbers. Identifying varieties that have proven to grow well in our area, are delicious, nutritious, and tolerant to the types of disease and insects we all have encountered in our growing spaces. As a seed farmer, one of my initial goals was to start raising, for example Marketmore cucumbers, which I personally believe are delicious and productive when raised here in Northern Indiana, for seed as well eating. I had always purchased my seeds for this variety from Bountiful Gardens in Willits California. The idea of growing the seed here, year after year, will allow for this excellent variety to become even better adapted to our climate, rainfall, storms, insect pressure, diseases, etc. Within a few generations, my Marketmore cucumber seed would begin to “regionalize”. With “selection”, I could, over time, improve the variety. ADAPTATION-SELECTION-REGIONALIZATION!
The idea of a local Seed Bank has been in my head for a long time. As my little seed business grows I am keenly aware of my limitations; what one guy can grow on 28,000 square feet of bed space. Because of the potential for cross pollination, I am restricted to raising only one cucumber (I chose Marketmore, but there are many other delicious possibilities to choose from), I can raise only 2 peppers (they require 500′ between varieties, one melon, one squash variety from each of the 4 species, etc. It bothers me that all seed other than what I can grow, comes from other parts of the country with very different climates. Some of the bigger seed houses import their seed from China. This seems risky to me. I want to know that I will have access to all this diversity in the future! And why not make that diverse plethora of available varieties, pre-adapted to my climate?
In a nutshell here is my proposal. as a group, create a list of garden vegetables, grains, legumes, and herbs that are essential to the meals we eat and love. Join forces on saving seed for these varieties by “adopting” one or more varieties to grow and save seed from. You would become the caretaker for that variety! There would and should be more than one caretaker for any specific variety. Believe me, in most cases, saving an abundance of seed will not reduce the amount of that particular vegetable you will have to eat. Let folks choose what they love to grow and what they are confident in growing. The Seed Bank does not have to be centralized and there will be NO government involvement, what-so-ever! Seed will be available to anyone in our communities, as long as it is available. Growers would agree to keep some seed back, in the freezer, as an insurance policy! I would be willing to house a back up, to the back up. I am set up for it already and I would keep my business interests separate from the Seed Bank interests.
These are just a few of my ideas. I am open to any input whatsoever. This is not MY project, just a project I would love to be involved in. I am considering starting a facebook group in regards to this. I hate to keep using the Eat Wild group, as this is not necessarily in their “specific” purpose. It could be a Google plus group? Whatever. Give me some feedback, as planting time is just around the corner.