Once we’re no longer a kid, time seems to move more quickly.
That can awaken us to the fact that even the seemingly minor decisions we make from day to day and what we do with life’s precious minutes, can make a huge difference in our future well being.
Knowing even the basic facts about what’s happening in the seed industry, can be powerful enough to determine our behavior regarding whether or not we save seed from vegetables we grow.
Loss of Diversity
There use to be hundreds of varieties of each vegetable. For example, in 1903 there were 497 varieties of lettuce. By 1983 there were only 36 (according to Rural Advancement Foundation International).
Of the 5,000 varieties of vegetables offered for sale in 1981, only 500 were offered in U.S. seed catalogs by 2005.
This great diversity was nature hedging her bets against failure of any one crop in crisis conditions like climate swings, etc. Diversity is a back up plan to insure survival.
As I mentioned in a previous post, profit controls what seeds are commercially grown and saved. Minor crops like those specifically adapted for special regions, taste, nutrition and other specialized corners of the seed market are in danger of being lost forever.
And there goes diversity which would literally insure survival in times of vulnerability.
Chemical and Biotech Companies Buying Up Seed Companies
It was estimated that 20,000 (yes, 20,000!) seed companies were bought by corporations since 1970. And these chemical/biotech companies continue to buy those that will sell to them.
When Monsanto bought the largest vegetable and fruit seed company in the world (Seminis) back in 2005, 43% of the world’s commercial seed supply was then owned by just 4 agrichemical companies (chemical companies involved with agriculture).
As you may have heard, the merger of Bayer and Monsanto seems imminent; as does that of Syngenta and ChemChina.
This will put an even larger part of the world’s commercial seed market under the control of just a few giant multi-national corporations.
Creating Seed for Your Own Unique Growing Conditions
When you save seed from plants grown in your garden, that variety over a period of time adapts to YOUR unique growing conditions.
By taking out inferior or less robust plants and saving only the strongest and best you’ll continually improve the performance of whatever vegetable that seed produces.
Seed suppliers who grow fields of plants for seed, seldom (if ever) take out inferior plants. They save everything. You get the worst with the best.
Knowing that, it’s easy to understand why in a couple or 3 years, your seed is going to out perform any seed of the same variety you could purchase.
Fortunately, saving seed is not complicated and all it takes is a bit of forethought.
Tip: Note the How, What, and When
Until the how, what, and when becomes part you, it’s helpful to make a few notes and tack ‘em to the frig or someplace readily visible for the growing season. (You’ll be amazed at how much this small act can help you get the job done more easily. The more you take a look at your simple notes, the more comfortable you’ll be with taking the necessary actions.)
If you don’t already, consider saving seed this year.
With many varieties becoming extinct and giant corporations in control of what remains, having your own seed could make a big difference in how well you can feed yourself and your family in the not too distant future.
Garden Seed/Heirloom or Hybrid/Information to Help Make the Choice
Monsanto -Don’t Entrust Your Life to Them
Principle of Diversity – Assuring Your Success
Information to Think on Before You Purchase Food, Hydroponics, Cafo-Meats, Vitamins and Grain for Your Animals That You Might Think is Organic
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Great advice! I have been saving much of my seed and am trying to add to that each year. You’re right, saved seed does outperform within a few seasons! I have tomato seed that I’ve saved and that I plant each year and no longer remember which heirloom variety I started with–I just call it a “slicer” and it’s pretty good!
Good Morning Theresa!
Question, if I am planning to begin gardening again, and do not have “previously saved” seeds, where should I order seeds?
Any recommendations would be helpful, thank you!
Thanks for the confirmation Betty. I find my saved seed germinates much more quickly than most purchased seed and grows stronger seedlings.
Beth, here’s the post that lists some of the seed sources I recommend.
The Southern Exposure Seed Exchange catalog is a good resource for seed saving: in the growing instructions for each type of vegetable, they include the suggested distances to avoid inadvertent crossing.
Thank you Theresa and Russell!