Thursday, March 10, 2011

Seedsaving (Day 12)

Theme song of the day: 'From Little Things, Big Things Grow' by Paul Kelly, because it's true.

Saving our own seeds is the simplest act than we can do to take responsibility for our own futures.

It is a small, quiet, ancient activity that human beings have been doing since our ancestors figured out they could cultivate plants to grow their food supply.  In the modern world (and especially in the developing world), seedsaving can save you money, make you money, and regenerate your food supply for as long as you are able to continue saving your own seeds.


Photo: Bok Choy seeds

 Teaching the importance of seedsaving, seed-selection, and the birds & bees of plant germination to a room full of agronomists is preaching to the choir, but when the question is asked: How many here have saved their own seeds?, zero hands are raised.

The morning is spent doing practical brainstorming exercises, to give students an experience of how to simply teach the subject to the rest of us who have not had the benefit of agricultural science training.  Questions like Why save seeds?  Which plants should you save seed from?  and What characteristics do you want to look for in the plants you select for seedsaving?  are asked to the class, to facilitate that blinding flash of the obvious (save your own seeds!) that can often be missed in Overseas Aid situations.


Photo: ADRA Agronomists saving seeds.

Then the class moves into the course kitchen, where tomato pulp that has been fermenting for a week is washed, strained, and set out to dry.  Next, students strip Bok Choy seedstalks (harvested from ADRA's head office in Ulaanbaatar, then hand-carried 1,700 km to Ulgii City), and winnow the chaff to save the seeds for their next class assignment: to germinate Bok Choy in their brand-new office window gardens, in seedling trays made from found materials and home-made seedling mixtures of manure and soil.

Photo: Seedling pot and cloche made from found materials.

Anyone working towards helping communities achieve Food Security must save their own seeds, and teach others to do the same if we are to empower individuals and families to be sustainable, regenerate themselves, and flourish over time.

There is no simpler, more quietly revolutionary act than saving your own seeds.

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