Where To Buy Your Seeds, & Where Not To
By Sharon Astyk
If we're to become a nation of farmers, and a nation of people who take home and small scale agriculture seriously, I think it is important to think about our seed sources. After all, without good, safe, reliable sources of seed, there is no agriculture - period.The darkest force here has been the evil Montsanto, the Satan of agricultural corporations (and that's saying something since there are quite a few other dark angels out there), who bought up Seminis a couple of years ago. Now Seminis is the wholesaler that provides much of the seed for the seed trade, including many classic hybrids and non hybrid varieties. And recently, I've just learned that Seminis has bought Burpee seeds - the largest single mail order supplier. http://groovygreen.com/groove/?p=868. Now I have a fondness for the Burpee seed catalog, and there are a couple of non-hybrid varieties of theirs I love - a red french marigold, a cherry tomato. But I won't be buying there again. Pity, but I have no desire to support Montsanto's chemical agriculture, their attacks on farmers, their attempts to patent seeds created through laborious home breeding. And I try very hard to avoid Seminis varieties of seed. Because Seminis is a wholesaler, and sells to many of the seed companies that send out your catalogs, it can be difficult to tell where your seed originated. That means that I'm pretty much limited to some of the funkier catalogs out there. The good thing about that is that those catalogs have a large selection, a lot of neat stuff, and are usually good stewards of the environment. Giving them my money is an excellent thing....
I'm a big advocate of buying locally, but as I just told a friend, seeds are one thing that I don't always purchase from my local retailer. There are several reasons for this. The first is that my local retailer tends to carry commercial garden center varieties of seed, which come from very far away. There are good reasons to want to buy local seed, from plants that have already adapted to your particular climate. Often the seed I mail order from far away is more local than the seed that I would buy from my neighborhood garden shop. The second reason is that I can often get organically grown seed if I buy by mail - and even though you don't eat the seeds themselves, there are excellent reasons to want to avoid drenching the field your seeds are grown in with pesticides and chemicals. Also, small seed companies often struggle to get along, and they need all the business they can get. Finally, there is so much variety out there in food plants that buying locally simply wouldn't allow me to try as many different things - if I had to rely on local sources there'd be no Glacier Tomatoes coming early, no Stein's Late Flat Dutch Cabbage hanging on in my garden until December.
There has been a heavy consolidation of the seed industry in the last few years, to its detriment.
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