Seed farming – ever heard of it?
Just like farming vegetables, cultivating seeds is big business; but unlike vegetable farming, growing seeds requires more time and often, more chemical inputs.
Gardening author and blogger Margaret Roach was farming for 30 years before she began wondering exactly where her seeds were coming from. The first ever Gardening Editor for Martha Stewart Living, Roach was shocked to learn that some of the seeds she had been planting in her organic garden were carrying a substantial pesticide load.
Take the onion for instance – an onion seed will produce a bulb in 125 days, but the plant is a biannual, meaning it takes two years to produce a seed. There is an entire roster of potential pests, fungi and pathogens that can occur the longer the plant stays in the ground and therefore many seed farmers turn to chemicals to eradicate pests before harvesting seed.
Roach shares her rules for ethical seed sourcing below.
Look for Low Input Seeds
Roach suggests looking for certified organic seeds whenever possible. Seeds that were grown with inputs may bring a new set of challenges to organic gardens. Often they lag behind without the chemical fertilizers they are used to.
Sound familiar? Roach says to look for seeds that were raised in conditions similar to that of your garden. A Southern California gardener may experience problems with seeds cultivated in the Northeast. Ideally, your seeds will be raised in close physical proximity to your garden.
Know Your Farmer
We’ve heard this advice before, and it applies to seed farmers as well as fruit and vegetable farmers. Seek out seed from farmers whose farming practices you believe in. If up-stream pollution is problematic to you, find farmers who are using no chemical inputs.
For West coast gardeners, Roach suggest Wild Garden Seed Company out of Oregon.
Hear Roach’s unedited conversation with Evan Kleiman below.