‘Seed schools’ can nurture local heritage plants

March 23, 2012
‘Seed schools’ can help nurture local heirloom plants

A novel approach toward helping young people ensure biodiversity  in our world is studying seeds in the wild and planting them for food in  the garden.
Called “seed schools,” they should be in schools everywhere.
According  to Native Seeds SEARCH’s Seedhead News, Gary Paul Nabhan, sometimes  called “the father of the local foods movement,” was recently named to  an endowed chair at the University of Arizona’s Sustainable Food Systems  Program.
Nabhan helps seed school students name their own plant  (garden-bred or in the wild). “Once it’s in print and described,” he  says, “you can’t patent it. It
becomes public domain.”
Most  Americans probably aren’t aware of the pervasive practice of  corporations claiming ownership of common plants and seeds, giving them  exclusive use.
Seed School’s Bill McDorman, Native Seeds SEARCH’s  executive director, notes that land grant universities were in part  established to provide seeds for
farmers, but most of their research now  supports further privatization of what was once part of the public  trust.
In recent years, multinational corporations have bought up  many  seed companies, discontinuing production of many varieties and  substituting their
own patented genetically modified seeds (GMOs).
According to the Center for Biodiversity and Conservation, 96 percent of food crops available in 1906 are no longer available.
The  American public has all but given away its ability to grow its own food  to profit-making corporations and the government. Once that ownership  is gone, we’re all serfs to those who own the seeds and plants that feed  us.

Local heirloom food explained: A wonderful book on  indigenous heirloom foods in Mississippi (Appalachia and the South, too)  is The Moving Feast by Allan Nation (Green Park Press; 2010; $ 25.60).
It’s called that because Native Americans would move their crops from field  to field, creating the parklike forests early settlers found. Food grew
abundantly without artificial chemicals. Such practices, Nation  explains, continued until the 1930s. Organic farming, Nation says, is  essentially another
name for those practices.
Nation, publisher of  The Stockman Grass Farmer magazine, is something of a hero across the  U.S. for his promotion of raising cattle naturally.
Such  luminaries as celebrity farmer/author Joel Salatin swear by his work,  extolling heirloom foods and natural processes (often called ecofarming)  with
his magazine in Ridgeland.
Nation’s book should be on every  organic farmer’s bookshelf as a reminder that although, as the teacher  says, there is no new thing under the sun, there is
plenty of old lore  worth remembering.
It’s available at www.stockmangrassfarmer.com, 1-800-748-9808 or P.O. Box 2300, Ridgeland MS 39158-9911.

Jim PathFinder Ewing is a journalist, author, writer, editor, organic farmer and blogger. His latest book titled Conscious Food: Sustainable Growing, Spiritual Eating (Findhorn Press) is in bookstores now. Find Jim on Facebook: http://bit.ly/cuxUdc or follow him @edibleprayers or @organicwriter or visit blueskywaters.com.

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