Give Back on #GivingTuesday

Posted by on Nov 17, 2015 in Featured, Fundraiser, Slider | 0 comments

Give Back on #GivingTuesday


We have a day for giving thanks. We have two for getting deals. Now, we have #GivingTuesday, a global day dedicated to giving back. On Tuesday, December 1, 2015, charities, families, businesses, community centers, and students around the world will come together for one common purpose: to celebrate generosity and to give. Join Forage and be a part of a global celebration of a new tradition of generosity!

This is an opportunity to join our commitment to gathering people and resources around building a vibrant local food community. By becoming a member of Forage, you are helping us continue our work in the community by supporting the Southern Heritage Seed Collective, community events and workshops, our partnership with the Farm to School program, and much more.

Southern Heritage Seed Collective

Farm to School Program at Loften

To learn more about our programs and the programs we support, click here!

Click here to make your tax-deductible donation!**

**All donations of $25 or more given on Giving Tuesday will earn either a free pint or growler fill from our friends at First Magnitude Brewing Company.

2nd Annual Citrus Tasting

Posted by on Nov 16, 2015 in Events, Fundraiser, Slider | 0 comments

2nd Annual Citrus Tasting

Enjoy the taste of North Florida with Forage and First Magnitude Brewing Company at the 2nd Annual Citrus Tasting! Taste local citrus varieties, sip on craft beer, savor delicious recipes featuring citrus, and enjoy music from Corporal Captain! We will also have tons of locally-sourced gift baskets, swag, and citrus available to win in our drawing. Proceeds benefit Forage, Dudley Farm Historic State Park, and Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings Historic State Park. We hope to see you there!

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Click here to register now. Your registration of $20 includes: pint of First Magnitude beer in souvenir pint glass (or homemade tea for the little ones), a taste of North Florida’s best local citrus varieties and delicious citrus recipes, and live music.

Join our Facebook event and stay tuned for a full menu of citrus recipes and citrus varieties that will be offered at the tasting!

Fermentation Workshop

Posted by on Nov 9, 2015 in Education, Events | 0 comments

Fermentation Workshop

Saturday, November 14th


Highlands Presbyterian Church

1001 NE 16th Avenue, Gainesville, FL

Come learn from our incredible Queens of Fermentation, the secrets and tricks to making your delicious vegetable ferments: kraut, kimchi and more! Come with veggies, share a local abundance provided, and go home with bubbling goodies just in time for Thanksgiving!

For more info, email Melissa:


Registration is a sliding scale from $30-$40 and limited to 30 people. Please give as you are able. “Grow Gainesville – Everybody Grows” scholarships are available for low- and no-income participants!


Join us for a hands-on workshop as we teach you about the benefits of and techniques to prepare your own lacto-fermented vegetables at home! Learn how to make kimchi, sauerkraut, sauerruben, kvass and more. There are infinite possibilities with the right ingredients and techniques. This is a great way to preserve fall and winter local bounty from farms and your own garden.

Live demonstrations and tastings by our knowledgeable “Queens of Ferment”, are accompanied with your own chopping, salting and fermenting to take home just in time for Thanksgiving. We’ll guide you through the right techniques to get a perfect ferment every time.

Because this is a hands-on workshop and we intend for you all to make several ferments in class, we ask that you bring as much of your own stuff as possible. Please plan to head out to the farmers market, Wards or Citizen’s Co-op to pick up most of what you will need in class. Below is a list of items to consider, followed by some FAQs. It’s OK if you don’t have everything, we always bring extra produce and utensils, and everyone tends to share their extra stuff with others.

If you end up having to cancel please let us know ASAP so we can let someone on the waiting list in. This class is very popular!

Supplies to bring to class:

-1-2 cabbage heads, having both red and green is nice (this one is a MUST please bring at least one cabbage head!)

-assortment of any veggies that strike your fancy such as:
carrots, beets, onions, garlic, ginger, daikon and other radishes, horseradish, turnips, rutabagas, celery, kohlrabi, leeks, beans, fennel, peppers, hard winter squash, green tomatoes, watermelon rind, lemons, mustard greens (not a lot), cauliflower, turmeric, and probably more. Also some fruits like apples can be used – explore and experiment! Ask us if you’re not sure.

-herbs fresh or dried, any kind will do so bring what you like or what you have on hand. Some common ones are dill (fresh and seed), caraway seed, celery seed, hot pepper flakes.

-sea salt, celtic salt, real salt (NO refined salt)

-muddlers or pounders (not necessary but nice)

-4 or more large quart sized jars or larger with tight fitting lids (wide mouth preferable but not necessary, plastic lids are best, but not necessary)

-large mixing bowl, bigger is better!

-mandolin slicer, grater and/or large sharp knife

-cutting board

-canning funnel (not necessary but nice)



1. Can I ferment greens?
Although our answer is usually “Sure, why not, you can ferment nearly everything!”, it doesn’t really apply to some winter greens unfortunately. Kale, collards and broccoli for example don’t hold their texture well in a ferment, and may produce some very strong smelling ferments. So if you’re looking for a way to preserve all those abundant greens from your garden or CSA, fermenting probably isn’t it. You can add some to a mixture of traditionally fermented veggies but don’t plan on using a lot.

2. How much vegetable stuff should I bring?
Most people go home with 2-4 large mason jars of ferments. So if you bring yourself one or two heads of cabbage (red and green is a nice mix), a small bunch or two of root veggies you like and some herbs and spices you’ll be fine. Don’t forget we’ll have extra stuff as well to supplement your recipes and people tend to share with one another. There has never been a shortage. If you have an abundance of something, bring it to share!

3. Is it OK to buy non-organic?
We highly recommend using organic vegetables whenever possible, but understand if you can’t have all organic. There tends to be less pesticide residue, and if grown in good soil will ferment much better. Fresh, local veggies ferment WAY better (trust us!), are not as dried out as grocery store veggies and have lots of naturally occurring microbes on the surface to properly start your ferment process. Get to the farmers market, Ward’s or the Co-op and you’ll have plenty of options for the freshest organic produce around!

4. What kind of salt should I bring and how much?
No refined salt, only good quality sea salt, coarseness does not matter. Wards and the Co-op often have it in bulk. If you brought a small pint sized mason jar full that would be plenty. We’re very liberal with salt in fermenting, so if you’re going to continue fermenting at home it doesn’t hurt to have more on hand. Again, we’ll have salt if you forget, or need more.

5. Should I wash and pre-prep my veggies?
NO! While you don’t want outright dirty veggies like carrots straight from the earth, the naturally occurring organisms on the veggies actually help with the fermentation process. Don’t start chopping or scrubbing your veggies just yet, we’ll guide you through the process and have plenty of time to do it in class. The only exception is if you want to ferment a hard squash like butternut or Seminole pumpkin in which case you could save time by peeling it. Just don’t start chopping yet!

6. Are regular mouth sized jars OK and do I need tight lids?
Wide mouth is best but regular is OK. The tight lids are mostly just to get you home without making a mess in your car, as you’ll loosen the lids at home when they settle. Once the ferments are done and you refrigerate them, its good to have a proper fitting lid. Plastic lids are best, the metal ones rust in the presence of salt water. You can find canning jars at Wards, Big Lots, WalMart, the Feed Store, Ace Hardware and probably many more places. Call first if you’re not sure.

7. Should I sanitize my jars?
Not necessary, just make sure they are squeeky clean.

8. If I can’t bring all my own equipment is that OK?
Yes, we’ll have extra equipment and there tends to be a lot of sharing of veggies, herbs and tools. If you have extra stuff to share feel free to bring it. Try to be as self-sufficient as possible, but if you forget to bring something you’ll be OK!

9. Is there a cost to attend?
Yes, just a small sliding scale donation of $25-35 is requested to help us cover our costs of facility rental, speaker stipends and supplies. If you cannot afford it, please let us know as we have some funds available through the Grow Gainesville “Everybody Grows” fund!

Florida Moths and Other Creatures of the Night

Posted by on Oct 20, 2015 in Events | 0 comments

Florida Moths and Other Creatures of the Night

Come on out to Forage Farm for some outdoor, nighttime fun! Join Forage and the Florida Museum of Natural History for an evening under the stars as we “black light” for moths and catch them for the museum’s collection, learn about moths and butterflies, enjoy fun games, and much more! The Florida Museum of Natural History will even be there with their mobile, pop-up museum. Come and go as you please!

We encourage you to BYOP – Bring your own picnic! Blankets and chairs are also recommended. Light refreshments and beverages will be available onsite, including First Magnitude Brewing Company beer for the grownups. Donations welcome!

Join the Facebook event:

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Seminole Pumpkin Fall Harvest Dinner

Posted by on Oct 9, 2015 in Events, Featured, Fundraiser | 0 comments

Seminole Pumpkin Fall Harvest Dinner

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Click here to register now!

(Only 20 tickets will be available)

Proceeds will benefit the Loften Farm to School to Work Program. Watch below to learn more about this incredible program right here in our community.

Stay tuned for our one-of-a-kind menu!



5 Reasons to Love Seminole Pumpkin!

Posted by on Oct 4, 2015 in Education, Recipes, Slider | 0 comments

5 Reasons to Love Seminole Pumpkin!

Ask anyone and they’ll you, we’re obsessed with Seminole Pumpkin!

1. It tastes awesome! If you haven’t tried it, it’s like a cross between a sweet potato and butternut squash. But BETTER!

2.Savory or sweet, it goes well in any recipe like cheesecake, pie, custards, curries, soups, quiches, breads…

3. It grows so well here! The native Americans in Florida were growing this squash as far back as the 1500’s maybe even longer. It’s so well adapted here that it can grow extraordinarily well in our hot summers, resisting many pests and diseases that destroy other squashes.

4. It’s beautiful and diverse. A true heirloom, it shows a lot of diversity of shapes, sizes and colors.

5. It has great storage life, lasting anywhere from 6-12 months after harvest. So you can enjoy them as a decoration a long time before you eat them.

There’s so many ways to enjoy this delightful squash, but below are a couple of our favorites. We’ll post more later.

Curried Pumpkin Soup

This recipe has a lot of room for adjustments. You can make it spicier or add meat, use curry paste or powder. We tend to add seasonally available things like lemongrass, greens, shrimp and mushrooms. The real secret is a good homemade broth if possible, and of course Seminole pumpkin. Amounts below are approximate; we rarely measure!


1 tablespoon olive or coconut oil

2 tablespoons chopped fresh ginger

1 small onion chopped

4 garlic cloves chopped

2 tablespoons red curry paste

1 teaspoon hot pepper flakes

4 cups broth meat or veggie

3 tablespoons fish sauce

2 cans coconut milk

3 cups cooked, pureed Seminole pumpkin

Preparing Pumpkin

Cut pumpkin in half and scoop out the seeds, saving for growing next year or eating. Place flesh side down on a baking pan and bake about 30-60min depending on size of squash until you can easily prick the skin with a fork. Remove and allow to cool enough to handle, and puree the flesh in a food processor. Any flesh not used in the recipe can be frozen.

Sauté onion in oil till translucent, then add ginger, garlic and curry paste, sauté till golden. Add to crock pot along with broth, fish sauce and pumpkin. Cook on high for a few hours or low for 6-8. At the very end, puree the soup and return to the crockpot. Then add the coconut milk and any additional spices to taste i.e. more fish sauce, curry paste or powder, salt and pepper. You can also skip the crock pot method and do on the stove top. The crock pot allows flavors to mingle more.

Pumpkin Bread

2 cups all-purpose flour

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon baking powder

1 teaspoon baking soda

1 teaspoon ground cloves

1 teaspoon cinnamon

1 teaspoon ground nutmeg

2 cups sugar

1-1/2 sticks (3/4 cup) unsalted butter, softened

2 large eggs

2 cups pureed Seminole pumpkin

Combine flour, salt, baking powder, baking soda, and spices. In large bowl with an electric mixer, at medium speed, beat butter and sugar until just blended. Add eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition. Continue beating until very light and fluffy, a few minutes. Beat in pumpkin. At low speed, beat in flour mixture until combined.

Turn batter into 2 greased 8 ½” x 4 ½” loaf pans, dividing evenly, and bake for about 65 – 75 minutes at 325, or until a knife comes out clean.

How to Store Seeds

Posted by on Oct 1, 2015 in Education, Seed Saving | 0 comments

How to Store Seeds

Once you start gardening, it’s inevitable that you start gathering a collection of seeds. If you’re like me, the collection will start taking over some serious real estate in your house! Some may be saved from your garden, others leftover from purchased seed. When carefully stored they can last for several years and maintain good viability. It’s a worthwhile endeavor to learn to properly store your precious future food source.

Think like a seed!

A seed is a living organism, a dormant embryo waiting for optimal conditions to spring to life. These embryos gather up stored energy while growing on the parent plant. Think of a seed as a baby plant that has packed a lunch for a long trip. To keep seeds as long as possible, they need to save that lunch for germination time when they need all that stored energy to produce a healthy seedling. If it’s been kept in poor conditions, the lunch will mostly be eaten and you’ll be lucky to get a pathetic seedling if anything at all. The poor buggers may have eaten all that lunch with nothing left for germination, and they starve themselves to death.

What does a seed need to germinate? Warmth, light and moisture. So applying the opposite conditions will keep it in dormancy-cool, dark and dry. These conditions also deter harmful microorganisms and insects that can colonize seeds. Variable temperatures, light and humidity can make a seed exhaust it’s lunch, so aim for providing the most constant conditions as possible.

A general rule of thumb is to observe “the 100 rule”. Aim for conditions where the air temperature in Fahrenheit plus the relative humidity percentage total less than 100. This is hard to achieve in Florida. Even a room at 70F (that’s cold!) with relative humidity of 50% is already over 100. Humidity is the worst of two evils however, and should be kept as low as possible. Never expose seeds to conditions over 95F.

Location, Location, Location!

Florida’s heat and humidity make optimal seed storage very difficult. A hygrometer is an inexpensive little device that will show relative humidity and temperature, allowing you to find the best place to store your precious seeds. Although you may discover that it’s hard to find ideal conditions in our climate, if you are using seeds within a year or two, and frequently save or purchase new seed, you don’t need to stress too much over finding or creating perfect conditions. Be sensible. Never store seed outside, in a garage, shed or other un-conditioned space. Try not to forget them outside in your garden apron either! Keep them indoors, in the best place in your house.

A home refrigerator is a good option for storage, but keep in mind they can fluctuate in temperature and humidity quite a bit, especially if they are opened and closed frequently throughout the day. Refrigeration is probably the best option however, because the temperature and humidity are lower than in your house. Place them in the very back of the fridge where the temperature is less variable.

We don’t recommend freezer storage in Florida unless you can be certain that your seeds are reeeeally dry! If there is too much moisture the cells will be damaged by ice crystals. We don’t store ours in the freezer, we’re certain even under our best attempt at drying, that they may still have too much moisture. This is especially true of larger seeds. Tiny seeds are less likely to be affected. Another downfall of storing in home freezers is that they all have an automatic defrost cycle that causes frequent temperature fluctuations.

When pulling your seeds out to use, allow them to come to room temperature before opening the lid. This way moisture is not rapidly absorbed, giving the seeds time to adapt to the change.

Finding The Right Containers

Use airtight, moisture-proof containers like glass jars with tight fitting lids, preferably with a rubber seal like a new mason jar lid. You can place your seeds directly inside, or stack all your seed packets in there. If you think they may have absorbed moisture, you can add some silica packs or beads to the jar, roughly of equal weight to the seeds.

Once the beads turn pink indicating they are saturated, you can remove the beads, re-seal the jar and put them up for storage. We buy silica beads and re-use them over and over. When they turn pink, bake them in the oven till they’re blue again. We put them in little sachet bags to contain the bouncy little things, and so we can see when they change color. This is a fairly inexpensive option that someone with a large or very important collection might consider.

With better storage practices, your seeds will last longer than they would otherwise. It may not be perfect, but finding the best possible storage options will ensure longer shelf life.

Vegetable Seed Shelf Life

Not all experts agree on how long seeds last. Of course there are many conditions that will affect longevity, going back to how well it developed on the parent plant, to how it was kept in storage. A Way to Garden is a great garden podcast I like to listen to even though they are in a totally different growing zone, and they have a good article on the topic with a snapshot of expected shelf life below from various sources.





Fall & Winter Seed Selections!

Posted by on Aug 23, 2015 in Events, Seed Saving, Slider | 0 comments

Fall & Winter Seed Selections!

Our seeds are ready to be tucked away into your gardens this fall, so come and get em! Stay awhile, enjoy the company, learn about gardening from fellow gardeners, and find out what else is growing on in our gardening community.

When you pick up your seeds and browse through our collection, we ask that you only take those seeds that you think you will actually grow, making sure there are plenty to go around for everyone. Also keep in mind they are packaged for the average small to medium sized back yard garden. Volunteers can help you decide what’s right for you if you’re having trouble. If you are a bigger sized garden and require more seeds, talk to us about how we can help. Help us all out by reading through the seed catalog and making a rough garden plan so you know what you need!

New members are always welcome! Sign up on line or at one of our three seed dispersal events. All memberships to Forage include an annual seed subscription, the base donation of $25 gets you one full year of garden seeds. What a bargain! Consider donating a little extra to help us provide seeds for those that cannot afford them, and to continue our work of developing a regional seed hub.

CHECK OUT THE SEED CATALOG, and get excited for cool weather and gorgeous greens! If you don’t see something you’re looking for, ask Melissa. It’s possible we have it. Our collection is kind of huge but we don’t bring it all out for events.



The Farm is a Sultry Jungle!

Posted by on Aug 4, 2015 in Education, Seed Saving, Uncategorized | 0 comments

The Farm is a Sultry Jungle!

While it’s true that we southern farmers take the summer off, there were a few things still growing strong that we just couldn’t till in. We’ve been playing with some interesting varieties while also trying to save seed from things, so we had to let them keep ripening.

I left to travel and learn about seeds from the experts at Seed Savers Exchange, and came back three weeks later to a farm jungle! It’s been so rainy, you can feel the moisture dripping from the air, and it oozes beneath your feet in the saturated soil. It doesn’t fair well for all seed saving attempts, but things are growing like crazy! I am always amazed at vigorous plant growth in the summer months, especially with the copious amounts of rain we’ve been getting. It’s so crazy in there, you can easily lose someone. Luffah is trying to take over the world, as is the insane African Horned Melon…not sure we’ll grow that one again! Fortunately a few of our awesome friends stopped in to harvest things and make sure nothing got too out of control.

A few of the luffahs were so saturated by rain that seeds inside the sponge were germinating!

A few of the luffahs were so saturated by rain that seeds inside the sponge were germinating!

The Aji Dulce peppers were about a foot high when Sean and I decided to shade them, the day before I left. Peppers prefer about 30% shading, and we thought it could double as an isolation barrier to prevent cross pollination with the few other peppers we have sprinkled around the field.


The Aji’s under their shade hoop house are really happy. Too happy…they are trying to escape!

These peppers are little beauties with a really interesting flavor, like none I’ve ever tried. Southern Exposure Seed Exchange’s website (our seed source) describes them as “Sweet, spicy, and delicious, with only a trace of heat. Highly aromatic fruits; their flavor is unusual and complex, with overtones of black pepper and coriander, and undertones of other spicy flavors.”

They look like habanero peppers up close, but don't taste like them at all.

They look like habanero peppers up close, but don’t taste like them at all.

Meanwhile, the Seminole Pumpkins have been piling up, thanks to our good pal, Val Leitner of Blue Oven Kitchens. She’s been stacking them up in the shaded barn where they are curing for about 6-8 weeks before we scoop out the seeds and devour the delicious flesh. We planted several “varieties” given to us by different folks to mix up the genetics and keep them healthy. Quite the diversity, eh?!

The beautiful diversity of Seminole Pumpkins, a true southern heirloom cultivated by the Native Americans that lived in Florida.

The beautiful diversity of Seminole Pumpkins, a true southern heirloom cultivated by the Native Americans that lived in Florida.

The heirloom cosmos are doing wonderfully, although it was a hard decision as to whether or not I should collect their dry seeds. As you can see from the photo with the beautiful Gulf Fritillary perched for the evening, they are dry seeds that are very exposed. They’ve been getting rained on a lot, ideally you collect them when they’re nice and crispy, sun-dried. I’ll dry them out really well indoors and see how they germinate. This is one of the tricky things about “dry-seeded” crops in the south.

A Gulf Fritillary hunkers down for the evening in this great spot: cosmos seeds!

A Gulf Fritillary hunkers down for the evening in this great spot: cosmos seeds!

The Dudley Farm Dent corn, which we received from our friend Angie Minnow is doing well. This is a dent corn, meaning it is best used for cornmeal, hominy and roasting ears. Some old timers prefer the more starchy dent corns over the sweet corns. We’ll try it all when it comes in, saving plenty of seed for next year to share as well. The lovely thing about this southern heirloom is that it is planted late spring where it is able to thrive off of summer rains and no supplemental irrigation. As fall approaches and our humidity finally drops, the ears dry out on their own. Supposedly. We’ll see, it’s supposed to be a wet year as we can already tell!

Huxley guards the corn from invaders.

Huxley the corn dog! Guarding against any intruders!

I’ve never grown corn before so I am a little nervous, as the seed for this variety is very rare and has not been stewarded well over the past several years. We’re probably one of the very few people who have it. Eternal gratitude to Angie for the rescue! This is my apprehensive corn face!

OMG corn! I dont' know what I'm doing!

OMG corn! I dont’ know what I’m doing!

Finally, check out these zinnias that are STILL going with no evidence of what Anna and I call the “zinnia funk”. Zinnias always get bacterial and fungal infections by summer time, at least the tall cutting kinds like Benary’s. The dwarf Mexican types are great, and we’ve been really happy with those. But the taller kinds have always disappointed. We left these ones in because they seemed to be doing really well, and the pollinators just love them. I was shocked to see them still going strong upon my return, and showing no evidence of disease. In August! We planted them outdoors as seedlings early March. These are called Gift Zinnias, and what a gift they are! Anna brought them back from Hudson Valley Seed Library in New York last year. We’ll definitely be saving seed from these hot little things and sharing them.

The Gift Zinnias are going berzerk in August. This variety is a winner!

The Gift Zinnias are going berzerk in August. This variety is a winner!

If you haven’t already joined our awesome seed collective, you really should! We are always growing out neat things that are recommended to us by local growers to learn more about them, then save the best seeds to share. We also bulk purchase seed we can’t save from companies we trust, giving the home grower a big collection to choose from twice a year. It’s only $25/year to support us and you get awesome seeds of vegetables, herbs and flowers. It’s a great cause for you, and the community because we donate lots of seed to individuals and community and school gardens that can’t afford memberships. Everyone grows!



Passing along seeds and inspiration

Posted by on Jul 20, 2015 in Education, Seed Saving, Slider | 0 comments

Passing along seeds and inspiration

I have been living here at Heritage Farm in Decorah, Iowa for a week; the headquarters for an amazing non-profit called the Seed Savers Exchange. I am truly humbled and amazed at the dedication, passion and kindness of the people that work and volunteer here. I have learned so much from everyone and made wonderful connections and friendships that I know will live on, much like the seeds and stories we all shared.

The mission of Seed Savers Exchange is to “conserve and promote America’s culturally diverse but endangered garden and food crop heritage for future generations by collecting, growing, and sharing heirloom seeds and plants.” As they celebrate their 40th anniversary this year, we should all give thanks to the hard work they’ve devoted to a cause that affects us all.

Every year since the organization began from very humble origins, they’ve gathered their members for an annual conference and campout. The first one back in the 70’s was a small group of the original 12 who joined the founders, Diane and Kent Whealey in Missouri where they lived at the time. This year over 200 people attended; a beautiful and lively mix of long-time members and new ones (like me!) coming from all over the country to gather around our love of seeds and sharing them. It really felt more like a family reunion than a conference!

Melissa with founder Diane Whealey in front of her lush garden. Diane is a wonderful woman of great passion, generosity and vision.

Melissa with founder Diane Whealey in front of her lush garden. Diane is a wonderful woman of great passion, generosity and vision.

Seeds and the people that grow them, share a lot in common. They are both very generous, and give of themselves something that will live beyond the individual. Each plant that goes to seed bears a tremendous gift for the attentive gardener: tens, hundreds or even thousands of seeds from one plant. When we gather those seeds the generosity is passed on to our friends, neighbors and strangers through seed swaps and yearbook exchanges like the one Seed Savers offers. The generosity of gardeners has always struck me as nothing short of amazing. We are eager to share seeds, plants, tools, advice and our time with others.

The thing about people and seeds is that we need each other. Without seeds that grow into food, fiber and flowers, we could not survive. We’ve depended on agricultural crops to feed and clothe us for thousands of years, taking them with us wherever we migrated. Over time they travelled the world and diversified in different climates and cultures, embedding themselves permanently in our lives. In exchange for their use, humans must carefully save their seeds and share them, for the plant to live on. Without stewardship of these plants, they would be unlikely to flourish on their own like their wild relatives. We need them, and they need us.

A unique display at the visitors center showing heirlom seeds and the artwork that beautifully depicts their form.

A unique display at the visitors center showing heirlom seeds and the artwork that beautifully depicts their form.

Sadly, the shift of our agricultural practices to massive operations, as well as the mass exodus from the small family farm and garden to cities, has led to the permanent loss of about 90% of our crop diversity. Let that sink in for a moment. 90% of all the beautiful and varied colors, shapes and unique flavors that fed our ancestors both long ago and just yesterday, are lost forever. That repository of genetic material that took thousands of years to develop, is gone. The secrets held in those tiny seeds that may have helped us adapt to climate change, are gone.  The delicious flavors and textures that could rescue us from the tasteless produce we have easy access to now, are gone.

But not all is lost. Fortunately because of organizations and individuals fighting back around the globe, we still have a safe repository of what’s left of our heirloom vegetable heritage. There is some great work happening with organic breeding that can address the need for seed grown in certain climates under organic conditions. Organic Seed Alliance is a major player in that field. USC Canada does tremendous collaborative work to preserve genetic biodiversity in Canada and across the globe. Then there are individuals like the super cool Greg LeHoullier, aka “the NCTomatoMan” that I had the pleasure of meeting, single-handedly taking on the challenge of breeding new tomato varieties that will be heirlooms of tomorrow. In his driveway, in pots, hundreds of varieties! There are seed libraries popping up all over the world. There is still hope, I saw it and felt it in a powerful way here at the Seed Savers conference. Thank goodness!

Eager tasters at the conference line up to sample numerous carrot and bean varieties being evaluated in test fields at Seed Savers.

Eager tasters at the conference line up to sample numerous carrot and bean varieties being evaluated in test fields at Seed Savers.

Back here at home in Gainesville, Florida we hope to become a meaningful and impactful part of this growing coalition of seed saving, by focusing on the needs of our regional climate and culture. The Southern Heritage Seed Collective that we’ve developed over the past few years with tremendous community support, will take this mission very seriously over the coming years, and we hope you will join us!