Just got back from the 6th Organic Seed Growers Conference in Port Townsend, WA. I find that seeds are one aspect of local food production which does not get talked about much. It is a little know fact that there are a hand full of companies which control almost all of the commercial seed production in the world(click here to see the current consolidation in the seed industry). Every year, there are varieties that we grow which are discontinued. These are varieties that we have been growing for years and that do well in our climate and soil. Once this happens, we need to spend years testing new varieties to replace the one that was lost.
One way to prevent this from happening is to grow open pollinated seeds. Open pollinated varieties(OP’s) are varieties that when seed is saved from them properly, the next generation will look the same as before. Hybrid seeds are varieties that are controlled by the seed producer and when seed is saved from them, the next generation will rarely do well or look the same as the parents. After many years of saving open pollinated seed on your farm, they will begin to adapt to your soil and climate. They should also become more resistant to the local pests and diseases.
Without a supply of locally adapted and produced seed, local food production will still be dependent on large, international petro-chemical companies. We will be at the mercy of these companies and be forced to grow the varieties they choose and pay the price that they determine. This is why I think it is important to discuss local seeds when we talk about local food. We can’t have one without the other.