Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Seed Keepers of the Gila.

Heirloom Corn

On a warm Sunday afternoon we found ourselves in a beautiful off the grid homestead at the edge of the Gila Wilderness. Our hosts were out gardening, preparing the soil and trying to control the cane that is used as barrier to the spring winds. It’s a labor of love and commitment to grow in this area but there is a resilient community that continues with the belief in growing and eating local food.

 It also is a necessity; “If you want to live in this incredible wilderness then you need to make a commitment,” we were told.

There is no local store so food has to be grown and it is exchanged and bartered. The community tries to help each other out, they are looking for different economies and new ways of being and living in this world.
They are learning all the time.

Their river, the Gila has been the source of diverse agriculture for over 2,000 years.

This river is a treasure, it is the last free flowing river in New Mexico and it is under treat of being diverted which would weaken its critical connection to the flood plain and surrounding habitats. This action is adding a new stress to the community.

 However on this Sunday afternoon we found ourselves in a small cool room with a circle of seed keepers who had made the conscious choice to live on the edge. We sat together through the peaceful slowed down afternoon sharing our stories and our seeds.
 It was a coming together, the seeds guided us.

Gila Cosmos

 There was an animated discussion until it was time to go back into the gardens to continue building and working the deep relationship to the plants, animals and the earth.

 There was talk about the shift of seed saving that only really kicked in 100 years ago when seed companies started, the different ways to keep a garden alive, with the problems of grasshoppers, squash bugs, and pervasive nematodes. One person in the room suggested planting cover crops of marigolds to keep the nematodes at bay. The marigolds in his garden grew up to four feet tall!

We were told that recently the weather had broken and flocks of wild cranes were rising on the changing wind patterns and that the hummingbirds follow the buzzards. The most important learning’s were though observation, by doing, by knowing the land and knowing your seeds.

 “When I watch the bees I wonder why we need to many ways to say something”

 “Common ground is what we are all looking for but we need to practice keeping our hearts open so it is not so brutal.”

 It was agreed that to hold the belief in our seeds, that to continue to grow our own food was one of the most radical actions one could take and it took committed dedication. At times this work is dirty, tough, extremely disappointing and could bring despair.
There was honesty in the stories.


 One gentle human in the room has a carefully stored collection of seeds. Seed saving has been his passion since the seventies. He has four daughters but they, along with many others, have left the family farm and might not come back “Who do I pass these seeds on to?” he asked.

Such a big and important question to consider, where are the young farmers who are willing to take the risk, shift their ways of being in the world, head out and learn from these wise keepers of land based knowledge and seeds?

 If this does not happen soon the edge might crumble and a rare opportunity could be lost.

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

SeedBroadcast Spring Tour: Silver City.

Mobile Seed Story Broadcasting Station in Silver City
 We set off late in the afternoon, the SeedBroadcast collective coming together from all our different directions. We met in the south valley of Albuquerque, packed our minimal clothing for the week, loaded food in the cooler, bedding in the overhead cupboard, checked that we had water and set off for our seed expedition. Following behind us was Cleo, a passionate young woman from Greenhorns offered to help us for part of this trip.

Cleo sorting seeds
 The Mobile Seed Broadcasting truck is old, the engine a little newer, it is carefully looked after but it is always an adventure when we set off on our yearly spring tour. We have an itinerary, communities are expecting us and we are curious and excited to meet the people we have only encountered through telephone calls and the internet. Our first stop was Silver City, a small town in southern New Mexico of ten thousand people. Historically Silver City is known as a mining town but as the gateway to the Gila wilderness many people, seeking an alternative way of living, have congregated in this area and have diligently established a vibrant local food growing community.

Food Policy Council
  In the seventies and eighties wanderers found land along the Gila River and started to live their dreams far away from main steam America. It was during this time that Seeds of Change started their business of growing out and researching local heirloom seeds. The company has changed since then, as it is now owned by Mars, but many people who were drawn to work on that first Seeds of Change farm are still in the area, tending the seeds and growing their own food.

As Carolyn Smith a local activist and board member of the farmers market said, “We are sixty miles from the nearest interstate, ninety miles from the nearest city so if the trucks stop coming we would only have a weeks worth of food to survive on”.

The Farmers Market runs from May to the end of October and as a way to raise money the board organize a Home and Garden Expo once a year at the Silver City Convention Center. The expo brings the community out of their homes and gardens to talk, share, listen to music, learn about local high desert growing practices and to reconnect with each other.

High Desert Organic Gardens Seed Swap
 Community organizations and individuals set up tables and booths to share their goods and knowledge. The new Seed Library had a booth with information, New Mexico’s Fig Man sat on the floor surrounded by his beloved figs and told stories to those that wandered into his space, the Food Policy Council, mapping the historical ranches and oral histories, High Desert Organic Gardeners set up a very popular seed swap, Yo Kalisher displayed his Liquid Compost, the Farmers Market created an active educational area, and there were solar vendors, antique dealers, and real estate agents.

This assortment of purveyors attracted a steady stream of inquiring visitors from families new to the area to the old timers.

The SeedBroadcast Journals were dispersed, seeds exchanged hands, and new connections were made. We learned allot, not only about the food growing practices of the area but also the names of the surrounding mountains, the myths and legends of the “Sleeping Nun”, and we were directed to the best mechanic in town.

More stories from SeedBroadcast visit to Silver City will be posted in our next blog.

Saturday, March 21, 2015

Juan Tabo Library Spring Seed Fair

 Seed Libraries are springing up all over the place and the first one in Albuquerque, New Mexico opened last year at the Juan Tabo branch library in the North East Heights. The ABC Seed Library was instigated through the passion and tireless efforts of Brita Sauer who is a librarian at the Juan Tabo branch. This year Brita wanted to hold an event to bring people together to share their seeds, their knowledge and to inspire others to plant gardens, save seeds and to make use of the invaluable resource of the seed library.

Collaborative Seed Mural by Jade Leyva

 Seed libraries are places that ‘lend’ or share seeds. They are different from seed banks as their main purpose is to disseminate the seeds to local growers to keep the seeds propagating and adapting. Borrowers are asked to grow the seed and if all goes well at the end of the growing season save the seeds to bring back and replenish the stock. What a simple act of reciprocity! These seed libraries often repurpose there the old card catalogues and offer a wonderful shared public resource. However in 2014 some libraries started to come under attack by their state Departments of Agriculture. One such library is in the small Pennsylvania town of Mechanicsburg. This small unassuming library received a letter from the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture stating that the seed library was in violation of the states Seed Act of 2004. This act focuses on seeds that are sold but they were told that this could be a problem for seeds that were free but mislabeled. This caused a stir through out the national seed library network and has made it even more important to educate the public about the necessary to keep growing out and sharing our local heirloom seeds and the importance of our community seed libraries.

Seed Activist Beata Tsosie-Peña
Seeds: The Yearbook of Agriculture 1961

Education was the core of the intent for the Spring Seed Fair. The daylong event started with a seed swap and then moved into a variety of talks about seed diversity, the importance of saving and recognizing our wild seeds and a seed saving workshop. Seeds and their inherent potential bring a great assortment of people together and this event was no exception. Many took part in the creation of a seed mural with Jade Leyva, listened to the passion talk by long time seed saver Brett Baker, heard the powerful poetry of seed activist Beata Tsosie-Peña from Tewa Women United, stayed for a seed saving workshop by Sean Ludden of Bosque Seed Collective and shared their seed stories with us. Stories and knowledge were shared and the many varieties of heirloom seeds exchanged hands. The talks, experiences and workshops hopefully motivated participants to get their fingers in the warming soil and plant, to remember to save their new found seeds at the end of the growing season and to bring them back and replenish their own community seed library.

Listen to some of the seed stories:

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

A Thousand Plates at SDSU Downtown Gallery

SeedBroadcast will be Broadcasting from the closing reception and panel event of:

A Thousand Plates // An art exhibition about food and culture

SDSU Downtown Gallery
725 West Broadway
San Diego, CA

March 26, 2015
5pm - 8pm

Come by and share you Seed Story and check out open/free source materials from the Mobile Seed Story Broadcasting Station.

Also!! Stay tuned. We will be posting Seed Stories from here soon!

A Thousand Plates // An art exhibition about food and culture
A Thousand Plates explores the topic of food as a means to question society by examining traditions across cultures and throughout the centuries. The exhibition will examine food as a fundamental need, modern food production and its relationship to the environment, the culture of eating and its relationship to memory.

Our exhibition title refers to Deleuze and Guattari’s “A Thousand Plateaus: Capitalism and Schizophrenia"—a philosophical text written with a rhizomatic structure—where connections between ideas and references defy linear, structural, or casual relations. Every point can conceptually link to somewhere else. In our view, our relationship to food is similar. The production, consumption, distribution and marketing of food is connected to tradition, culture, individual and social taste as well as health care, environmental issues, and global politics that shape the contemporary society.

This event is being sponsored by San Diego State University School of Art + Design, SDSU Art Council, Common Experience SDSU, and Arts Alive SDSU

Friday, March 13, 2015

Santa Fe Seed Exchange.

Two farming friends exchanging stories at the SeedBroadcast hub

 The Santa Fe Seed Exchange is always a delight. There is some thing about this time of year, the change of the light, the return of the birds, the warmth in the air and the excitement to get our hands in the soil that brings people together to share their seeds and stories.

This annual event, held in the rustic barn at Frenchy's Field, is co-ordinated by Home Grown New Mexico and the City of Santa Fe Parks Division. The mission of Home Grown is to create urban farm and food events that bring together businesses and New Mexicans committed to growing, making and preserving their own food with the intent to develop a healthier and more self-reliant lifestyle. This committed organization was the vision of Amy Hetager who SeedBroadcast had the pleasure to meet over three years ago.   This blog is dedicated to her memory and to her vision.

 Lots of participants arrived right as the event started with their seeds carefully bagged and labeled.     There was a great expectancy in the air. Its magical to see all of the many varieties of seeds in their different packages and to experience how they evoke conversation and exchange. Many people had been to the exchange before, know the process and are drawn back very year by the excitement of what new seeds they might discover. Many were joggers, just out walking or playing with their children in the park and discovered this event by chance.  There were farmers from Nambe, Medanales, La Medera, urban gardeners from Santa Fe and families just wanted to know more about growing their own food.

A wealth of beans.
The Master Gardeners were on hand to answer questions any of those burning questions. Susie Sonflieth who is part of this knowledgeable group shared her seed story.

If you have never been to a seed exchange before then you should.  Try to find one near you, there are many at this time of the year. If you do not have seeds to share just go to be part of the magic. Perhaps some seeds will attract you with their potential and lead you to new discoveries.

 "To have a seed is to have everything"

Emily Renfro with her seeds.