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.

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