Saturday, May 16, 2020

Seeds, Where it all Begins!

"Though I do not believe that a plant will spring up where no seed has been, I have great faith in a seed.  Convince me that you have a seed there, and I am prepared to expect wonders."
- Henry David Thoreau

Seeds in Palm of Hand
Mongolian Giant Sunflower Seeds
Seeds, where it all begins!  You can't grow any vegetables or flowers without these babies and thus they are a very important part of any farm or garden.  There are vast amounts of roads we could go down with this one and endless topics that can be discussed when it comes to the black hole that is seed politics.  We're not going to get too deep in the weeds with this post (half of you are probably sighing with relief and the other half are angrily shaking fists at me), but we'll still skirt some weeds, it's inevitable.  This early on in the blog I'm just going to focus on where I get my seeds from with a light touch on why I buy my seeds from these very specific sources.

 Not all seeds are made equal, they are the sum of the care that was put into the original plant just as you reading this are the sum of all of your past experiences put together, that is part of what makes you, you (Ubuntu: I am, because we are).  The biggest controversy when it comes to seeds is probably Genetically Modified Organism Seeds (GMO Seeds) which is where we have to dive into the weeds slightly.  When you start to read into the facts around the differences between different types of seeds and different things that are done to these seeds you quickly realize that there are a lot of unknowns and there really hasn't been a whole lot of good research done to prove whether doing specific things to seeds are safe or not safe.  For that very reason I currently opt to stay away from GMO seeds as I believe that having as much diversity as possible is necessary on our planet.  As things become less diverse you run the risk of a single problem / pest / issue wiping out that non-diverse product.  Whereas if you have a lot of diversity that same issue will still affect some of that product but other variations of that product may be naturally resistant or have mechanisms of defense against it.  This same thing should probably be thought about as people are talking more and more about genetically modifying humans and designer babies.  If all humans were the same 1) that just wouldn't be any fun, 2) would make for a very dull world, and 3) there would probably be mass amounts of unintended consequences.  So many things in our world seems to come back to relying on variation.  Take your diet for example, if you only eat sugar for meals you are likely going to develop lots of health issues, it's too much of a good thing (good tasting anyways).  However if you vary your diet a lot and you have a little bit of sugar with each meal, you'll likely be perfectly healthy and while there's still the possibility of developing health issues, your chances of that are going to be much lower.  I have no idea how I managed to go from seeds to designer babies (is the innate ability to get off topic a super power?), but let's get back to seeds.  Here's a great resource to learn more about GMO:

I would LOVE to be informed and to learn more about Genetically Modified Organisms

Before I bought seeds for my first year of the urban farm I did weeks, if not months, of research solely around seeds.  While I have forgotten some of that knowledge (I tend to forget things if I don't use them for a while) my big take away from all of that research was that if you want to stay away from GMO Seeds and acquire seeds that are as natural as possible (lets ignore how very odd that statement is for now, as seeds by their very nature should be natural) it is incredibly hard and challenging to do so once you get past the event horizon of the seed politics black hole.  In a nutshell, the main reason for this is that biotech companies own quite a lot of seed companies and it becomes very hard to know for a fact which seed companies are affiliated with biotech companies and which ones aren't.  As a result I take the same approach to this that I take with where I get my food from.  This topic becomes so convoluted and muddy that rather than have useless arguments about it; I choose to vote with my dollars and support seed companies that I know are not associated with these biotech companies that I do not want to support.  Alas, here are my go-to companies for my seeds:

Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds - I absolutely love Baker Creek for a multitude of reasons whether it be their beautiful seed catalogs that have majestic photos that I would love to have hanging on the walls of my house or the fun stories and articles contained within these very same seed catalogs.  When it boils down to it, it's a family owned, ethical, seed company that has extremely high quality seeds that I have never had any issues with.  They are a prime example of the type of seed company that I want to support with my dollars.  Baker Creek carries one of the largest selections of seeds from the 19th century, including many Asian and European varieties. I normally buy as much of my seeds from them as possible whether it be heirloom vegetables, herbs, or flowers.

Seed Savers Exchange - While I haven't bought any seeds from the Seed Savers Exchange since the second year of the urban farm.  They're a good company with quality seeds and a fantastic mission.  I've just become very partial to Baker Creek and prefer to get my seeds there instead.

Wood Prairie Family Farm - This is my go to place for seed potatoes.  It's a small family farm on the edge of Maine’s North Woods and is located just six miles from the Canadian border. For over 40 years they have dedicated themselves to time-honored organic regenerative farming practices and building up the fertile soil of Wood Prairie Family Farm.  They have quite a variety of potatoes, it's fun to try varieties that you don't know anything about and see what you get when they grow.  I've only had extremely delicious potatoes (when I manage to not kill the plants with my potato experiments) that originated from this farm.

American Meadows - The place for wildflowers and bulbs, everything from your normal varieties to odd varieties that'll have your neighbors asking you, "What the F*(% is that kind of flower?!" (actual quote from a neighbor of mine).  They only sell 100% Pure Wildflower Seeds of the highest quality and germination. All the seeds are Non-GMO, Neonicotinoid-Free and guaranteed to grow!

Johnny's Selected Seeds - I actually haven't bought any seeds from Johnny's before.  I do want to try them out in the future as it seems like a great company and I know quite a lot of people who do order seeds from Johnny's and they're all very happy with this company.  The company itself has been around for 45 years, it's employee owned, and they only sell non-gmo seeds.

Garlic - I have no idea where I got my garlic from, it was a mix of garlic I picked up at the local farmers market in Longmont along with a fairly large garlic order I placed with a lot of varying types of garlic.  I've scoured my e-mail trying to find where I ordered it from and I can't find a clue anywhere.  I do remember having a hell of time finding a company that I wanted to support that had a wide range of different types of seed garlic (variety, variety, variety) to buy from.  It appears to be a phantom family farm, but I'm sure it was a really cool, down to earth company.  I have no idea what types of garlic I ordered or even what types of garlic I still have and plant (they've been mixed up quite well).  All I know for sure is that I eat and grow as much garlic as I can each year and it is EPIC!  I did obtain some elephant garlic, which was quite fun and scary to grow.  Time will tell if I still have some elephant garlic, it's definitely possible that I have some planted this year.

This is far from a comprehensive list of seed companies that I would support.  I'm sure there are a ton of other great, ethical, seed companies that do a great job and that I would love to buy seeds from.  The companies listed on this page have just ended up being my go-to companies and I rarely have the time to sit down and research additional seed companies that I want to support (why fix something if it isn't broken).  If you know of or own a really cool seed company, let me know about it!

Each of the seed companies listed on this page also participate in the Safe Seed Pledge:

"Agriculture and seeds provide the basis upon which our lives depend. We must protect this foundation as a safe and genetically stable source for future generations. For the benefit of all farmers, gardeners, and consumers who want an alternative, we pledge that we do not knowingly buy, sell, or trade genetically-engineered seeds or plants.  The mechanical transfer of genetic material outside of natural reproductive methods and between genera, families, or kingdoms, poses great biological risks as well as economic, political, and cultural threats. We feel that genetically engineered varieties have been insufficiently tested prior to public release. More research and testing are necessary to further assess the potential risks of genetically-engineered seeds. Further, we wish to support agricultural progress that leads to healthier soils, genetically diverse agricultural ecosystems, and ultimately healthy people and communities."

Important Note:  Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds did supply me with 10 varieties of seeds, for free, this year (I did buy a whole lot more from them in addition to the free seeds though).  This in no way shaped the views surrounding Baker Creek in this post or elsewhere on this site.  However it does highlight even further how awesome of a company they are!!


  1. I was going to place an order from them soon but seem to be sidelined by grandchildren at the moment. Their recent post about their favorites has me intrigued. Ok - this is Carol Ball, but I can't seem to sign in otherwise.

    1. Sounds good, Baker Creek's favorites video is pretty neat and has some interesting things to try!