In our agricultural calendar, we are in Seed-time! Most of what we grow on our Schenectady Community Farms we start from seed. We have our seeds and planting plans for 2022 ready!
We have incredible varieties of vegetable seeds to choose from because of our ancestors’ relationships with the plants and land around them. From those relationships, (for example) the ancient grain Teosinte, that grows wild in Southern Mexico, became Corn: sweet corn, flour corn, flint corn. These relationships continue even today, although they have been damaged by some of our current industrial agricultural practices that have led to a loss of many unique varieties of food plants.
One interesting aspect about seeds and seed saving is the potential to develop seeds that are best adapted to grow in your region and whose plants can withstand sudden shifts in weather. We call these Regionally Adapted Seeds. This work harkens back to some of our oldest cultural practices in agriculture and it involves, most simply put, growing and saving seeds on the land in the region where you live.
There is a skill set to saving seeds and some seeds are more challenging to save than others. However, no lab coats are required here! Growing out the plants, watching them to save seeds from the healthiest plants that have characteristics you want to encourage and then saving the best seeds and storing them in cool and dry conditions, can result in plants that will grow best in that specific region. After 5-7 cycles of growing them out, you can have Regionally Adapted Seeds!
Over the years we have saved and grown out dry beans on our farms. This picture with a quote by Seedkeeper Rowen White shows seeds we have grown and shared and will grow this year on our farms. We save the best seeds to share and replant and enjoy eating the remainder.
Seeds have stories and they connect us to our ancestral traditions, cultural heritages, and history. One of the joys of working on urban farms is growing a variety of foods that are part of different cultures in our city. We’ll be sharing some of our Seed Stories this year too!
If you want to learn more about saving seeds, a good online resource is the Community Seed Network. A good book is The Seed Garden, edited by Lee Buttala and Shanyn Siegel.
-Melissa MacKinnon, Farms Manager