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“There’s no despair in a seed.”

What’s in a seed?

If you’re paying attention as closely as author and activist Janisse Ray, you might say life itself — and not just the plant life that waits patiently inside — but all life on Earth depends upon how we treat these tiny, potent, irreplaceable seeds.

Ray talked about her new book The Seed Underground, and explained the importance of seeds and biodiversity in a recent radio interview on “Your Call” with Rose Aguilar, and took calls from listeners and weighed in on topics raised by other guests, too.

Of the thousands of seed varieties available at the turn of the 20th century, 94 percent have been lost — forever.  “And the less biodiverse any system is,” says Ray, “the greater the potential for its collapse.”  So how can we save the seeds we have left?  Listen here. Part of what makes The Seed Underground so inspiring are Ray’s visits with fellow seed-saving revolutionaries around the country, coupled with her own lifelong passion for the environment and for seed-saving. In this excerpt on Utne.com, you can join Janisse as she meets with Sylvia Davatz, a seed-saver and gardener in Vermont. The woman who answered my knock didn’t look like a revolutionary. She was slim, in blue jeans and hyacinth turtleneck. Sporty reading glasses hung from her neck.
“Right on time,” she said. I smiled. “For once.” When I decided to learn as much as I could about seeds, I was directed to a village in central Vermont where a woman lives—a quiet, under-the-radar revolutionary, I was told—who understands some things I’m trying to understand. She invited me inside, into a sparkling and artful kitchen. The walls were red, the stove green, the counters blue. On a woodstove rested a pan filled with seed heads I did not recognize. The woman followed my eyes. “Leeks,” she said. Meet Sylvia Davatz, radical American gardener. Somewhere in her well-kept home in the forested hills of central Vermont is a seed collection of plant varieties salvaged from the dustbins of history. “I’m the Imelda Marcos of seeds,” she laughed. “I have a thousand varieties in my closet!”

Keep reading…


The Miracle of Farming: Toward a Bio-Abundant Future

Charles and Perrine Hervé-Gruyer’s Le Ferme du Bec Hellouin is a celebrated model of innovative, ecological agriculture in Europe, connected to national and international organizations addressing food security, heralded by celebrity chefs as well as the Slow Food movement, and featured in the inspiring César and COLCOA award-winning documentary film, Demain (Tomorrow).In this excerpt from their […] Read More

Sow Seeds: Stop Walking Around Doing Nothing

“In the last one hundred years, 94 percent of seed varieties available at the turn of the century in America and considered a part of the human commons have been lost.”That’s one of the key takeaways in award-winning author and activist Janisse Ray’s book, The Seed Underground: A Growing Revolution to Save Food. In her book, Ray […] Read More

True or false? Figs contain dead wasps

They are trees of life and trees of knowledge. They are wish-fulfillers … rainforest royalty … more precious than gold. They are the fig trees, and they have affected humanity in profound but little-known ways. Gods, Wasps and Stranglers tells their amazing story.Fig trees fed our pre-human ancestors, influenced diverse cultures and played key roles […] Read More

Imagination, Purpose & Flexibility: Creating an Independent Farmstead – Q&A (part 1)

Twenty years ago, the land that authors Shawn and Beth Dougherty purchased and have come to name the Sow’s Ear was deemed “not suitable for agriculture” by the state of Ohio. Today, their family raises and grows 90% of their own food.Such self-sufficiency is largely the result of basing their farming practices around intensive pasture […] Read More

Eight Seed-Saving Myths

You don’t have to move to Svalbard, Norway in order to have access to a seed bank.Author and plant breeder Carol Deppe believes that every gardener should have her own seed bank. Even if you aren’t a seed saver, you should have your own seed bank. Even if you never experience any disaster beyond the […] Read More
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