Chelsea Green Publishing

Chelsea Green Blog

“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…


Ask the Expert: Andrew Mefferd

Before writing The Greenhouse and Hoophouse Grower’s Handbook: Organic Vegetable Production Using Protected Culture, Andrew Mefferd spent seven years in the research department at Johnny’s Selected Seeds, traveling around the world to consult with researchers and farmers on the best practices in greenhouse growing. Andrew has graciously agreed to offer up his expertise to our […] Read More

Top 10 favorite goat facts (with gifs)

New this month from author Gianaclis Caldwell, Holistic Goat Care is the essential resource on caring for your herd. Goats have provided humankind with essential products for centuries; indeed, they bear the noble distinction of being the first domesticated farm animal. From providing milk and meat for sustenance and fiber and hides for clothing and shelter […] Read More

New French edition of The Resilient Farm and Homestead available

Great news for French-speaking fans of Ben Falk’s The Resilient Farm and Homestead: An Innovative Permaculture and Whole Systems Design Approach. The French language translation is now available from Imagine Un Colibri, from French booksellers, and on Amazon.fr. Falk’s book is a technical manual that details the strategies he and his team have developed for […] Read More

How to Make Biochar

Doing some spring cleaning around your property? By making biochar from brush and other hard-to-compost organic material, you can improve soil—it enhances nutrient availability and also enables soil to retain nutrients longer. This excerpt from The New Farmer’s Almanac, Volume 3, explains how to get started. To make biochar right in your garden, start by […] Read More

Generosity as Activism, and Other Homesteading Principles to Live By

“Like everyone I know, we occasionally find ourselves faced with a decision to which there is no obvious answer,” says Ben Hewitt, coauthor of The Nourishing Homestead. “Do we borrow money to build a bigger barn, or do we keep getting by with what we have? Do we spend our meager savings on trees and […] Read More
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