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Does it matter where your seed comes from?

Did you know that within one growing season, a seed adapts to it's growing environment and encodes those survival thresholds right into it's seed DNA? 

IT'S NOT YOUR FAULT: THE SEED DISTRIBUTION SYSTEM IS SETTING YOU UP TO FAIL

There are thousands of new gardeners out there trying their best to grow something not realizing that the seed packet they picked up from the big box store is probably from another country or on the other side of the country with an entirely different environment from theirs — the odds are stacked against them for success right out of the gate. I didn't realize this until I began to study seed saving and listened to these growing professionals... 

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A QUICK RECAP ON PLANT GENETICS FROM SCHOOL

A plant grows during a season and experiences sun, rain, cold, heat and wind to a degree based on the environment it lives within. At the end of it's growing period, the plant will produce buds (in many cases) that become pollinated and then turn to a fruit or vegetable. This contains seed from the parent plant. The seed contains all the DNA from the mother plant encoding whether growing conditions were really hot or really wet or really dry or if it was munched on by a certain pest, or attacked by a certain disease and so forth, thereby equipping it's daughter plants with the DNA needed to adapt to whatever it may face in the next growing season.

PEOPLE AND PLANTS ARE MORE ALIKE THAN YOU MAY REALIZE

I even experienced something similar — when we first moved to the South from the Northwest, there was a southern woman who heard me speak and noticed my accent was different and said, "You're not from around here, are you? You must be a transplant!" I didn't know what to make of this statement, but I quickly let go of any offense and realized that first summer that I was trying to adapt to not only a different culture to some degree, but to extreme heat and humidity I wasn't accustomed to . I remember trying to walk barefoot outside to get the mail and realizing the wood deck was too hot to walk on and was burning my feet! I remember not going out during the day and saving my shopping until the evening because I just broke out in a sweat.  I was like a transplant as my body tried to adjust! Fast forward five years and I remember flying back home and being completely chilled at the airport when I realized that even though it was technically "summer" the weather in Seattle was so much cooler than what I was accustomed. And when I went back in the winter to help my mother a few years ago (by this time I had lived in the south for 15+ years) the skin on my hands were so dry that they actually got red and hurt!

Let me tell you a personal story that helped me to fully understand what is happening within our current national seed supply system... 

A TALE OF TWO TOMATO DAUGHTER PLANTS FROM SEED FROM A SOIL-GROWN MOTHER PLANT:

Way back when, I purchased some seed from the Northwest United States (a seed company from Oregon to be specific) not thinking anything about where it was grown and only evaluating the seed for it being a unique variety that I wanted to try growing. I started several seedlings of this particular tomato variety and I ended up with two healthy adult tomato plant starts / seedlings. One I planted in the soil in a raised bed and the other I planted in a hydroponic system.

The one in the hydroponic system got the exact nutrients all the other tomatoes in that hydroponic system received. While my other tomatoes thrived in the hydroponic system, this one particular variety I had planted just struggled to put on leaves and especially produce buds. As a result, we only had a few actual tomatoes come off that plant (even though the other tomato varieties were happily growing on the same hydroponic system). The sibling tomato plant that was started from the same seed supply and started at the same time with the same conditions that was placed in the soil did just fine. It produced leaves, buds, and fruit. It was such a contrast between the two plants it was quite the epiphany — growing environment from the parent plant matters! I saw first-hand how my hydroponic tomato was trying to adapt to a different growing condition.

Will I give up on the plant that struggled in the hydroponic system? Absolutely not! In fact, as I continue to grow this seed out year after year, it will adapt and become a valuable line of seed to hydroponic growers that might not be able to grow plants from the soil-based counterparts for that same variety of tomato. For now, I'm waiting on putting the seed up for sale until I'm confident that the seed has adapted to hydroponic conditions in the Southeast.

So, can you grow seeds from soil-grown parent plants? Yes! Absolutely! But you are taking a chance that the daughter seed from that parent plant may not adapt as readily as you hope and lose out on a crop that season because you trusted un-adapted seed. 

WE ARE SEED STEWARDS, NOT A SEED BROKER

As Seed Stewards, we don't want just anyone to buy our seeds — if we did, we would be like any other seed retailer you can find online and buy bulk from other parts of the country and resell to our consumers. But we don't run our business that way... we are not seed brokers. We are seed stewards and grow out our own seed. We believe in growing our own seed, so we know EXACTLY what has been sprayed (or not sprayed on it) and what pest pressure it has endured and overcome and can speak to it's growing conditions right down to the region and growing zone. Can your seed supplier offer you that information? If not, you may want to look for a new source for your seed.

WHERE DO WE GET OUR SEED STOCK?

We carefully source our parent seed from organic growers and adapt it by growing it out on our one-acre farm to growing conditions that set others wanting to grow their own food up for the best possible success. 

In short, buy seed as local to your growing region as possible. Buy seed that has been grown using organic methods. Buy seed from a trusted source. Strong seeds mean strong plants and that is going into your body for the best health possible!

 

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