Friday, 27 June 2008


Every day in my vegetable garden I spend time with my thoughts. At first they revolve around the practicalities of what I am doing - sowing seeds, transplanting seedlings, removing old plants etc etc But then I settle into the task at hand and more external thoughts sneak in, nudging the business side of the thinking out. Now that it is cool and damp (but nowhere near wet enough to break the drought) it is easy to push aside all thoughts of the problems of growing food in summer without enough water. I found that a very stressful time last summer and I am just going to enjoy winter for the moment. So I pass over those worries and see what else comes along into my head.

I think a lot about problems and solutions. I have written about lots of my ideas here many times; just read anything from the label at the bottom of the side called "food for thought". I cannot get away from the astoundingly true fact that seeds are at the very heart of all our problems and all their solutions.

Every single thing you and I eat - everything - absolutely every mouthful for 6 billion people every day - is reliant on seeds. For every mouthful of food we all eat, someone somewhere has sown some seeds, just like you and I are sowing seeds. People - real humans, out there sowing seeds. Even the meat some of us eat is reliant on seeds and often of a sown pasture because we usually eat herbivores. Even the feral meat I buy are herbivores, but these are not as reliant on humans to sow the seeds. Even a chocolate bar or bottle of soft drink are dependent on a crop sown from seeds.

Seeds represent the basis of human life on earth.

If something is so fundamental to our survival, surely this is the thing we should be doing our best to protect. Every day at least one seed variety becomes extinct. Imagine this handful of colourful and varied seeds being gradually replaced by the same hand holding the same number of seeds but there only being two varieties. That is where we are heading.

If, for example, we only have 2 varieties of seed left, lets say one is a pea and one is a tomato, how can we grow carrots or spinach or fennel? How can we grow wheat for bread or grow rice or coffee? If that variety of peas only grows in a cool climate, how can we grow it in South Australia, where it is hot? If the tomato does not have the genes necessary to protect it from a fungal attack, what happens when it succumbs and a whole crop withers and dies? Who is going to stop this destruction of the seed varieties and when? Do you have faith in anyone actually taking responsibility for this? Do you think "they" must know what they are doing and "they" wouldn't let this happen? Are you perhaps too busy to care right now? When will you care - when it is obvious we should have done something 10 years ago, 20 years ago, when? How about now!

What is the nub of the problem here? It always comes down to money; always, in our current society. People in Australia, for example, now spend much less on food than at any time ever in history. Less? Don't I mean more? No, every household used to grow quite a bit of their food, remake old clothes, mend toasters and so on and they were therefore able to spend more on the things they couldn't grow, per item. Now people grow none of their food and they expect to buy it for less, per item, so they can buy the rest of the things required by a throw-away society.

So, farming has been taken over by investors seeing an opportunity to grow massive amounts of cheap food for the supermarkets, and make the maximum profits. They grow many thousands of acres of a crop derived from just one variety of seed and supermarkets encourage customers to shop with them because they are cheaper than the other supermarket down the road. The supermarket only stocks food based on its price and price is linked to mass production.

I always think it is odd when people complain about the price of an apple, let's say. Maybe the cheapest one is 50c and maybe one grown locally with love not chemicals is 70c. Then, when they have finished their shopping, they go and spend $5 or more on a coffee and a piece of cake, per person! They put $50 worth of petrol in their car and buy some cosmetics and some new shoes and on the way home, hire a couple of movies for another $5. Then they order pizzas for dinner and drink a couple of bottles of soft drink, all the while complaining about the price of the apples today in the supermarket and especially the organic ones! I hear it all the time - we can't afford cheap apples never mind organic ones!

So, what can you do to save the diminution of the seeds we need for life and have fun too?
  1. For a start, plant an apple tree! I rarely buy apples - I get them from my mother's trees so I have no idea how much they cost. Plant dozens of fruit trees - they are beautiful and fulfilling things to have. Plant open pollinated ones and then, when the fallen fruits send up shoots, you can give them to friends for presents, instead of plastic presents!
  2. Forget the gym and start gardening. Start growing vegetables today and expand your garden in every direction as soon as you can. Only grow open-pollinated varieties so they can self-seed and reproduce forever. Forever is a bloody long time!
  3. Stop buying things you don't need and use the extra money to buy local produce from growers' markets. Local people save their seeds and grow varieties they know will suit their climate and soil. Like Tony Scarfo - his seeds are his livelihood. Every small grower has a huge biodiversity of life on their properties, compared to the agri-business farm and it is this diversity of insect, animal and plant life that we must secure.
  4. Think.....stop and think about the consequences of your purchases. Do you really need strawberries in winter? Do you really need another DVD movie? (Read blogs instead!). (Do I really need to go to Europe, you are all saying! You're right. I don't and I can't stop thinking how hypocritical I am.....)
  5. Join with some friends and do a few jobs together on the weekend instead of just sitting around with them, and then share some home-grown and home-cooked food together. Play cards. Get out some old board games. Get into the habit of creating fun then it becomes easier to create a fulfilling life. A simple life is a hell of a lot more fun - make limoncello!

A simpler life is a more fulfilling one; it is more fun, more healthy for you and more stimulating. Moreover while you are saving seeds you will be preserving biodiversity and that will be the saving of our civilisations. What more could you want?

Life is good. Get one today.


Maggie said...

One thing that concerns me is where all the organic fruit, veg and the dry goods I buy are actually coming from.
Do I buy Australian non organic or organic rice from India and organic sunflower seeds from China.
Actually sunflower and pumpkin seeds could be things we could grow.
I was thinking yesterday we should have a greens cook up lunch, maybe when we meet in July we could bring lunch and eat first, then chat about our gardens.

Kate said...

Don't buy Australian rice at all. Ever. Never.
I only buy basmati rice grown in Pakistan but we don't eat much rice for this very reason.
Serve your meal with mashed potato grown in your garden, instead.
Grow sunflower seeds, Maggie and pumpkin seeds and try growing amaranth too.
Like I said, buy local if possible.(But not rice, or cotton!)
Lunch always sounds good to me, Maggie!

Maggie said...

I don't see why we could not grow rice up North in the wet season, I shall have to read up about this. I LOVE rice, giving up rice for me would be like you giving up meat or that other lemony beverage you drink Kate!
Actually, I have seen the shop and town in Italy where wonderful lemons are grown, and lemoncello is made, if you go their first, you may never return! Actually their are many Villa's making it.

Kate said...

I don't know why they don't grow it up there either but that would be a good solution.