Tuesday, 30 June 2009


It was a fun evening meeting Jude and Michel Fanton, who started the Seedsavers Foundation in 1986, and watching the film they have made for the future survival of food and seeds in Polynesia, Melanesia and Papua New Guinea.

imageIt was a delight to learn that they see seed saving a little differently these days, after experiencing such a diversity of cultures. In these villages scattered around hundreds of small islands, people don't fuss with names for different vegetable varieties and rarely try to keep seeds pure. If they happen across a different variety of something from another island, they are happy to try it out, let it cross  and evolve in a small area and see what happens. After all is said and done, these people are growing food because there is no choice for them. All they need is a range of foods to grow and if they produce well, are resilient and tasty then who cares what its name is or where it came from?

image This is the way we have tended to do things in our seedsavers group, mostly because we are not purists and often we forget the names for things and have tended to say "here is some seed from the cos lettuce I got from Joy"...... and this soon becomes "Joy's cos lettuce" and everyone knows what we are talking about in our group. I have containers of seeds labelled in this way, such as  Kath's broccoli, Deb's carrots, Barb's snake beans, Cath's yellow capsicums and so on. If they cross a bit it introduces more genetic diversity and this may or may not be good.

imageMy version of Kath's broccoli crossed with my own cavolo nero (kale) and the result is that some grows as kale and some as sprouting broccoli, but I have lost the good broccoli heads so I will have to hope someone else has that seed still and try to stop that happening next time. Or do as I do with Joy's cos lettuce and that is just get fresh seed from Joy, as she always saves plenty.

So, within a group of people it is possible to have unique names circulating, things crossing and evolving for better and worse and at the same time, some pure varieties becoming more and more adapted to our own conditions, like with Deb's carrots. I have never been much good with carrots until Deb gave me some seeds from a variety she has been growing for 20 years. Since that is now the only one I grow, and I always have success with it, I am set for carrots. But I would like to mix my seeds in with hers now and again to maintain the genetic diversity to keep them robust.


People of these Pacific islands are often naive about western ways and think it must be better to follow these persuasive salesmen who seem to be offering them a better life. This research of Jude and Michel's, culminating in this film, shows the pitfalls of losing their traditional methods and the dangers involved in changing to chemical agribusiness. It gently encourages them by showing the joy and community involvement in their current lives compared to the solitary and dangerous existence of broad acre crops, based on chemicals and hybrids and GM seeds. Thanks , Jude and Michel, for giving so much of your time and your stories to all those who came on Friday night.


See more photos of the evening here. 





The film makes me want to spread the word not of any god but of the spirit of the seed knowing that as long as we have biodiversity, we have everything we need for a healthy and spiritual life. It really is that simple.


1 comment:

Maggie said...

Thanks so much for organizing this evening Kate.
The film is great and it was interesting to hear Jude and Michel's tales of their travels.