The chart above demonstrates the diminishing availability of vegetable seed varieties. Fewer of us involved in farming (2% in the U.S.) means fewer of us saving seeds to develop, improve and adapt edible plants to our particular locale. At one time, seed production was a local or regional affair but now, through massive consolidation, large commercial interests find it more profitable to offer less diversity. Most of the seeds offered are hybrids (often more vigorous) which means the next generation is not true to the parents and the grower is not able to save the seed, which creates dependency on the seed company. Through this line of “progress” we are losing our open pollinated (true to the previous generation) varieties.
Our seeds are flash drives of genetic information fine-tuned over generations by ancestral plant breeders. Seeds are store houses of “traits” that can be drawn upon and combined to develop new varieties to adapt to new diseases, pests and a changing and erratic climate. Simply put we are going out on a very skinny branch; our food system is ever more beholden to hybrids and genetically modified seeds controlled by profit motivated corporations. At the same time we are losing our “bench”, our back up team, the genetic selections of five millennium of agriculture – one of humanities greatest assets. Our basic right to grow our food and have autonomy over the kind of food we grow is slipping away from us.
As Mexican cuisine is corn or maize centric, Gracias Madre’s first seed saving initiative is to identify varieties of heritage corn we wish to preserve and serve at our West Hollywood location. (86% of all corn in the USA is genetically modified and 36% worldwide.) In the spring of 2014 we will plant two varieties at our own Be Love Farm in Vacaville, California which will be on our menu in the fall of 2014. We will also save corn seed and distribute this seed to other growers interested in preservation. You can check this website for progress reports and pictures. In the future we intend to expand our offering to include peppers, beans, squash and other masterpieces of our Mesoamerican forefathers.