casey.rooted heroWe are excited to announce our year-end challenge. 

Join RMSA Board member, Casey O'Leary from the Snake River Seed Coop, and automatically double your support for the Rocky Mountain Seed Alliance.  Every dollar donated up to $9,000 will be matched! 

Photo credit: Guy Hand

We have also partnered with Stock Donator to accept public stock donations! Stock Donator provides a secure, fast, and simple web enabled service to allow you to donate publicly traded stocks directly to Rocky Mountain Seed Alliance.

Donate Stock To Rocky Mountain Seed Alliance, Inc.

seedguideIt's here! Expand your seed knowledge and take action—download the FREE Discussion Guide series for SEED: The Untold Story!

RMSA and Collective Eye Films have teamed up to create a Discussion Guide series to accompany the groundbreaking documentary SEED: The Untold Story. This guide is a downloadable PDF that provides a deep-dive into the issues explored in the film. It is FREE and available to the public. The sections of this guide were created for a facilitator to use after a SEED screening to foster dialogue, delve deeper into the topics in the film, and inspire action. But you can read and use this guide however it suits you best.

The guide is broken up into 5 main segments that can be used on their own, or combined:

  • What to Know About GMOs – addresses all the common questions and myths about GMOs.
  • Biodiversity Loss & Our Seeds – 94% of our vegetable seed diversity has disappeared. How did we get here?
  • S.O.S: Save Our Seeds! – How we can bring back diversity and seed sovereignty
  • Corporate Consolidation of Seeds – The U.S. government used to give away millions of seed packets. Now, just 3 companies control over half of the world’s seeds. How did we get here and what can we do?
  • Pesticide Issues & Impacts – How pesticides, GMOs, and the industrial farming system affect the planet and all the living things that call it home. What can we do to protect ourselves, our families, and our planet?

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Like the film, the guide is definitely not all doom and gloom – each section offers solutions and resources to take action. We hope you enjoy reading, sharing, and spreading the knowledge in this resource!

 

anpetuLegenday seed saver Anpetu Ohainkesni passed away recently, leaving behind a bounty of rare seeds adapted to the Mountain West. To continue his legacy, RMSA is working to collect, preserve, and increase these precious heirlooms.

Anpetu owned Sourcepoint Seeds out of Hotchkiss, Colorado—a much-loved but relatively obscure bioregional seed company with a remarkably diverse catalog. When Anpetu died earlier this year, his seed tribe showed up to ensure his legacy of heirloom treasures would continue to be cared for.

RMSA's Bill McDorman recently traveled to Hotchkiss to pay his respects to Anpetu, whom he met in 2015 (pictured here). He returned with eight 5-gallon plastic buckets filled with 170 rare grain samples Anpetu had been stewarding and adapting to the Rocky Mountain region. Another 40 buckets remain in Hotchkiss awaiting retrieval.

RMSA is in the process of sorting, identifying, and packaging these precious heirlooms. Ninety-three different varieties are currently available through our Rocky Mountain Heritage Grain Trials project; unsorted seeds will be stored at Flordemayo's "The Path" Seed Temple, and a safety backup of all accessions will be added to the Tesuque Pueblo Seed Bank in New Mexico.

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Imagine the potential preserved in this incredible bounty, a gift from a seed saver of epic proportions.

Among the varieties recovered are einkorn, wheat, barley, millet, and dryland, high-elevation rice. These seeds could be the source of a new, resilient food system for the Mountain West.

For millennia, our seed saving ancestors carefully created the abundant crop diversity we know and enjoy. This timeless tradition continues to this day in the backyard plots and small farms of seed stewards like Anpetu, who work quietly and passionately for decades creating the heirlooms of tomorrow. RMSA honors their noble efforts. We are committed to preserving the priceless seeds in collections like Anpetu's, ensuring their gifts live on for generations to come.

Everyone has the power to become a legendary seed saver in their own right. Join RMSA's Seed Stewards program and take part in this enduring tradition by saving seeds from your favorite crop. Soon we will be expanding this program to include Anpetu's seeds and crowdsource the conservation of rare seeds adapted to our region. Thank you to Anpetu and to all our invaluable seed savers—past, present, and future!

Together, we can prevent the loss of our region's precious genetic treasures.

If you hear about other seed stewards in your community who need help with their seeds or have passed away, please contact bill (at) rockymountainseeds.org. The Rocky Mountain Seed Alliance is dedicated to creating a region-wide network to save and share the hard work of seed stewards like Anpetu. These are the seeds that will perform the best in our region. Please make a donation to RMSA to help us with this critical work. Thanks to the support of the Pond Foundation, the first $9,000 in donations will be matched.

 

shiva

This guest blog post comes from RMSA board member and Snake River Seed Cooperative founder Casey O'Leary.

Last weekend brought one of the greatest honors of my life—I got to spend part of three days in the company of Dr. Vandana Shiva, an Indian physicist inspired by Mahatma Gandhi to dedicate her life to working for seed freedom. Which is, of course, crucial for human freedom.

For those who have been out of school and in the nose-to-the-grind real world for too long, here is a refresher on what made Gandhi such a people’s hero:

gandhiGandhi resisted the oppressive tyranny of British rule by inspiring a movement of peasants to disobey unjust laws forced onto them by the British that stood to impoverish Indian people for the benefit of British businessmen. Sounding familiar in these times? When the British tried to make it illegal for ordinary people to make their own salt so the British East India Company could sell it to them at a profit, Gandhi and his compatriots resisted by continuing to make salt as they had for centuries.

When the British attempted to exploit Indian labor to turn parts of India into textile factories, Gandhi found an elderly woman who had a spinning wheel in her attic. He asked her to show him how to use it, and then he travelled around the countryside teaching other folks how to spin their own cloth. The spinning wheel worked as a tool for liberation, Gandhi said, precisely because it was so small. Anyone could use it.

We now live in a world of global trade, commoditized and subsidized toxic agricultural systems, genetically engineered seeds, and exploitative politics in the name of GDP (Gross Domestic Product), the God of limitless growth. In the last year, six of the largest corporations on earth merged, leaving in the wake of that tsunami 3 corporations—Monsanto/Bayer, Dow/DuPont, and Syngenta/ChemChina—in control of roughly 70% of the world’s seeds. However, they are not seed companies. They are chemical companies. Their job has always been to sell chemicals, and after wartime munitions plants shut down, they looked to agriculture as a potential new market.

chemfarmWe haven’t always farmed with chemicals. In fact, the experiment of chemical agriculture has only been in going on for last 70 or so years, while our ancestors farmed without them for 10,000 years or so, and many folks still do today. But if you’re a chemical company, your job is to figure out how to sell chemicals. Thus ramped up, in Dr. Shiva’s words, the “War on the Earth”. The Poison Cartel, as she refers to these now-3 chemical corporations, led a successful campaign to convince governments, educational institutions, farmers, banks, and consumers that indeed the only way to “feed the world” is by dumping ever more toxic chemicals onto the soil. Period. And when the living seed got in the way of that agenda, they modified it to either contain a poison or to be able to withstand being sprayed with a poison.

In her keynote talk during the weekend event, Dr. Shiva said, “We do not have a seed industry–we have a chemical industry at war with the seed.” Now we’ve got a 6,500 square mile dead zone at the mouth of the Gulf of Mexico where the Mississippi River, simply doing her duty, has carried poisons from thousands of chemical farms downstream. Poisoned groundwater, an epidemic of diet related diseases, family farmers in bankruptcy, rising inequality, and a government willing to throw its citizens under the bus have converged into the mess we find ourselves in today. They’ve poisoned the soil. They’ve poisoned the water. They’ve poisoned the seed. They’ve poisoned our bodies. And they’ve poisoned our democracy.

Whew. Time to get back to Gandhi. Dr. Shiva describes her moment of enlightenment as she puzzled over this huge nest of interconnected environmental, political, and health problems, all of which point to the humble yet powerful seed.

As Rocky Mountain Seed Alliance director Bill McDorman says, when you choose a seed, you choose an entire agricultural system. If we want to be free, the seed must also be free, because we are literally of the seed, alive only by the gift of her sustenance.

Vandana Shiva defines seed freedom as 3 things:

1. The freedom of the seed to evolve.

As agriculture has become more mechanized, we have replaced farmers with machines. If the farm is to be as efficient as a factory, it must be standardized and uniform. Seeds are of course not inert–they are alive, and their health comes in their diversity and adaptability. A seed is remarkable in its ability to take in information about its environment and pass down adaptations to its seed children. As we grow seeds in Idaho, each season they are adapting to our little corner of the earth.

poisonThe problem with having multinational corporations in control of our seeds is that they approach agriculture like a multinational corporation. If the goal is huge-scale industrialized, mechanized monoculture, the seeds that make that system possible will need to all germinate at the same rate, be uniform in size and days to maturity, respond positively to industrial inputs, and work well in industrial harvest and processing systems. When such big money is poured into breeding plants with these characteristics, it keeps seeds from being able to evolve on their own terms. As Dr. Shiva says, “Life is self-organized, and nothing self-organized tends toward uniformity.” So they’re shoving the seeds into these genetically narrow boxes which make them less able to perform under diverse weather or biological conditions, which are certain to become more prevalent as climate change accelerates.

By saving seeds in a “low-input” system like ours where we are not adding synthetic fertilizers or pesticides, the seeds are evolving to thrive in that system. As small-scale seed producers and farmers, we are not interested in complete uniformity, we are interested in plants and populations of plants that continue to produce food for us in varying weather, water, and cultural conditions so we always get some food from our fields.

2. The freedom of farmers to use, grow, save, and exchange seeds.

The simple fact that for thousands of years farmers have saved and replanted seeds each year is a real problem if you want to make money selling them seeds (and the chemicals that go with them). For years, activists like Dr. Shiva have fought to keep the so-called “Terminator technology,” a process that makes the seeds in a plant sterile and unable to reproduce (thereby forcing farmers to buy them anew each year), illegal. Still, patents on seeds effectively do the same thing, requiring farmers to pay royalties to the corporations that sell them the seeds each year. All over the world folks have had to vigilantly resist proposed laws which make saving or exchanging seeds illegal.

cartoonThis was one of the most profound but difficult insights I gained this weekend. These corporations are ABSOLUTELY in the business of taking away the rights of people around the world to save their own seeds. I suppose I knew this, but I didn’t totally believe it until Dr. Shiva hammered us with example after example of that very thing.

She explained that natural disasters where farmers lose their seeds make them exceptionally vulnerable to predation by multinational corporations. She talked about a gift of seeds she and the other farmers at her Navdanya seed cooperative put together at the request of Nepali farmers after the terrible earthquake, that sat at the border for a month waiting for government clearance to get through. They were told there were laws that wouldn’t allow the seeds to come in, but when she actually looked into it, there were no such laws on the books. Rather, Monsanto had made an official-looking form and distributed it to customs officials at the border prohibiting the entry of seeds. These companies see natural disasters as a way to open up new markets, to lock farmers into the treadmill of having to buy seeds from the company every year rather than saving their own as they have done for generations.

There is so much more to document about these issues, including laws that prohibit seed libraries (in the United States), laws that require people to pay hundreds of dollars to register seed varieties in a national database before they can be offered for sale (in Europe), and IMF/World Bank laws that force countries to grow industrialized commodity crops for export markets rather than food for their own people (in much of the developing world). For more information about the very real struggle for seed freedom, along with many uplifting and fascinating stories from the seeds and their caretakers, check out the superb documentary SEED: The Untold Story.

3. The freedom of the eater to have access to a biodiverse diet of healthy food.

It’s common knowledge at this point that our food system is very broken. As consumers, we are kept in the dark about many aspects of what goes into the bringing of food to our tables. As a rule, we do not actually know what we are eating. If a corporation is in business of convincing us we need chemical agriculture to feed ourselves, it must also work to assure that we nearly exclusively have access to the food they control, regardless of how it affects our health or communities. As a result, we are suffering from an epidemic of diet-related diseases due to lack of access to healthy food and skewed education about which food will actually bring us health. The US government’s own website states that over half of the adult population suffers from one or more diet-related diseases.

But it is not only the nearly $400 billion these diseases cost us that we’re paying for. Through our taxes, we pay billions of dollars a year in agricultural subsidies to this exact, broken system, with 75% of them going to less than 10% of farms. This, plus all the money we pay in taxes that go to subsidies to the fossil fuel industry have created a system where somehow it is cheaper to buy a package of Doritos, which contains 20+ ingredients, all gleaned, processed, and combined from various corners of the world, put in a pre-made shiny package which itself contains whatever ungodly number of materials, all mined and trucked from somewhere, than it is to buy a bunch of carrots grown in your own town. This is not because local farmers are greedy, money-hungry snobs who are trying to rob you of your hard-earned cash. It is because there is no such thing as a “free market”, and we do not live in a democracy. We live under an oppressive regime of, by, and for 1% of people at the expense of the 99% and the earth…in my humble opinion.

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So what do we do about it?

An easy start to that answer is quite simple. Dr. Shiva articulated it this way: “You want to stop Trump? Save seeds.” “You want to save the earth? Eat a diverse diet.”

Right about now, you might be thinking, “Wait! So she’s saying that if I want to bring down oppressive regimes and create an abundant economy and world grounded in care for the earth and care for people, I can do that by eating a diet of diverse foods? Sounds too good to be true, and if it sounds too good to be true... I know a scam when I see one.”

Well for some much-needed context, stay tuned for Part 2 of this saga!

caseyCasey O'Leary is a farmer, seed saver, writer, and RMSA board member. She is co-founder of the Snake River Seed Cooperative, which runs a blog where this article originally appeared.

 

 

 

Image credits: GWP via Flickr Creative Commons; Monoculture crops. Photo by Jan Tik via Flickr Creative Commons; Flickr / Creative Commons / Toni Fish

What comes to mind when you think of “local food”? For many people, this term conjures images of farmers markets brimming with colorful veggies or neighbors tending to plots in community gardens. Some may think of the benefits local food has for sustainability, environmental health, and climate change. Still others focus on the nourishment and wellbeing for their families that fresh, organically grown food provides.

These are all important and relevant pieces of the local food picture. But something vital is missing: local seeds. In fact, locally grown seeds are the foundation to a healthy, localized food system. This is not a new idea. For millennia, cultures around the world have farmed sustainably by saving their own seeds. Like so many ancient traditions, this practice has been largely forgotten in our modern lives and often gets overlooked by local food proponents.

But a new awareness is sprouting. People everywhere are connecting with seed saving and reintegrating these timeless traditions into their community food systems. Take for example the seed library movement, which has spread like bindweed across the United States in recent years. Hundreds of communities now steward their own growing collections of local, freely available seeds. Located in public libraries and other common spaces, these community-supported initiatives represent a new and exciting evolution of the local food movement—one that views seeds as the source of true resilience and community health.

There are many reasons that local seeds are being embraced by local food advocates. For one thing, seeds that are saved and replanted each season adapt to their environment and yield healthier, hardier plants. This in turn makes our food systems more resilient and diverse. When small farmers save their own seed or source it locally (rather than from big seed companies whose seeds are grown thousands of miles away) their crops perform better and require less inputs such as toxic pesticides and expensive fertilizers. Rejoining the ritual of seed saving benefits us spiritually as well. When we connect with nature in this intimate and co-creative process, we nourish our souls along with our bodies.

Those that want to begin their seed saving journey can visit their nearest seed library to learn practical skills or get involved as a volunteer. Organizations such as Seed Savers Exchange, Native Seeds/SEARCH, and the Rocky Mountain Seed Alliance are great sources for information (and seeds!) to get started. Similar organizations and seed saving groups exist in other regions, so be sure to explore your local resources.

So the next time you think of “local food”, remember that it all starts with locally grown, saved, and shared seeds. Better yet, start growing and saving your own! You’ll be connecting with an elegant and ancient tradition—and leading the way for a vibrant, healthy, and delicious future.

Published October 4, 2015

A central part of our mission at the Rocky Mountain Seed Alliance is to explore and connect with communities throughout our region to build a network of local “seed hubs.” So what better way to get to know our fellow seedheads than embark on a three-week trip across the beautiful Mountain West?

Taking Flight: Riggins, Idaho
Our journey began just outside of Riggins, Idaho with a visit to a new friend and inspiring seed researcher, “Thumbs” Heath, a Ph.D. candidate in plant genetics at UC Davis. Thumbs escaped to the Idaho backcountry some years ago when he became disillusioned with the direction the university was headed.

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Who We Are

We are a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization dedicated to strengthening seed and food security in our region.

Our mission is to assure a diverse and abundant supply of seeds for the Rocky Mountain West through networking, education and helping establish community-based models of seed stewardship.

 

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  belle (@) rockymountainseeds.org
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