Our Sustaining Members Program Supports Our Seed Saving Efforts
Sustaining Members are long-term CSA members who have pledged their continued support of our farm and our seed saving efforts. In addition to our annual production of produce crops, we also dedicate part of our time to grow out small seed plots of endangered and disappearing vegetable varieties, to trial heirlooms that are not commercially available to determine their potential on our farm and for other farmers in the area, to save seed of heirloom and open-pollinated vegetables with the hopes of making them locally-adapted, to breed new locally-adapted, “heirloom-quality” vegetables, and to help to educate others who are just learning about seed saving and vegetable breeding. Although we are able to receive grant money to fund some of this work, it is work that would not be funded without these members. We now have almost 50 Sustaining Member families that help to support these efforts!
The Loss of Vegetable Diversity
There are literally thousands of endangered vegetable varieties around the world. The FAO (The Food and Agricultural Organization of the UN) estimates that we have lost 75% of the agricultural varieties that were available in 1900. Most are endangered because of the continuing expansion of the industrial agriculture system and global food systems, as families worldwide become producers of food for a global system as opposed to producers of regionally-appropriate food for their family and their region. Others are endangered because of climate change and environmental destruction, war, and population change (internal migration and emigration). It is important to save these endangered seeds in their own right, as they are often intricately tied to the culture of a community or a region and particularly adapted to that region’s climate or changing climate. However, they are also important as a treasure of genetic material that could be used for future plant breeding: for creating open-pollinated, open-sourced, locally-adapted seeds.
We save between 20-25 seeds per seasons. Here are some examples of the seeds that we have saved:
Appalachian goose beans
There are many varieties of goose beans around the world, all with a similar story: a farmer slaughtered a goose to eat and these beans were inside its gullet. This is the Southern Appalachian version. They produce better in the valley in cooler, wetter seasons. They are a “meaty” bean.
Cherokee White-Eagle Blue Corn
This is an old Cherokee corn that makes a lovely light blue-purple cornmeal that lacks the bitter tannin aftertaste present in so many blue corns. Some kernels, particularly the ones from the mostly purple cobs, have a white “eagle” (flying bird) on the widest part of the kernel. This corn has several characteristics that make it incompatible with modern-agriculture: it is highly variable, the plants tend to lodge, and it must be hand-harvested from the plants and then also from the cobs.
TN White Crowder Pea
We originally received this seed several years ago from Seed Savers Exchange in Decorah, IA. There is little known history on this variety, but we have been growing it out and saving seed from it since 2013. As of 2018, we finally have enough seed to be able to begin cultivating it and harvesting it for CSA shares. It is a large, cream colored crowder pea that has a wonderful pea flavor. It prefers hot, dry seasons, and is sprawling. We are one of the few sources of this seed.
San Jose x Waltham Cross
Now in it’s third generation, this is a cross of San Jose Club Squash (Baker Creek Seeds) and Waltham Butternut Squash (High Mowing Seeds). We bred it hoping for a heat, drought, insect, and DM-resistant butternut-like squash with great flavor that keeps until January. There is still quite a bit of variability in this squash, but it was the most productive and most DM-resistant squash in our SARE-funded 2017 study.
Want to support our work? Contact us to find out ways you can be involved!