Monday, November 4, 2013

The End Of GMOs

An anti-GMO sign prepared by a Seed
Freedom LA member for the
March Against Monsanto in May 2013
Tomorrow Washington state will vote on a bill to label genetically engineered seeds (GE), commonly called 'GMO's' for 'genetically modified organisms' – a term coined by the industry itself because the 'genetically engineered' moniker was deemed to be harder to sell to the public.  In honor of that,  some activists want to make sure 'GE' is used as much as GMO.  A similar effort went down to defeat in California just last year after millions of dollars were spent to keep consumers stupid. A corresponding smear campaign is being waged in Washington, in fact spending even more money in Washington (per capita) than California, and as I write this, the race seems neck and neck.

Those wishing to keep Americans ignorant of the pervasiveness of genetically engineered foods do not tout how great the seeds are – knowing full well that every claim they ever made about their product can be easily refuted, sometimes by their very supporters! For example, the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), with many former Monsanto employees and predilection for supporting the dubious GE technology (even pressuring foreign countries into purchasing them with our government's State Department help) conducted a 15 year study that clearly shows NO increase in yield by GE seeds – and another that proves that MORE pesticides have been used, showing the absurdity of 'less pesticide use' claimed by the purveyors of these seeds. There is no good reason to use GMO seeds. Improvements in the last decade of corn production on US farms was attributed to regular breeding of hybrids and not GMO seeds. By the USDA itself!

It is time we come face to face with the truth: GE seeds point the way to an apocalypse that is far more real than any other we have faced with exception of nuclear meltdown – either by war, or more likely by a nuclear power plant.

The landscape of a world where GE crops are grown would be an Armageddon. The claims that we need GE seeds to feed the world are bogus to begin with, but imagine for a moment what what the GE industry is proposing for the way food is grown. Vast fields of genetically related corn and beans, sprayed by a toxic cocktail to rid all these fields of insects and weeds.  All these acres of like plants with like chemicals are an invitation – which are already very apparent in fields across the US today – for Nature to respond with new and 'improved' weeds and insects – in this time, GE companies have been forced to coerce the USDA and FDA to increase the allowable levels of insecticides in our foods by eight fold! Why? Because the weeds and insects EVOLVE! And they will continue to EVOLVE. (One wonders if the scientists in these corporations are creationists? Certainly this experiment with GE plants and their poisons will prove evolution is not just a 'theory!')

Already proposals are surfacing for the use of a component of Agent Orange as an herbicide on our food to the horror of anyone cognizant of the potential of Agent Orange for destroying human life.

But this is the way it HAS to go!

Always, ever increasing amounts of poison in ever increasing potency. 

Where would this end? It can't. There is no stopping evolution. Nature responds. And soon the soil is so toxic nothing will grow. There is no hope in chemical agriculture. Eventually a point is reached where there is more death than life and you can declare the soil as dead. And populations of unintended victims - other insects, weeds, birds, mammals, reptiles - of the poisons have died off, to extinction or to endangered levels. The soil, lifeless, blows away or floats down the river to clog our precious dams and ruining waterways. Using the word 'Armageddon' is not far fetched. Without concerted action, this is the specter before us today.

Voting to label GE or GMO crops is a good first step. Hopefully, with consumers getting the chance to choose, it will spell the end of this ill-considered experiment. In fact, though, we cannot rest until they are banned. Completely. 

Every cell in a GE plant has changed DNA. When a GE plant is mated with a regular plant, the regular plant inherits the GE traits, fouling it and destroying it for use as food in the eyes of a majority of consumers (why labeling is being fought with so much money). The economic devastation to the United States' trade balance is already quite high and will only get higher – especially as more 'non-GE' crops are found to have GE markers in them, transferred by simply growing close enough to be crossed by GE pollen. 

This should be a crime, but currently US law makers have seen fit to protect the pollutor and not the pollutee. The best technology involving GMO or GE crops will be the technology that gets the modification OUT of the crops that are collateral damage in this money making venture that costs other humans, their food and the environment it grows in.

Banning GE or GMO crops is the only solution that solves the problem and it must happen sooner than later - time is not on our side! Already, a Canadian study has been published showing widespread GE contamination in supposedly clean crops and in the wild!  This is NOT good news for future generations.  Not only have these GE companies behaved badly at getting government approval and support (through donations to political campaigns), they have acted with the utmost lack of responsibility in allowing their damned pollen to spread without any intention of containment or prevention of contamination of wild plant or plants on adjacent farms that did not want GMO technology.  The recent debacle of the GMO wheat in Oregon is an example of the irresponsible behavior of these corporations. Their crimes are against humanity and nature and there is no hyperbole farfetched enough to paint a picture of the damage they have done.  We will pay in our increased medical bills and an appalling devastation to wildlife and the environment for decades to come.  


Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Glass Gem Corn

Glass Gem Corn 
Our story with Glass Gem corn starts late last year at a SLOLA meeting.  We had a speaker who brought an ear he had grown (talk about an early adopter!) and passed it around for folks to marvel at - truly it is one of the most beauteous of corns of all time.  I remained skeptical because everyone talked about how beautiful it was, but no one ever said how it tasted!  Beauty, as the sole reason, is not a good enough reason for me to waste valuable real estate and water on a plant.  I passed over several offers to grow Glass Gem until...

Jo Anne Trigo of Two Dog Nursery called me with an offer. She had plants of Glass Gem corn to share with SLOLA would we grow them?  It might have been in conversation with her or doing some research on the variety that I came across the fact that this is a popcorn that changed my mind. No wonder there was no mention of how it tasted!  It was a popcorn.  I raised popcorn as a boy in Kansas (sold it for 25 cents a pound) and growing popcorn remains a fond memory for me.  So we accepted the plants.

It has been the subject of other posts in other blogs, but I screwed up royally.  Being in a city, we have rodents around and our compost pile supports a small host.  We do not have rodent problems with most of our harvest however because we also are home to a Cooper's Hawk who patrols from our Chinese Elm.  My screw up came when I sited the corn too close to the compost piles.  The rats were able, once the kernels began to form, to easily slip from the compost to the corn without interference from the hawk.  Proving my theory to be sound, corn thirty feet away (flowering at a different time, I will point out just so you know both  crops could be saved for seed) suffered no predation.  

We got a pitiful amount of seed - most ears were fully eaten, only a few (on the opposite side from the compost) had much of any seed.  

Jose Miguel Palido Leon, a SLOLA member announced he had seeds of Glass Gem corn grown at the Southwest Museum garden - with many other American plants grown by the tribes in our area.  A garden that would make a marvelous SLOLA field trip some time soon!  I visited Jose and picked up a bag of Glass Gem seeds he donated to SLOLA!  

These will be available for check out on a very limited basis!  We will want to be certain that whoever checks out the seed we have knows how to save corn seed and prevent cross pollination so we can build this into a viable seed resource for Los Angeles. There is enough seed from the two groups of seed (ours from Two Dog Nursery and Jose's) for probably three people to grow them out and enough to reserve to allow for crop failures.

To whet your appetite, there are two resources on the web where you can see Glass Gem corn for yourself.  Seed is available from Native Seed/SEARCH in Tucson, AZ and their ad copy gives you a hint of the beauty of this corn. Run your mouse over the image for a treat.  

But the best shots of Glass Gem corn come from a blog post from Seattle, WA - amazing corn and amazing photography!  You can easily see why this corn has tweaked the imagination of so many people.  And for a bit of the history of this corn, check out this page that gives some history to the variety - but I want to point out, that the page also says the seed is not available while it has been available (even if in limited quantities) from Native Seed/SEARCH for about two years.

By the way, the rest of Two Dog's corn they planted at the nursery and got a much better return than we did!  

Wait'll next year - the cry of gardeners and baseball players everywhere!  We'll get ourselves some Glass Gem corn to show off...  Next year!


Monday, October 7, 2013

A Few Terms Defined

Big fat lettuce flowers getting ready to open up and show off
their yellow petals before the seeds ripen up.
The term “organic gardening” when it was first becoming a household word, took a lot of flak for being 'inaccurate' because “all of life is organic” and therefore it meant nothing, or so the critics said. Of course, whether or not it was accurate, the term stuck and today, no one would bother to challenge it.

Today, we talk about 'open-pollination' and hybrids and we have the terms slightly off-kilter. Wet talk of open-pollination as being the opposite of hybrid, but that's not necessarily the case. Let's start at the beginning to unravel these terms.

In the very beginning of agriculture, the selection of wheat strains from wild plants into cultivated plants produced immediate changes to the plant, including larger seed heads, larger seeds, and seeds that shattered – ripened and easily removed from the plant – occurred rapidly once the plants were being selected by humans. Over the years these changes became stable traits in the selected plants. Grown over time and having minimal assistance from humans, possessing a variety of genotypes and phenotypes (the genetics inside the plant and the physical appearance of the plant, respectively) these plants are called landraces. A good definition of landrace would be:
“... a variety with a high capacity to tolerate … stress, resulting in a high yield stability and an intermediate yield level under a low input agricultural system.” A “low input agricultural system”is the agricultural systems that are not the American mechanized, chemical stew, environment destroying agriculture and is the agricultural system of most of the world. Older strains of wheat are 'landrace wheat' – in Canada that is 'Red Fife,' in southwest America, 'Sonoran' wheat is the landrace as two examples. Landraces are the only truly 'open-pollinated' seeds grown.

The landrace might be selected by a farmer over and over again to arrive at a variety that is special to that farmer. He begins a process of 'closed-pollination' to ensure the cross is stable. Once he has a stable hybrid, we begin to call it an 'open-pollinated,' abbreviated 'op' although it probably isn't op – but it is the term we commonly use to indicate that this variety is NOT a hybrid.

But a 'hybrid' is just a cross of two different parents. Usually when we say 'hybrid,' though, we mean an unstable hybrid or a hybrid cross that has just been made. When two lines of plants are crossed, the first generation is called the “first filial” generation, abbreviated F1, a subsequent generation would be F2 and so on.

Still these are the terms you'll find in seed catalogs. OP means it is a stable variety. Hybrid means it is probably an unstable variety. A stable variety will come true if you save the seeds of that variety meaning that the subsequent plants will be very much like the parent generation. Saving seed of an unstable variety will not breed true – the resultant population will include off types that reflect the different lines of the original parent plants.

I hope this explanation helps a little bit in learning more about seed saving. I've been studying the new book by John Navazio, The Organic Seed Grower. Written for commercial organic seed production, in a world where no such book has existed, this is not a light-reading book, but boy is it chockful of information that has caused more thinking and a much deeper understanding of the vagaries of seed production. The copy I am using will eventually become a part of SLOLA's book library and I'll buy own copy – it's not cheap, but it is worth the money.


Saturday, August 24, 2013

Organic Garden Workshop Saturday Sept. 7th

September is Planting Month for Your Best Winter & Spring Crops!

David King's ORGANIC GARDEN Workshop  "How To Grow Food in Southern California without chemicals."

              Saturday Sept 7
          10am - Noon.     $20.

Topic: Planting Winter Crops Now 

Join in as David demonstrates how to "Grow Good Soil" for Southern California's best winter/spring growing season. This starts with what we do now in September -  We'll actually be planting and transplanting our fall crops and finding out which ones are best for "your" own garden, no matter how big or how small . . . .  David has a few treats in store for those attending along with the usual fun stuff we do!  

Arrive early, we start at 10am

Do you have questions about particular plants in your garden?  Are they living next to good companion plants? Help nature be her finest, as you cultivate your garden with natural techniques. 

Are you experiencing plant issues in your garden? Bring a sample with you, so we can help you diagnose.

The Learning Garden, Venice High Campus, Entrance on Walgrove
Parking on Venice Blvd.

David King, Garden Master with over 50 years of farming & gardening experience will instruct and answer all your questions. Reserve your seat today. A single class is only $20. and a series of six is $100. (The series does not expire until you attend six classes)

For More Information 
& to Pay Online
You can also pay before class

Friday, August 23, 2013

Blog/Website Changes

Readers of the "Record of the Seed Library of Los Angeles" have seen some jarring changes in the past week and we hope you've not been put off by them - expect a few more tweaks and changes over the next couple of weeks.  

The impetus for the changes have come about as a by-product of a web page overhaul.  This blog appears in the SLOLA webpage and from the beginning we've had challenges with the way it showed up in the website. Often we would have several copies of the same blog post, frequently up to four copies in a row, and there seemed to be no way to make that go away.  The 'call' feature didn't work with any celerity and occasionally blog posts did not appear in a timely fashion; in at least one case, the blog post did not appear on the site until after the event was over.  

So.  To change all that and make it more workable, the web people decided to link the blog to the site rather import it to the site.  Now folks on the webpage click a link and come to Blogger (where it is written and housed) to read the blog.  This has many advantages and is a nice, neat solution.  It has one drawback in that the blog is not consistently branded with the SLOLA website and as the weeks wear on, we hope to tweak it to make it look more like the rest of the website.  

Any suggestions?  Let us know.  We'd like to make this an enjoyable read for everyone!  

Thanks for reading.


Thursday, August 22, 2013

Thanks to Water LA!

David King with Vandana Shiva

Sunday, August 18, SLOLA founder and chair, David King, represented SLOLA and urban ag at a screening of the film, Dirt, The Ecstatic Skin of The Earth and served on a panel afterwards with Dr. Vandana Shiva and Treepeople's Director of Programs Christyne Imhoff.

Dr. Shiva stressed the seriousness of farmer suicides in India following the failure of genetically modified rice that forced farmers into impossible debt.  Pointedly she observed that these men went to their fields to kill themselves, symbolic of their love of the land; these were good farmers who had the capital to venture into the promise of the new technology of GMOs.  When this new, untried technology failed them, they were ashamed and the shame of not providing for their families sent them on a final, fatal journey into their fields to die with the land they loved.

Modern agriculture, as practiced today, destroys not only the environment in which it is practiced and the lives and culture of those who adopt it, but is a recipe for the failure of our food supply.  King cautioned that the current agricultural model will, sooner or later, result in severe shortages of food and city dwellers must begin to learn to grow some of their own food today, the future could be as bleak for Americans of all professions as today has been for many Indian farmers.

From left to right:  Melanie Winter, panel moderator, Water LA, Dr.
Vandana Shiva, Navdanya, David King, SLOLA and Christyne
Imhoff, Treepeople speaking after the film, Dirt.

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

An Exciting Time To Be A Part of SLOLA

Our SLOLA world today is busier than ever before with good things brewing and in the news.  

By now you know this Saturday's meeting is special because we will not only have Nisha Vida as our speaker, but directly following our meeting is the launch of Seed Freedom LA, from 4:00 to 7:00 PM. There will be music and silk screening of anti-GMO tee shirts and signs and interesting stuff - but the main reason to come is there will be several city council members as well as some really competent and passionate anti-GMO activists to hear.  The most important reason to be here, though, will be to show support of making LA a 'GMO Free Zone' - meaning that it will be illegal to grow or transport genetically modified plants within Los Angeles City limits.  Though largely symbolic, no GMO plants are planted or brought into the city already, it does set in motion an eventual ban in LA County and then perhaps the state.  And those are not symbolic.  We gotta start somewhere and this is where we are! 

And then there is the Heirloom Expo coming around the corner, September 10, 11 and 12.  Held in Luther Burbank's hometown of Santa Rosa (which is why all those plums are called Santa Rosa), the Heirloom Expo always features great speakers and lots to see and do - it's like Disneyland for seedheads!  And we all get to hang out and geek out on seeds together.  SLOLA has a booth there and traditionally on Wednesday afternoon/evening, all the seed libraries gather around for an informal mini-conference.  The price is reasonable and you're invited to come by our booth and say hi.  We'll be in Grace Hall.  

And Seed School Los Angeles!  SLOLA will host Bill McDorman and Belle Starr's seed school in February - don't hesitate, enroll now while there is still space - we anticipate a completely sold out offering.  You can enroll via Native Seeds/SEARCH at this link.

A Burbank Slicer Tomato, one of the F2 plants in our project.

I really sat down to write about our Burbank Slicer Tomato project - which probably is the one thing that is lifting my spirits about the tomato crop I have not gotten in 2013.  I think it was in November 2011, I was seated next a buyer for Seeds of Change and she told me the story of Burbank Slicer being discontinued because it had shrunk from the 3 inch tomato Luther introduced in about 1915 to a two bite cherry that most folks clearly did not want.  She gave me several packets of old seed which we distributed among our members and set about to breed the tomato back to it's 3 inch size.  

From those seeds we got two really nice sized 3 inch tomatoes and from them, I saved seed the seeds I planted this year.  This photo is from that  F2 (second generation), showing the tomatoes we will select for more Burbank Slicers as we work to get the larger sized tomato consistently.  

Which points to the fact that by being a seed saver, you are a plant breeder - you choose the qualities that will be tomorrow's crop.  As we all select seed from our summer crops, let's make sure we save seeds from the very best every time to continue to have those qualities in our plants.  

Remember, one of the biggest parts of this seed library deal:  you must return a portion of the seed from the plants you grow so that the library will have seed to loan next year!  

For me, selecting the plants from which I will save seed is one of the challenges of the seed saving year.  What makes a Yugoslavian Red Lettuce that variety?  Does this plant - these plants - have the qualities that make this variety distinctly different from another? Then from those plants, scouring to find the healthiest fruits available because the fruit chosen today is the fruit projected into generations to come. Your choices make a difference! 

Feeling powerful now?


Saturday, July 27, 2013

Why Seed School

David King receives his Seed School
diploma with obvious pride...
SLOLA's Board has agreed to host Seed School in Los Angeles in February 2014.  Before asking people to sign up for Seed School, we elected to come up with some reasons attending seed school was important. I was priviledged to attend seed school back in 2011 in Tucson.  It was one of the best experiences I've had with groups of people.  If I were listing reasons to attend, I think first of the list would be "The people you'll meet."  I met Bill McDorman and Belle Star, the couple who started seed school before Native Seeds/SEARCH picked it up and who were the principle instructor and facilitator, respectively.  I would list fellow students - all of them - as being reasons unto themselves - I correspond with many of them frequently - as well as students in the other classes - we have a Facebook group and questions and inspirations and learning on seeds is exchanged frequently among those folks.  I've also met some of the other students around at different events - and we are instantly able to find ourselves on the same page.

But these are the reasons compiled by former seed school attendees for you to consider as February 2014 approaches:

  • It makes you a better teacher. My experience with Seed School reminds me of that Albert Einstein quote, "If you can't explain it simply, you don't understand it." At least it's popularly attributed to Einstein.  
  • Gain a greater understanding of the genetics, qualities and magic inherent in seeds as well as learn more insight on how to work with Nature.  
  • You will discover the incredible inspirational potential a single seed holds, which will allow you to discard feelings of being overwhelmed and powerless in the struggle against Big Ag. You will leave Seed School full of wonder and supercharged!
  • Learn how to start and grow your own seed library or exchange.
  • Grasp the idea of seed sheds and their vital importance.
  • Understand the political issues around growing seeds today – the crises that face open pollinated seeds and why they are the most important seeds in the world now. Become conversant in the main concepts around seed sovereignty, patenting, genetic diversity and hybrids
  • Make contact with some of the foremost experts in seed saving and form working relationships with them and your fellow students.
  • Hands on harvesting, winnowing and storing of seeds with supervision that ensures you are getting it right – not learning in a vacuum.
  • Make connections with other seed school attendees – networking with like minded folks from across the world!
  • Learn first hand from some of the best seed teachers on the planet about the heritage that is being squandered and diluted by governments and multinational corporations.
  • Gain confidence in your own seed saving ability and knowledge so you can present this information to those around you.
  • Become a leader in the solution to save open-pollinated seeds; bringing home a new understanding and action plan.
  • Be relevant in solving the seed/food crises without getting into politics or fighting it out with “bad guys.”
  • Be a part of a seed/agricultural revolution! Tell your grandchildren what you did in the battle to save open-pollinated seeds.
  • Become aware of traditional societies' seed beliefs; embracing seeds as sacred to all life and translating those ideas into our modern society.
And this is probably only some of the reasons.  

Mark your calendars to attend Seed School LA February 9 through the 14th, 2014!  We'll see you in Los Angeles.  


Friday, June 28, 2013

Size Matters

Tremendous amount of diversity is in
evidence in one generation of corn.
When teaching seed saving, I often rely on allusions to animal reproduction because most of my students have some experience with that and it helps make the point easily. However, one concept that doesn't lend itself well to such conversion is the need for population size in seed saving.

In the inventory that SLOLA has garnered over the last several years, we have enormous variety of seeds, many different beans, some different corn, a ton of squash varieties and so on. This is wonderful and I'm sure we need to consider saving all these varieties locally. But I don't think we can and the reason is population size.

The genetics of open pollinated seeds are very different from hybrid seeds or animals. The seed we call Yugoslavian Red Lettuce is not 'pure' like we think of when we think of genetic purity (like we sit around and contemplate that on a weekly basis). The genes in open pollinated seeds have a certain amount of 'flex' in them. You get the typical Yugoslavian Red Lettuce from the vast majority of your plants, but lurking under those frilly red leaves is a foundation of other genetic code. You don’t see it normally, but every so often a 'one off' pops up. If you are saving seeds for Yugoslavian Red, you don't collect seeds from the one off – if you like the one off, you save seeds of it separately from the Yugo Red and label it Yugo Not Red or Hungarian Red, just something different.

This variability is a great strength for seeds. It allows for adaptation to meet threats from insects or disease – or even drought. Perhaps from a garden full of Yugoslavian Red only a few plants survive the drought, but that's better than none. Or perhaps only one or two don't get the disease, but that's better than losing everything – and this is part of our desire to save these varieties: they survive under less than ideal conditions and they can meet threats to our food security better than any lab-created hybrid – especially GMOs.

However, our seed library – and I would imagine MOST seed libraries – are in danger of compromising this variability in our open pollinated varieties. They are not doing it intentionally, but it might well be happening despite their best intentions. I do believe SLOLA has inadvertently gone down this path somewhat and I hope we can refocus our efforts.

Back in the beginning I asked us to consider saving only seeds of some 150 varieties of vegetables. No more. I did this because I wondered at the time if we could really save seeds for several hundred different varieties for a period of time. I asked several times for folks to list the seeds they wanted saved – the varieties in their gardens they couldn't live without and got very little response. I went along with the flow and we allowed SLOLA's inventory to bulge with varieties from donations and gifts. Now I am convinced we cannot save all these different varieties of seed and we must return to a figure nearer 150 varieties. The reason is population size

The variability shown in open-pollinated seeds means to have a viable representation of all the different traits that make Yugoslavian Red Yugoslavian Red means there must be many plants each year from which the seeds are saved in order to keep that variety as viable as it has been for all these many different generations.

To save seeds from one plant for several years stands to lose some of those unseen genetic traits that make it such a good competitor against insects and disease in our gardens – might even result in a poorer quality lettuce over time. To save seeds and ensure the viability of our varieties over time, we must adopt policies that encourage larger population size of each variety. This might mean limiting our offerings to three lettuces, several tomatoes and so on.

I am going to ask our Best Practices committee for a list of varieties we on which we can focus and narrow our offerings towards those varieties. We still need knowledgeable gardeners create lists of the best varieties for Los Angeles and we must strive to have seeds from many more plants per variety to keep the diverse genetics present.

Here are a few guidelines, followed by simple definitions, towards which we need to work:

Breeding Style
Minimum Populations
Examples (but not complete!)
Severe inbreeders
tomatoes, lettuce and regular beans for the most part
Moderate inbreeders
all the other night shades, including eggplants and peppers; other bean family members like peas and other beans
Outbreeders in general
the cabbage family
Sensitive Outbreeders
corn, carrots and onions, these are 'sensitive' to a phenomena called 'inbreeding depression' which causes a severe reduction in plant performance in just a few generations – corn is considered the most sensitive of all
Insensitive Outbreeders
10 to 20
not sensitive to inbreeding depression, specifically Cucurbits, including squashes, cucumbers and melons

Inbreeding is a term applied to plants that will pollinate themselves (male and female flower parts exist in each flower of the plant and can self-pollinate before the flower even opens). Outbreeding apples to plants that must be pollinated by other plants to produce viable seed. These definitions are much simplified for this discussion only. If you like to learn more about this, Carol Deppe's book “Breed Your Own Vegetables” offers one of the most thorough and easily digestible definitions of these terms.

I am not proposing a drastic change. For the library, this means we will be less diligent about the return of seed for some varieties than for others – we are on a learning curve anyway, so we will need to realize there are some varieties that will be lost from our inventory and we will not be concerned with them. Over time, the varieties that are truly SLOLA varieties will change into an inventory we can manage more effectively. Some of this will be through natural attrition. Others will be actively cultivated into predominance by the Best Practices Committee and other active members.

What we need to do most of all is educate members about the minimum populations we are trying to achieve. Remember, it is the collective total of all the seed returned that make minimum population size – so if Megan grows Nutribud Broccoli (one of my favorites) and collects seeds from 6 plants, Linda does the same collecting from 4 plants, Albert collects from 7 plants and I collect from 3 we've met our minimum population of 20. All seed goes together to make the minimum population.

This concept is very important and central to our mission. Thank you for taking the time to read this.  I hope it makes sense to you.  If not, please let me know as I wish this to be clear; it is important to the long-term viability of the seed library and our seeds.


Thursday, June 20, 2013

Garden Talk with David King Recap from 6-1-13

Juane Flamme Tomatoes were our first crop
this year.
Plants that thrive together in your garden was the topic of the 1st Saturday "Garden Talk" at the Learning Garden with David King sharing his wealth of plant knowledge.

Along with hands on in the garden we received a Companion Planting Chart for Veggies, a guide that will come in handy with the prefers and the unfers, that you'll need when welcoming new varieties into your garden.  Some advantages of companion planting is that you can discourage pests with certain plants and you won't drain the soil of nutrients when you plant two or more companions plants with different needs.

It's that time, to finish harvesting the "cool season crops" like broccoli & cabbage. Did you plant garlic last Sept/Oct? it's time to harvest, when all the tops have turned brown. 

The "hot season crops" like tomatoes & squash should already be planted. The natural balance of all things Mother Nature has created, brings us in touch with the patience we need to let things happen naturally and remain flexible, by following our senses. Our taste buds know the natural sweetness when you pick that first ripe tomato off the vine and it doesn't even make it to the table.
We all received an heirloom tomato plant for our garden today.

For more info and to sign up for How To Grow Food in Southern CA.

Seeds for Life

Thursday, May 9, 2013

Millions March Against Monsanto Worldwide

(Fighting Monsanto's GMO technology is one of the most powerful motivating factors to forming a seed library.  The Seed Library Of Los Angeles holds as a core belief that our way of life and open pollinated seed are at risk as long as GMO plants are allowed to corrupt our plants with GMO pollen.  We believe that Los Angeles needs to be declared a GMO Free Zone that outlaws the planting of any GMO crop that might pollinate our crops. In keeping that in mind, we support this March against Monsanto.)

Every major city in the World is demonstrating against the deceit and coverups that chemical companies have been committing during the last 20 years regarding GMO's in our food supply. 

Monsanto & associates spent multi-millions to stop Prop 37 in California 
by lying to consumers and convincing the public that they don't need labeling of GMO's.
Vote with your dollars and eliminate these companies from your shopping list.

Monsanto has Congress in their pocket, recently passing HR 933 with section 735, referred
to as the Monsanto Protection act,

that puts Monsanto above Federal courts.  

It's time to take back what is naturally ours and that is our right to clean, fresh, wholesome foods without GMO's.

Show the world how important this issue is to you and your family.
United we are stronger!
Saturday May 25th
Los Angeles

Start gathering between 9 - 11 am

Then we march to Spring Street and the Rally 

Sign up Today!

Get your local media personalities involved via Facebook
Spread the word . . . . 

Living in another city?


Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Recap: How To Grow The Best Food Gardens with David King May 4th

Here's something you don't see everyday: flowers
on a potato plant in The Learning Garden!

The excitement of warmer temperatures and David King's 1st Saturday of the month, "How to Grow the Best Food Gardens in Southern California," is so inspiring. May 4th, also held the distinction of being the 10th annual World Naked Gardening Day!  People around the world were encouraged to garden ‘au natural’.

We celebrated the final call for planting our best summer garden. The winter crops of lettuce, beets, carrots, broccoli & kale are now making room for the summer garden you envision. Planting all your choices by the end of May will cultivate the best results for tomatoes, cucumbers, basil, peppers, melons, zucchini, squash, green beans, eggplants and okra.

Learning how to arrange the garden, depending on whether the plant is wind pollinated (corn), bee pollinated (peppers) or self pollinating (beans) is so beneficial.. 

Transplanting your seedlings to the garden now  that the soil is getting warner, can have issues with air pockets. Watching the demonstration on how to push the air out and solidify the soil around the plant, makes the plant's root system strong.

Another issue that pops up, is watering too much or too little. This causes most of the brown and yellow leaves you see. David's tried and true testing, shows how to know for sure.

Finding our balance with nature and nurture starts with, soil rich in nutrients, proper pollination, direct sunlight or shade as needed by the particular plant and correct watering. Each plant variety has it's requirements and David shares his knowledge that helps take the guess work out and increases your garden's productivity.

Join us next month on Saturday Jun 1st at 10am, as we work together with Mother Nature in The Learning Garden, adding wonderment and enjoyment to your beautiful garden.

For More Information 

Always Au natural'
Seeds for Life

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

SLOLA And The Concept of A Seedshed

The idea of a 'seedshed' first came to my attention via Cris Franco, founder of the Rio Salado Seedshed Library (and of in Phoenix. To me, it was easy to grasp the significance of a 'seedshed' and quickly see that SLOLA's seed library model was in direct contrast to a seedshed.
Cris Franco tabling at her Rio
Salado Seedshed Library
The term 'seedshed' takes it's cue from a 'watershed.' You also see the concept showing up these days in the term, 'foodshed.' They all come from the concept of trying to define what is local and what's not. A watershed denotes a commonality in water resources. Water draining the same direction, along a given slope, is a watershed. There is commonality therefore a case can be made that water conditions within a watershed are similar and consequently 'local.' Seeds grown in common weather, rainfall and soil would comprise a given seedshed and therefore be local to one another.

In contrast, the Seed Library Of Los Angeles embraces the entire greater Los Angeles area and a quick glimpse at the Sunset Western Garden Guide's Zone map shows we cover several seedsheds with some fairly different seedsheds included. Never mind that they are only a few miles apart, conditions from one to the other can be different enough to not allow for local adaptability which is a hallmark of being a seed saving gardener.

I'm sure Sunset would have a cow if I reprinted the LA map here, but the book is ubiquitous enough you can find it at a library or pick up a copy locally or on Amazon. Their website has this representation, although before you go there, please be advised the pop-up ads are more than just annoying.  Even though Sunset is primarily concerned with growing ornamentals, the book is a valuable resource for all west coast gardeners if only for the information it gives on the 24 zones delineated along the west coast.

Los Angeles, running between Zones 18 to 24, with each zone constituting what Cris would consider it's own seedshed. Zones 18 and 19 are interior climates, having less ocean influence, while Zones 20 and 21 are influenced by the ocean as well as the interior climate. Zone 22 is the cold winter portion of our area, while zone 23 is the thermal belt of the coast. Then there is Zone 24, in which the actual library itself is located, which Sunset defines as almost completely dominated by the ocean.

Each one of these zones, then, is its own seedshed and should save seeds for itself; in fact, there are probably different seedsheds within some of the larger areas of the zones. Zone 24 extends along the coast North past Santa Barbara and south beyond San Diego. While there is a lot of commonality between Santa Barbara and San Diego, I don't know if we can put them in the same seedshed. Zone 23 around Whittier might have a lot in common with Zone 23 at the Pacific Palisades, but I can handily see they might comprise different seedsheds.

I see a lot of diversity in these areas and a lot of compromising of seedsheds. But SLOLA has an answer and already we are moving to implement a system of 'branch libraries' under the SLOLA umbrella. The San Fernando Valley Branch of SLOLA will open this Friday (on International Seed Day, by the way) and will begin to steward seeds that will be most at home in their 18, 19 and 21 zones. Their initial inventory will be the same as the original library, but over time will diverge and each library's inventory will take on different characteristics, adapting to the different climate and soils. The two will not be totally dissimilar, but will diverge somewhat over time. Seeds, left to their own devices, will always be local to the place they are grown over time. This is one of the ways that open pollinated seeds and not nationally produced hybrids adapt and are therefore better for the grower. Remember, seeds are local and many of the open pollinated heirloom seeds are local to the east coast or the mid-western states and therefore are often a disappointment to Los Angeles gardeners. If we want a local tomato, it will be up to us to grow it!

The two inventories provide a duplication we have always wanted. It has never been our intent to store all our seeds at one location – any disaster could wipe out our entire stock of seed, setting SLOLA back years. So having two inventories near each other is a valuable asset. Of course, we hope to do more – Long Beach and Eagle Rock have both expressed interest in having a branch and we hope to accomplish that this year or next.

On International Seed Day, residents of the Valley can gather to inaugurate their own library. The first meeting of the San Fernando Valley branch of the Seed Library Of Los Angeles will take place on Friday, April 26th, at 1 pm at the Sepulveda Garden Center, 16633 Magnolia Blvd, Encino, CA 91436.

No need to RSVP. Just come on out and take home a seed to steward into a truly local seed to feed your family and the families of those warmer Sunset Zones!


Saturday, March 9, 2013

And In Breaking News

Self replicating little parcels of carrots ready to be planted.

There is a case that has been heard by the US Supreme Court, Bowman vs. Monsanto and we are awaiting their decision. I, for one, am not hopeful that they will take the correct stance, which, of course would be to eviscerate the patent on seeds altogether. The patent on seeds is immoral and unethical and sets a horrid precedent: the forces in favor of patents on seeds have no idea of the line they have crossed in this matter.

In fact, neither do the Supreme Court Justices and most of the American public, but it is clear to those of us whose life's work is with seeds, this is a horrible transgression onto the patenting of life. In fact, Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. asked,"Why in the world, would anybody spend any money to try to improve the seed if as soon as they sold the first one anybody could grow more and have as many of those seeds as they want?" leaving me to hope he was just having a momentary loss of memory and doesn't really believe that people did exactly that since agriculture began!

I had the opportunity to be with Vandana Shiva this last week and hear her cogent answers, marveling at her ability to synthesize answers that not only answered the question, but enlightened the listener to points they had not yet considered in the question. She told us about the 200,000 varieties of rice in India – all bred by peasants, different rice varieties for different fields for example. But an observant rice farmer, peasant or not, sees a lot of rice and a keen observer will find different varieties – in fact, it was Luther Burbank's keen eye (not magical genius) that gave the world the Burbank Potato, still the most popular baking potato in the world today over 100 years later. He spotted one potato plant with some flowers that produced some seeds (not a common thing, potatoes are almost always propagated by cutting the tubers into chunks and planting them, rarely by seed). He harvested the seeds and a seedling from those seeds became the famous potato that keeps Idaho on the map.

Prior to the 1950's, almost all plant breeding in the US was done by farmers – with the expectation that they would profit very little from the improvement of seed except by better crops. The idea of patenting life was abhorrent to them, even if they wished to make more profit on their new line of seeds. The lack of patents did not slow down the process of finding new and better plants - and this is an important point the bio-tech corporations wish to ignore - we never needed patents before them and their derelict technology!

But business empires are not built on 'what we used to do,' so once the chemical company decided it wanted to control the food supply, they moved aggressively to get our government to protect their seed varieties with patents. This is the genesis of our current situation. It wasn't enough that chemical companies wanted to make money, they wanted guarantees that they could make money on a scale not seen in agriculture since the beginning of agriculture. The old saw, “How do you make a million dollars farming? Start with two million,” could be amended to, “How do you make a million dollars farming? Start as a chemical company and buy yourself a government.”

Even intelligent people argue for patent enforcement because if they let replication occur in seeds, then what happens to software, recording and so on. This is not a valid question and the questioner is not thinking the thing through. Rolling the law back on seed patenting would not in any way be applicable to these other patents – the difference is obvious. The question really should be, if we allow patents on seed, does this mean that a man should patent his own sperm and a woman her eggs before a bio-tech company does it? Sperm and eggs are more closely similar to a seed than a recording! A seed is LIFE. A recording is NOT. Software is NOT.

In fact, the Supreme Court is set to hear arguments in a case about patenting human genetic material April 5th. Now I can see scenarios happening that just a few years ago would have been seen as crazy. What if I am given a genetically modified cure for Alzheimer’s. Is my body now a bio-tech company property? What if I have children and they, of course, inherit the cure? Are they owned by the bio-tech company? Do they have to buy a license? After all, like seeds, people are self-replicating!

Let us be clear: a life cannot be patented regardless if that has a deleterious effect on commerce. It does not matter.

Mind you, only those who do not see the difference between a baby and a recording or a seed and a software program imagine that one has anything to do with another.

Patenting life – any life – is a line we should NEVER have crossed. Now that we've done it, we need to undo it as quickly as possible. It is morally offensive and moves us towards re-establishing human slavery.

You'll never get that with software or a recording.