Heirlooms because they really taste good

The National Heirloom Exposition opens Tuesday September 11, 2012 at the Fairgrounds in Santa Rosa.  The Santa Rosa Farmers Market will be there as will many of our vendors.

Bobby Gekas, Ultimate Souvlaki  said, “…we will be one of the featured local organic food vendors.  We will be using every single variety of The Patch’s tomatoes”

Learn more about the expo from this Press Democrat article about the founders: The couple, who also co-founded The Seed Bank store in Petaluma and launched a “world’s fair” of heirloom vegetables in Santa Rosa last year, publishes their own seed catalog and a quarterly magazine, The Heirloom Gardener

What: The second annual National Heirloom Exposition, a nonprofit, agricultural fair celebrating pure food. Headliner speakers include Carlo Petrini, founder of Slow Food; Jeffrey Smith, founder of the Institute for Responsible Technology; and Andrew Kimbrell, executive director of the Center for Food Safety.

When: 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Sept. 11, 12 and 13

Where: Sonoma County Fairgrounds, 1350 Bennett Valley Road.

Cost: $10 adults, kids 17 and under free. Three-day pass: $25.

Tickets: theheirloomexpo.com, The Seed Bank in Petaluma, or at the door.

Sonoma County has it’s own heirlooms and fortunately people who work to save them.

There is  seed crisis in America, there has been a dramatic loss and consolidation of seed companies, and with them, the disappearance of countless vegetable and fruit crops. The trend away from home vegetable gardening contributed to the disconnect of people with their food, and only in recent years has there been a growing interest in saving heirlooms as anything other than an historical relic.

This is a very good explanation of why heirloom seeds are important.

“The Bountiful Gardens is part of Ecology Action of the Mid-peninsula, Mendocino County (www.growbiointensive.org), a non-profit that for 40 years has been helping save the poorest third of the world by reforming their agriculture to sustainable agriculture. When we started Bountiful Gardens nearly 30 years ago their was little consciousness of untreated, open-pollinated heirloom seeds. We have helped change that.

So what’s all the Fuss About Heirlooms, GMOs, Hybrids, Open-Pollinated…..

And What Do All those Words Really Mean?

We helped start the fuss 27 years ago, when we founded a seed company that refused to carry hybrids so that people could save their own seed. Over the years, we have introduced gardeners to heirloom varieties that might otherwise have been lost. It’s a complicated issue, and we get lots of questions from concerned gardeners.

Here is a brief explanation:

TRADITIONAL PLANT BREEDING often starts by pollinating a plant with pollen from a related, but slightly different, variety. Then, over several generations, the plants are selected for certain traits. In this way, broccoli, for example, became different from the tough wild plants that are its ancestors.

As people grow and select their best plants for seed, the results gradually become more predictable. Eventually every time you plant that kind of seed, the plants give similar results. The seed has been stabilized as an OPEN-POLLINATED VARIETY. The animal equivalent would be poodles, or golden retrievers—you know what to expect in looks and, to some extent, behavior, because they are purebred. Individuals have slight variations within the “family resemblance.”

HEIRLOOM SEEDS are open-pollinated varieties that have been around a long time; the most widely-accepted time is 50 years. Since they were bred before chemical pesticides were common, they are often well-adapted to home garden and organic cultivation. Farmers and gardeners are breeding new open-pollinated varieties today that will be the heirlooms of the future. We carry many heirloom varieties, some of which have their date of introduction in the description.

HYBRID SEEDS are seeds from the first generation of a cross between two related varieties. The cross is made by traditional breeding techniques, like brushing the flower of one with the pollen from another. The plants you get when you buy hybrid seeds are very uniform and predictable, which is why farmers use them (they might be ready to harvest the same day, for example.) However, the next generation of plants won’t be so predictable because it is not a stabilized variety. Hybrids are like mutts, whose puppies might all be different. The bad thing about hybrids is not how they are made; it’s that the particular cross used to make each one is a trade secret belonging to a certain company or breeder. Hybrids make gardeners dependent on the companies who produce the seed. Hybrid seeds must be labeled “hybrid” or “F1” next to the variety name, and are more expensive than open-pollinated varieties. We don’t carry hybrids. We feel that food crops are a common heritage we all share, not a set of trade secrets.

GMO VARIETIES are not the result of traditional plant breeding, but of procedures in a laboratory. Instead of using pollen from another plant, technicians can insert genes that don’t even come from plants—they might come from a bacteria or a fish, for example. The process costs millions of dollars, and the GMO seeds are sold to big agribusiness farms who sign a contract with the GMO company. The main GMO crops are corn, soy, peanuts, and canola, used for processed food that ends up in the supermarket. The danger to home gardens is not from the seeds we buy; it’s from pollen drifting in the wind. Home gardeners who live near big factory farms might want to learn how to hand-pollinate their corn.

TREATED SEEDS are coated with pesticide or fungicide chemicals after harvest. We don’t carry any treated seed.

CERTIFIED ORGANIC SEED has to come from farms inspected by the USDA’s Organic Certification program. They can’t use chemicals and must meet other regulatory requirements. The seed can’t be GMO. Seeds grown organically but not certified by the USDA program are designated GB, B, or N in this catalog.”