The Seed Movement Is Really On!
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Murray Hallam Well , good morning I am talking with Penn Parmenter of Westcliffe in Colorado. How are you today?
Penn Parmenter. Great, I am talking with you from my mountain.
Murray Hallam. Up in the mountains there. That is about as far away from Australia as you can get I think, up there in altitude of the Rockies, so I find it quite interesting. Anyway, look I want to talk to you today about seed saving. In the training you are going to be doing in Florida next month, I see you have got listed there you are going to train us in seed saving. Now, why should we save seeds?
Penn Parmenter. Well I'll tell you something Murray, If you think the food movement is on, I've got to tell you the seed movement is really on. It seems like seed is being threatened world wide, but there is a wonderful pro-active movement out there of people who are teaching and learning about seed saving, and it is a missing link in our gardening here in America and we really need to start again.
Murray Hallam. Why do you think that is? Why do we need to save seeds ? Isn't it just as easy to go down to the seed store and buy a packet of seeds?
Penn Parmenter. Well besides thinks like genetically modified organisms being created that can possibly cross with the seeds we could be getting in the future, there is nothing more self sufficient and sustainable than a seed. It has a built in a self replication program, and it also has an adaptation program. It immediately adapts to the environment it is grown in, so the longer you save it the stronger it gets for your garden.
Murray Hallam. So, do you mean then, if I grow for example a tomato bush and I save the seed, the next time I plant that seed, the tomato bush will be much more adaptable to my area; Is that what you are saying?
Penn Parmenter. I am saying it remembers, yes. It carries with it it's genetic history and it's.....as our teacher said "It is more elegant than any computer chip could ever be" and it remembers and adapts from year to year.
Murray Hallam. Isn't that fascinating . Well this sounds to me like this could be easy, but it could be difficult. Tell me, is it easy and difficult, or is it just easy?
Penn Parmenter. Well, the good news is that there is at least three levels of seed saving and we have a seed library here where you can check seed out and return more than you take, but we have it set up so that you can check out easy-to-save seed, intermediate-to-save, and difficult-to-save. So you start from the beginning of course, and begin with easy-to-save seed, which by the way, the five most, easy things to begin with are, tomatoes, peppers, lettuce, beans and peas. And it's easy, because you don't have to do anything you just grow them and you don't really have to worry about how many varieties you have grown, or any distance, or isolating them, and you just save the seed and they come true.
Murray Hallam. Wow, so that's good because they just happen to be probably some of the most important vegetables don't they, to feed yourself and your family. So what would be a difficult seed then, and what would make it difficult?
Penn Parmenter. That's a great question you know because it's probably kind of perspective, like an intermediate seed may only be difficult because you need to isolate it which means you need to only grow one variety at a time, so they don't cross within their family. That may not be hard but it just means you have to grow one kind. Difficult means it may take two years because it is a biannual, you have to isolate it and it might need a really large population like 200 plants. So to a gardener that may seem hard but to a small farmer having 200 plants of corn is not that hard, so it kind of depends on your perspective, but I tell you when you start with easy seed, you get back so much that you instantly become addicted and can't wait to try the next step.
Murray Hallam. Sounds good. Look we've got over here, we call them heritage seeds, some people call them heirloom seeds or open pollinated seeds I think might be the other term; what's so special about them?
Penn Parmenter. That's true. all three of those names are a good thing to look for when you are buying seeds, um, but hybrid seed is simply a cross between two other parents. There is nothing wrong with a hybrid, it's just that if you save the seed from it, it won't come true to what it was before. It will have the entire genetic background of both parents.
Murray Hallam. It could come out as anything then, like it could come out as, like either mum or dad for example of where it was generated from.
Penn Parmenter. That's right, so you look for "OP" for open pollinated, now seed packets or the name of the variety has to say if it is a hybrid, which it will either say hybrid or the letter F1 which is first generation, but it doesn't always say heirloom or heritage, you kind of sometimes you just know that, now more and more the seed packets and the catalogues are starting to label which ones are heirloom or heritage, so but hybrid it has to say it.
Murray Hallam. I hear it and read about it that people are worried about collecting seeds because of, there are some big companies that are trying to patient them and stop people from using them. Is that right, or is that just a story?
Penn Parmenter. You know, the problem is there is these chemical companies are messing around with crops crossing seeds with chemicals and crossing seeds with all kinds of things and they are often experimenting with a wind pollinated crop like corn so we can't control what happens. Things can cross with a neighbours or a farm far away if the wind blows, so when you look at a catalogue it will have a "safe seed" pledge in it, where they are saying they not knowingly buy any seed that is a GMO. They say that because they have to protect themselves in case contamination happens from the wind.
Murray Hallam. Yes, OK , so as an amateur seed collector if I decide I am going to start saving seeds, I guess you will tell us how to do that won't you, because I remember once trying to collect seeds off a lettuce and it was kind of hard and a bit of a mess but I guess there will be techniques you will be able to show us how to do that will there?
Penn Parmenter. Absolutely, especially using household items like a brown paper bag, or a jar that you have in your kitchen, that you know the way in is with the tomato the gateway drug to gardening, it's also the gateway drug to seed.
Murray Hallam. Is that right. It's an interesting way to describe it !
Penn Parmenter. There is people out there you know their message is "no seed - no food". If the seed in the world is controlled then there is no food, but the real message might be "no seed - no beer" if that what's needed to get your attention.
Murray Hallam. To get through to people. Well look I reckon that I am really looking forward to this seminar you are going to be running in Florida in April, and this is going to be really interesting. You guys are going to be really busy because you are also doing the seminar on how to build those wonderful greenhouses that your husband builds, so I think there could be a day each on these, but we have to squeeze it into a day, so that is going to be really really intense.
Penn Parmenter. We are really looking forward to it, in fact that's why Cord is not here with us today he is off working on that giant sixty four foot sustainable greenhouse, so were going to be with our bells on in Florida, so I hope everyone will come and see us.
Murray Hallam. I think there will be a lot of people there so , look thanks for talking to me this morning and we will see you in Florida next month.
Penn Parmenter. Thanks Murray and have a great day.
Murray Hallam. Bye......
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