Our mission

We propose nothing less than the preservation and protection of our increasingly threatened food crop heritage, and will accomplish this via a Web-based hub providing local avenues for the free exchange of open-pollinated and heirloom germplasm, including seeds, bulbs, rhizomes, cuttings, and whole plants.

Rather than act as a central seed bank, the San Pedro Seed Exchange will facilitate the saving and swapping of these legacy materials directly amongst the peoples and communities of the San Pedro River Valley and watershed. We will create a loom with which area gardeners can weave the diverse tapestry of our saved seed heritage.

While the protection of our remaining food crop varieties is our foremost goal, we also envision that this shared tapestry will serve as a community builder, linking the disparate settlements of the San Pedro River Valley with a common cause. We have no more common cause than the food that we eat.

Why is a seed exchange necessary? The answer is as simple as it is devastating. We are losing our food crop diversity at an alarming rate. Some studies have indicated that over 90% of the vegetable varieties grown in the early 1900s are now extinct. Think about this, 90% of the varieties that the population so long depended on for sustenance are gone–gone forever. Over 90% of what it has taken our ancestors nearly 10,000 years to develop has been squandered away in 1% of that time.

In this tragedy, we have lost far more than yesteryear’s sentimental favorites; far more than tomatoes that made you gasp with delight as you bit into them, or strawberries that were heaven on earth. We have also permanently thrown away untold treasures in genetic diversity and crop adaptability. As an agricultural species, we have always relied on food crop diversity to pull us through the vagaries of climate, pests, and blight. We are never certain which traits will be needed in the next emergency. The history books are laden with woeful tales of our over-reliance on too little diversity–look no farther than the Great Famine in Ireland for a much hallowed example. It is within what remains of this once great network of crop diversity that we weave our tapestry. Let us catch each freefalling variety seemingly destined for extinction and give it a living spot in our weave. It is far easier to preserve a variety than to rebuild one.

How could this extinction of our food crop diversity have happened? It is primarily a result of the increasing hold that the big seed companies have taken on our farming systems. It takes little genius to realize than when you sell a product it pays to monopolize that product and make it exclusive to your company. Thus, the era of the hybrid variety was born. Hybrid seed, however, lacks the genetic stability required to produce true to the parent type. This necessitates the purchase of fresh seed from the company each growing season. These seed companies make far more money selling their hybrids to big agriculture than could be made selling the open pollinated and heirloom forms that they began with, so, these older varieties were one by one allowed to expire and become extinct. Reliance upon hybrids is not our only problem. International mega-conglomerates now impose the frightening and untested specter of GMOs (genetically modified organisms) on our already terribly broken food systems. Among these, Monsanto stands out not only due to its size, but also its frightening inroads into and influences on the powerbase of our government.

We cannot bring back what has been lost, as those crops are gone forever, but we can stand together to save what remains. So this then is our mission–we must defy the large corporations that push their profit-driven and short-sighted agendas. We must create our own grassroots gardens of food crop diversity, our own tapestry of food freedom. Let us empower ourselves to decide what we will grow and what we will eat. These are the decisions of the dinner table, not the boardroom table. We, the people, must reclaim our heritage now and stand up for our inherent freedoms to grow and eat what we choose. Let us sow the seeds of this revolution here and now. From this point on, we may be seen as rebels and outlaws in the eyes of mega business and corrupt governments. So, let us as seed outlaws bring revolution to those that would have us abandon our life-giving food crop heritage.