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Clif Bar Supports Growing Interest in Seed Banking
December 5, 2012
Seed Matters, an initiative of the Clif Bar Foundation, has launched a new program to support the nation’s growing interest in seed saving and sharing by supplying seed tool kits to community groups and downloadable “How to” guides for saving, swapping and banking seeds.
Increasing interest in community seed banks, swaps and gardens is a natural extension of the rapid growth in the organic, local and slow food movements. For example, in the past two years, more than 24,000 people from across the nation and beyond attended the Heirloom Festival in Santa Rosa, Calif. In addition, dozens of seed banks are springing up in local libraries across the country, serving as seed repositories to encourage community gardeners to plant, save and share seeds.
Seed Matters directs its support toward organic seed research and education projects that conserve crop diversity, protect farmers’ roles and rights as seed innovators and stewards, and reinvigorate public seed research and education. The organization also announced it has awarded its fourth fellowship in organic plant breeding to a Ph.D. student at Oregon State University (OSU). Earlier this year, Seed Matters awarded the first three fellowships ever in organic plant breeding in the United States.
“Our country is undergoing a cultural food revolution, with people eager to know more about their food,” said Matthew Dillon, director of Seed Matters. “The great unknown remains seed — it’s the greatest story never told. With Seed Matters’ new Community Seed Tool Kits and online materials, we hope to educate and inspire teachers, community gardeners and other local leaders to create community seed solutions.”
Local groups and gardening organizers can apply for the free Community Seed Tool Kits at www.seedmatters.org. Each tool kit includes three seed screens, 250 seed envelopes, 50 labels for jars and other large seed containers, basic seed saving tips, a chart on the best way to save the seeds of more than 30 vegetables, and pamphlets on how to organize community seed banks, gardens and swaps. The tips, charts and pamphlets are also available for download to anyone who visits the Seed Matters website.
The latest recipient of a Seed Matters’ organic plant breeding fellowship is Kara Young of OSU. The five-year, $125,000 grant will enable her to study organic vegetable breeding under the direction of Professor James Myers, a national expert in vegetable breeding in OSU’s Department of Agriculture. Myers is breeding broccoli, peas and other crops for organic production and authored the first comprehensive textbook on plant breeding for organic agriculture.
Seed Matters selected OSU and earlier three other public land grant universities for organic plant breeding fellowships in recognition of their historical commitment to serving rural communities and the public good, and to support Seed Matters' goal of reinvigorating public seed research and education. In addition to providing organic farmers with new varieties of seed adapted to organic systems, these fellowships will help cultivate the next generation of thought leadership in organic research, education and entrepreneurship.
“Organic seed is the backbone of a healthy farming and food system,” explained Dillon. “We need to protect and encourage its use to ensure the availability of a diverse selection of nutritious food now and for the future.”
Seed banking has grown in part due to the threat posed by contamination of organic varieties by genetically engineered crops, as explained by Sarah Tarver-Wahlquist in an article last month.
@Bart_King is a freelance writer and communications consultant.