Heirloom Seeds: Part Two - The History

Heirloom Seeds: Part Two - The History

Humans have been farming and ranching in a way that fits their local regions for thousands of years, selecting plants that grow best and collecting seeds or cuttings from these well adapted plants. The result for present day humans has been a plethora of beautiful and nutritious choices. About fifty years ago the food industry began to develop food crops for ease of shipping, long shelf life on the supermarket shelf, and standardization—not taste or nutrition. The good news is that diversity of the food supply is actually increasing, at least for those who know where to find the seed to grow it. In this series of blogs, Dripworks hopes to make it easier for our readers to learn about the tradition of growing with heirloom seed and understand why today it is more important than ever.

For most people in the U.S. quality, taste, and even nutritional value have been casualties of the trend toward uniformity, meaning the variety of "real food" they can buy at the supermarket is limited. Studies have shown that the nutritional value of factory farmed produce is actually lower than organic crops grown with heirloom seed. By law, to bear the organic label, food must not contain genetically modified organisms (GMO). According to a recent nationally representative survey from the Consumer Reports National Research Center, ninety-two percent of Americans believe that all food containing GMO ingredients should be labeled before they are sold.

To me, this is a prime indicator that more people are becoming aware of how much better homegrown organic vegetables taste and are taking up the time honored art of producing their own food, herbs, and flowers with a passion. In my opinion this is time well spent. When growing with heirloom seed, the seed produced will replicate the parent. With genetically modified GMO seed and plants, you might get a combination of characteristics that results in an inferior tasting crop. This is not a "natural" phenomenon.

Big bio tech companies that produce and sell GMO, or hybrid seed, have purposely engineered their product for "designed obsolescence", forcing us to continuously purchase their seed year after year. They don't want us to be able to save our seed and use it the next year.

Heirloom varieties are the result of many generations of careful selection by farmers and gardeners who knew what they wanted from plants. By taking some care to choose varieties from your own area, or those that come from areas that have similar climate, soil, and weather conditions, it is quite possible to use heirloom seed that will be true to type (from your plants) at the end of this season and use them next year. I'm a seed saver!

Here at DripWorks we hope that our customers will use drip irrigation to grow what they like. Among our vegetable beds you will also find flowers, essential because they provide food for the important pollinators such as butterflies, birds, and bees. Since the advent of chemical fertilizers, herbicides, and pesticides, pollinators have struggled. Heirloom vegetables and flowers represent a priceless legacy, the product of centuries of work by countless generations of farmers around the globe. When we grow heirlooms, we are the living link in a chain stretching back sometimes many hundreds of years. As the current custodians, we are endowed with the opportunity to make our mark, as well, because like previous generations, we maintain the varieties we love the most. They are our living legacy.

In our DripWorks demonstration gardens we will be growing a large variety of vegetables and flowers from Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds this year. Some will be favorites of ours from the past and some will be new types of tomatoes, peppers, lettuces, peas, beans, cucumbers, basil, kale, and squash. If you're in the area, please stop by to visit our demonstration gardens and see how drip irrigation helps our garden flourish.

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