#531 Saving seeds, saving the future

When I first met seed farmer Dan Jason, he had been selling organic seeds for only a few years. Now he can boast a quarter century of growing and selling open-pollinated, non-GMO seeds.

The Salt Spring Seeds catalog has moved online (though a smaller version of the Web catalog can still be mailed). The descriptions will make your mouth water, your hands itch for the soil. Who could resist seeds like these:

  • Cuatomote currant tomatoes: Unique Zapotec Indian heirloom. Orange currant tomato with lots of flavour and juice. 5-6 feet sprawling plants with extremely pointed leaves. Very strong disease and blight resistance, this years plants were strong, green, and vibrant even after our first 2 mild frosts in early November!!
  • Red kuri squash: Thick-skinned orange coloured (Hubbard type) winter squash has the appearance of a small pumpkin without the ridges. Hard outer skin with firm fine-grained yellow/orange mellow chestnut-like flavoured flesh inside. Each vine produces usually 3, 2 to 4.5 kg fruits. Considered one of the sweetest and tastiest by many a squash-eating fan. Excellent keeper.
  • Mulato hot peppers: Large peppers on a large plant (3 to 4 feet). Peppers eaten green like bell peppers, or ripened to deep brown and dried for traditional Mexican “mole”. Mild to medium heat.
  • Wasabi greens: Large greens and abundant production. Great flavour for those who like hot mustards.

Dan was featured in Gardens of Destiny, a documentary that explored some of the worst impacts of industrial agriculture and offered a vision of sustainable agriculture. Recently, film-maker Jean-Marc Abela created a short film about Dan, appropriately titled, “The Gift”.  He managed to capture both the warmth and the passion of a man who has made heritage and heirloom seeds his life’s work.

I can remember my first trip to the Salt Spring Island farm, where Jason’s farm lies in glorious abundance. His enthusiasm was infectious, and I came home with a bagful of garlic bulbs and many packets of seeds.

I planted them all. They thrived, and during my years on a small farm on Vancouver Island and later on a small ranch in British Columbia’s Cariboo region, I became an admirer of the intelligence and joy Dan brought to farming.

The industrial food system keeps threatening dire consequences for the world if farmers stop using their seeds, machines and chemicals. Dan Jason keeps exposing the hubris behind an agriculture that thinks it has learned more in a short time than the earth has in eons.

Dan respects the intelligence of seeds, soil and water. I’m placing my bets on his brand of agriculture.

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