This article was first published in the Chautauqua.
Since I have been out of school for many years and I have no children, Septembers of recent years have slipped by as a month of transition from summer into fall, but not one too remarkable. With September 2012 now upon us and this being my first full year back on a farm – I am learning a new appreciation for September.
This September feels like a month of harvesting the abundance of our hard work over the last months. By the time you read this, our pasture-raised chicken will be in our freezers (or someone else's), our new laying hens will be giving us a steady supply of eggs (I hope), and we'll be finishing up our beef and geese for butchering in October.
Then there is the garden to bring in. We've been enjoying fresh produce since early June and have already put up bagfuls of our snap beans and peas, but now its squash, corn, root crops, and the rest. Plus, this year I am carrying an extra basket with me as I go out to bring in our food. It is for seeds.
I've played with saving my own seeds at different points but this year I have been making a conscious effort to leave behind some produce or to let plants flower and go to seed so that I can have as much of my own seed for next year. It has been quite freeing to be able to say, “leave the rest of the beans for seed.” Considering I am having dreams about what to do with all my patty pan squash, letting go of the need to pick and preserve more beans was a relief.
Saving our own seed is a pragmatic action. I am out there already, I might as well gather a second 'harvest' from the plants that I put in during the spring and save us money in the spring time. As well, it can impact the quality of our garden next year. Research is showing that every year you grow a plant in your own garden – it uses information from that year in forming next years seeds, adapting to your specific growing conditions. Our garlic supplier encourages us to buy more the first year and to grow our own seed – they have learned that it takes 5-7 years for garlic to adapt to a specific ecosystem.
Saving seed is not something new but - in today's context – it may be revolutionary. For most of our human history, decisions as to what is eaten and how it was produced were made by the community and people in that immediate ecosystem. In the last century or so – we've very quickly changed that and handed over control and decision-making to the few and the powerful. As more companies patent seeds and call them their own, the common gardener will become a common criminal when they save seed and use it for their own purpose. Even if I am never arrested for saving and using my own seed – my seed saving is about freedom: the freedom to grow and eat and provide for my family and the freedom of nature's knowledge. The idea that anyone can 'own' that which has evolved and developed within ecosystems – alongside generations of human beings – seems ludicrous to me.
I appreciate those who dedicate themselves to providing us with seed – they are part of having a food secure and stable system. However I am looking forward to making this September a harvest of double-abundance: of the fruit and vegetables produced as well as the seeds for next year.