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Friday, January 8, 2010

Organic, Open Pollinated, Local, and Biodynamic Confusion

Like millions of other gardeners buried in snow, I am furiously pouring over seed catalogs as I bundle under the comforter and sip tea. I have page corners carefully turned down, post-it flags sticking out the sides and tops, and pages are marked with not one, but two colors of highlighters. I am amazed how complicated I can make this simple annual task of choosing seeds for the kitchen garden.

Last year, many of my seeds were labled "biodynamic", chosen because that sounded good and mighty. I would get around to figuring out why "biodynamic" seeds were better later. They performed marveously; I had one of my best gardens in many years, although I'm fairly certain it had more to do with rainfall and weather patterns than the seeds. So this year went back to that seed company's website to find out the definition. Nothing!! I have searched and searched, and the best I can tell, they reveal nothing. Googling the terms brings reams of inrformation abotu biodynmaic farming and all of its benefits, but that does not tell me a darned thing about the seeds and how they are different. This year, I'm not paying for the hype unless it is clear what they mean. It's like putting "natural" on a food label - marketing hooey unless there is real information and different production practices behind it.

Since I garden organically (perhaps because it is easier), I gravitate toward organic seed. It makes logical sense to me that we should lessen the load of pesticides in our bodies; it can't be a bad thing. But I am no purist. If a plant description is good enough, I'll bite even if it isn't organic if an organic alternative is not available.

John Scheepers Kitchen Garden seed catalog gives an excellent summary of the difference between hybrid and open pollinated seeds in the first page of the catalog, which I was very pleased to see. I am making an effort to use as many non-hybrid "OP" seeds as I can this year, since I have read an awful lot about the concentration of plant types by the near complete domination in farming by only a few seed companies with hyrid seeds (if you haven't watched the documentary Food, Inc., please do so!). I want the ability to save my seeds if I choose; I want to encourage plant divesity and keep heirloom varieties. My veggies aren't going to the market.

My pile of seed catalogs is towering, but I cannot yet buy. I am waiting for the catalog from a small seed company fairly local to me - I expect their seeds to work well in my climate of oh-so-sticky summers - and frankly, I like supporting samll businesses. A lot.

So I wait by the mailbox, eagerly anticipating the arrival of the last, most perfect descriptions of the epitome of seeds: the organically grown, open pollinated, heirloom seeds for my (very mini) biodynamic farm (bed). Only then will I plunk down my hard-earned $3.95.

Copyright 2010,

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