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Claim Your Power to Support Small-Scale, Bio-Regional Seed Growers
Are your garden seeds grown in a small-scale farm with regenerative practices or in a massive monoculture? Are your garden seeds grown locally to your bio-region or far, far away in another time zone, even another continent?
Supporting small-scale and local seed is important for the health of our gardens, our environment, our local economies and ethical treatment of humans, plants and wildlife.
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What is Bio-Regional Seed?
Bio-regional seed has been grown, saved and sold within the greater bio-region around you, the consumer.
Most seed that is sold to gardeners today is not grown locally. Even organic seeds are often imported from far, far away with more and more organic seed being grown industrially in massive farms and transported by the truckload to seed distribution facilities.
The seed industry as a whole is becoming more centralized, more industrialized and seed farms are becoming bigger and bigger.
The problems with this trend are synonymous with the problems of modern agriculture as a whole. More loss of topsoil, more loss of diverse habitat, more chemicals used to grow seed crops poisoning water and wildlife, less genetic diversity in the seed that is being grown.
When you buy local seed you are supporting local farmers. Your local seed purchases encourage transparency around healthy, regenerative growing practices in the seed industry.
Purchasing local seed supports local economies. Local money moves transparently to the family or small business who is growing seed rather than into corporate structure that benefits the owner and shareholders at the expense of our environment.
Next time you browse your favorite seed catalog or website ask yourself this question: Does the seed company disclose which farm grew each seed variety?
If the seed company doesn’t disclose the grower of every seed variety, chances are greater that the seed comes from a massive industrial (“de-generative”) farm and/or the seed is imported from far, far away.
Gardeners Hold the Power
On the other hand if you shop from a small-scale seed farm that grows all of their seed, or if you shop from a company that is transparent about which farmers grew which seed, you as the consumer have the power.
You have the power to look up the farmer of the seeds you are considering buying. What are their farming practices? Are they using regenerative practices? Are they chemical free? Do they encourage genetic diversity and wildlife habitat on their farm?
Does your favorite seed company offer you this power or do they withhold it from you?
When we buy seeds from bio-regional seed companies, not only is there more transparency, we are also physically closer to the seed farms. Because in the same region, there is the possibility that we could even visit the farm or get to know the local farmer.
Locally grown seed has other benefits to consider…
Locally Adapted Seed
Locally grown seed has been adapting to your specific climate, pests and diseases and their plants have a better chance of thriving in your garden. Seed grown locally for even one season is already more adapted than seed grown far away. If the farmer saves and grows the same seed year after year, the benefits of local adaptation compound and your garden benefits.
Supporting bio-regional seed companies creates local resilience. When we have more small scale local seed farms, as opposed to fewer monolithic geographically distant seed companies, we have more local seed available to our gardeners.
Therefore with more local seed farms:
- We are less dependent on supply chains bringing us seed from far, far away.
- We have more genetically adapted seed to our regional climate and soil types.
- We are keeping more money out of the hands of seed giants and into the pockets of local farmers who are more likely to spend money in their local economies.
How to Find Bio-Regionally Grown Seed?
We are lucky to live in this time because small-scale bio-regional seed farms and bio-regional seed companies is a growing trend. Local seed is making a comeback!
More and more gardeners are waking up to the problems of modern industrial agriculture. New seed farmers and companies are springing up everywhere.
You can start by asking your local gardener friends or local farmers. You can search online for seeds in your city, town, county or state.
Its a fun adventure to seek out and discover bio-regional seed companies.
If you can’t find local seed companies where you live, you can still support small-scale seed growers even if they are not in your zip code. Look for seed farmers as close as possible to you, or at least in a similar climate for best results in your garden. (I include some examples below.)
Small-Scale Seed is the Future
More often than not, small-scale seed growers are:
- Extremely passionate about their work.
- Using regenerative or “better than organic” practices.
- Growing unique and interesting varieties of plants.
- Offering tried and true varieties.
- Offering seed that is resilient and adaptable.
Small-scale farmers are passionate about their work, they have the opportunity to develop an intimate relationship with their plants and select seed from the best and most vigorous, healthy plants.
When small-scale farmers are working with high quality, genetically diverse seed, they enter a close relationship and are able to influence the direction they would like their plants and seeds to evolve—resilience in the garden is often a high priority.
On the other hand massive large-scale industrial farms and their employees do not have the luxury of developing deep, close relationships with their plants and seed. The quality of seed reflects this truth.
For the most part, small-scale family seed farmers are not in their line of work to make a lot of money. They are doing it for ethical reasons and because they are passionate about farming.
When love and passion drives their work the plants are happier for it and the seeds are much higher quality.
Examples of Small Scale Seed Companies
I am honored to share a few of our own bio-regional seed companies. We are lucky to live in a little seed hotspot here in Southern Oregon. Here are just a few to consider:
Siskiyou seeds grows much of the seed they sell on their permaculture seed farm Seven Seeds Farm, and they also sell seed from other small-scale bio-regional seed farmers that employ regenerative practices. Their website catalog is fully transparent and discloses the grower of each variety of seed they sell.
Restoration Seeds is a woman owned seed company dedicated to supporting bio-regional regenerative small scale seed growers. Their website catalog is fully transparent about which growers produce each variety of seed they sell.
(Disclosure: Our family grows seeds for Restoration Seeds)
Seed farmer Chris Hardy grows all of the seeds that he sells through Hardy Seeds. He is dedicated to high quality seed grown with regenerative practices.
Seed farmer Cacia Huff grows all of the seeds she sells at her website and local farm stand. Each season she delivers a diverse range of high quality seeds grown with regenerative practices.
Strictly Medicinal Seeds
This small seed company is unique in that they focus on offering quality seeds from medicinal plants and herbs. They grow their own seed using regenerative practices and provide extremely high quality seed.
Experimental Farm Network
While not local to Southern Oregon, I had to include Experimental Farm Network in this list because this radical seed organization exclusively supports many small-scale seed farmers and growers around the country who grow seed with the utmost integrity and transparency. They share and steward culturally important seeds and in some cases help rematriate seed. While they offer a wide range of seeds, many of them are experimental, rare, unique or exclusive to their catalog.
You would be well served to purchase seeds from any of these companies and if you do, you’ll be receiving high quality seeds.
But this is just a small sliver of small-scale seed companies. There are so many more small-scale seed farmers and companies out there, probably even in your bio-region, waiting for gardeners like you to find them.
I just wanted to add this last note for you to contemplate. It can be hard to see through marketing. Every seed company, big and small, wants to make their products look family friendly, healthy and regenerative so that their customers can feel good buying their seeds.
Whether or not the reality lives up to the picture painted by marketing can be really hard to tell. That’s why full transparency of who the farmers are and where they are located for *every* variety of seed offered is so important.
- Can you know which seed farmer(s) grew each packet of seed you purchased this year?
- Can you go to the farmer’s website or social to learn more and contact them?
- Can you find out how large their farm operation is?
- What are their growing practices?
If the answer is no, please demand full transparency from your favorite seed companies or consider shopping for seeds from a small company/farm that offers transparency! You deserve to know and the farmers don’t deserve to be hidden from view.
When you can answer yes to these questions, you don’t have to trust the marketing because you can verify with the farmer directly.
When you buy small-scale and bio-regional seed you are helping support a healthier world and a better future for all of our children.
Want to learn how to process bulk seed at a homestead garden scale? Create more resilience and become empowered to clean the seeds that you grow to stock your pantry, share with your community, or sell to other gardeners.
See our course Seed Processing for Abundance for details!
Living Abundantly With Seeds — 27 ways seeds offer connection, empowerment and resilience for your family. A free, inspirational guide.