Save Seeds, Save Biodiversity

Join the Gardens Across America Project to make your contribution to saving rare vegetable varieties.

by Lisa Munniksma
PHOTO: Rare Vegetable Seed Consortium

Seed saving is one of those things we, as small-scale sustainable farmers, know we should do but maybe don’t make the time for. Here’s a motivator for those of you fancying yourselves as competent gardeners: the Gardens Across America Project.

Ecologist and ethnobotanist Joseph Simcox—aka The Botanical Explorer—has visited more than 100 countries to discover rare food crops and wild species, strengthening food security and natural food systems. This is a big job, and he can’t grow all of the varieties that his team has brought back all by himself, so he’s asking for help growing, documenting and seed saving these veggies.

Simcox won’t send seeds to just anyone to test out, though. He asks interested farmers and gardeners to fill out a short application that includes your favorite and least favorite crops to grow and your reasons for wanting to participate in the Gardens Across America Project.

“My mission is to preserve biodiversity by growing plants out from seed in order to keep them ‘alive’ through a worldwide network of caretakers who make the effort to continue to grow them. With each species comes constant wonder and excitement. It is our responsibility to ensure their survival to offset today’s results of industrialized agriculture,” Simcox says on his website.

Purchase Rare Seeds

If you’re into trying out new and rare vegetable varieties and are passionate about expanding biodiversity but don’t think you’re cut out to be a seed saver and documenter for the Gardens Across America Project, you can purchase some of Simcox’s 14,000 varieties of seeds through the Rare Vegetable Seed Consortium. These seeds are available in very limited quantities. (For example, as of this writing, the Iasi Curly Snail Pepper—a hot pepper from Romania—had only three seed packets available!)

Contribute Your Seeds

After all of the traveling Simcox and his team have done, they’re still not finished sourcing rare and interesting seeds. If you have a variety that you’d like to see make a comeback or to share with others, tell Simcox about it.

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