Native Seeds/SEARCH: Preserving Traditional Crops

This story is a little old. I meant to blog about it when I first heard of it, but got sidetracked. Native Seeds/SEARCH is a program designed to preserve the cultural heritage of native groups by saving and stockpilings seeds from their traditional crops:

‘We’ve collected seeds from over 30 different cultural groups and have successfully saved over two thousand varieties,” Dahl said. ”Corn is the biggest collection we have, about 600 accessions or varieties collected from a specific locale. In a Southwest crop complex, the Three Sisters [corn, beans and squash] were of greatest importance because they’re very productive. Corn provides lots of carbohydrates. Beans provide a lot of protein. And squash gives up a lot of nutrition. Grown together as companion crops, all three store well for a long time.
”We steward these precious seeds, true links to the past,” Dahl said. ”We support the role these seeds play in the diverse cultures of the region and these remaining pockets of diversity are worth seeking out and saving. This is living heritage and we need to maintain this palate of genetic material.”


Native Seeds/SEARCH has been involved, either as provider or partner, in many restoration projects that provide seeds to individual farmers as well as larger-scale tribal projects. Its 2006 Annual Report indicates ”roughly 5,000 packets of seeds were delivered through our Native American free seed program,” Dahl said. ”Sometimes the gift returns. We probably supplied seeds at the beginning of many of these efforts, but they’re way past that now and self-sufficient. In fact, as part of the tribal compact for gaming, the nation gives a certain percentage of gaming revenue to nonprofits and they’ve donated $50,000 to our capital campaign for a bigger space to hold seeds that are now stacked floor to ceiling.”

An excellent idea that has also paid off in increased crop yields and as a fringe benefit, increases the genetic diversity of agricultural crops….

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