A group of passionate gardeners is sharing the fruits of its labors to pick those plant varieties best suited for the Wood River Valley’s local climate and soil conditions. These fruits are actually seeds, collected from local gardens and shared among members of the Wood River Valley’s first seed library.
“I call us the Green Berets of seed-saving,” said garlic farmer and seed saver John Caccia, who also owns a jewelry shop in Ketchum.
Caccia is manager of the Rocky Mountain Seed Project, a Ketchum-based seed-saving research and development organization advocating for local and regional seed security.
“A lot has been going on in the seed world ever since Congress granted the right to patent genetically modified seeds in the mid-1990s,” he said.
Caccia said a few giant GMO seed-producing corporations now control much of the U.S. food production industry.
“Establishing grassroots natural seed-saving programs are the best way to insure that locally adapted, robust seed varieties continue to survive and provide nutritious food for the community,” he said. “We want to make sure we’re not cross-pollinating and that we know how to store seeds. If everybody combines their knowledge and their seeds, we will all have a free source for the very best seeds in this area, ones that have been selected here by gardeners for their robust varieties.”
Caccia said he has enlisted 20 seed-savers in his organization so far.
“I get phone calls and emails every day,” he said. “Some people are saving seeds of wild medicinal herbs. One woman has saved traditional seeds from African squashes. Some have saved carrots or kale or something else for 20 years, but they don’t have the scientific names for their varieties.”
Caccia recently attended the seventh annual Seed Saver’s Conference in Corvallis, Ore., where he did a lot of networking and learned about many innovations in the seed-saving and plant-breeding world.
“I’m just a hobby gardener, but for those people, it’s their livelihood,” he said. “They talk about the threats of GMOs and policies at the U.S. Department of Agriculture.”
He also met a member of the Xerxes Society, which advocates for the insect world.
“They talked about honeybee colony collapse disorder,” he said. “Monarch butterflies are on the edge of extinction. Plants rely on insects to survive.”
Caccia studied three years ago with former Ketchum resident and professional seed-saver Bill McDormand in Cornville, Ariz.
“I guess you could say the seed for this organization was planted by Bill,” Caccia said.
Caccia has organized a free seed-saving workshop on Tuesday, Feb. 18, by Casey O’Leary, a master seed-saver from the Earthly Delights Seed Co. in Boise. O’Leary will present her one-hour Seed Saving 101 class at 6 p.m. at the Sawtooth Botanical Garden, three miles south of Ketchum on state Highway 75.
“Casey coined the word ‘weed-dating,’ which is when she calls people around Idaho to join her in weeding at her farm in Boise,” Caccia said.
Cassia said his organization gives seeds out, but also requires that gardeners preserve seeds from their crops and become seed savers also.
“It’s a pyramid scheme,” he said.
For more information, call Caccia at 309-8557.
Tony Evans: firstname.lastname@example.org