Spotlight On: Grassroots Seed Network

Whether you're looking to get seeds or share seeds you saved from your garden last year, a new start-up called the Grassroots Seed Network is a great resource for the radicals among you with a vested interest in spreading the open-pollinated love.

Many fruits and vegetables sold today in supermarkets are hybrid varieties that will either not reproduce from seed, or will revert back to an earlier variety of that plant. Open pollination refers to plants that are pollinated by insects, birds, wind, or other natural mechanisms—in other words, the opposite of controlled hybrids, self-pollinators, or chemically treated plants that can not reproduce at all. Open pollination is great because it increases biodiversity and produces new generations of plants—however, open pollination may produce offspring that varies greatly in size, quality, and coloration breeding is uncontrolled.

As you can probably already guess, the crew at Better Farm is in serious favor of open pollination. Who needs generic peppers or tomatoes that all look the same? We'd rather have an eclectic assortment that promotes diversity among plants. That diversity is what allows you to not lose all your plants to one pest or disease; and what allows for a greater variety of plants in the future. Good all-around for the environment, animals, and plants. For information on how to save your own seeds, be sure to visit the Vegetable Seed-Saving Handbook.

The mission of the Grassroots Seed Network is to provide a participatory, member-governed, democratic network through which those who preserve and maintain the treasured heritage of open-pollinated vegetable seeds can share those seeds with each other and can encourage and help educate the next generation of seed savers.

Here's the skinny on how the Grassroots Seed Network functions:

Grassroots Seed Network is a member-governed organization, and its vitality will grow from the participation of all those dedicated to the preservation of open-pollinated seeds. Here are several ways you can become involved: 

Lister: Listers offer seeds and may request seeds from other Listers through our Source List. Listers have voting rights in all Board of Directors elections if they have offered seed in two of the preceding three years. Listers are also eligible to run for a seat on the Board of Directors. Annual dues for Listers are $15. 

Sustainer: Many of you will not yet have seed to offer, but will want to support the organization by making a contribution toward our daily operating expenses. As a Sustainer you will have access to and be able to request seed from the Source List, but you will not have voting rights. Annual dues for Sustainers are $25. 

Donations: Like any new organization, we have start-up costs, therefore we welcome and are very grateful for donations in any amount that will help us with a
smooth launch and with meeting our financial obligations right from the beginning. 

Hardship Exemption: We want to encourage participation in the Grassroots Seed Network, especially among young gardeners or anyone dedicated to
seed saving, but who may be on a fixed or limited income and for whom the membership dues present a challenge. To those we are offering a hardship exemption. You are, of course, welcome to make any small contribution commensurate with your ability. 

To join, please send a check, made out to Grassroots Seed Network, to 

Yaicha Cowell-Sarofeen 
 2470 Industry Road 
 Starks, ME 04911 

Be sure to indicate your level of membership, and include your full address, phone number, and email address if you have one. Please let us know if you have no internet access at home. As soon as it is feasible, we plan to generate a printed version of the Source List. In future years a printed version of the Source List will be published annually. If you are joining as a Lister or Sustainer you will be given a member number and be assigned/choose a password for access to Lister contact information and guidelines for requesting seed. If you are joining as a Lister, you will find guidelines for submitting seed listings on the How to List and Request Seed page. 
Grassroots Seed Network will be applying for nonprofit 501(c)(3) status as soon as they have an elected Board of Directors. The group's preliminary draft by-laws can be read here. These will be voted on for approval by the Board and the Membership. In order for donations to be tax-deductible, the Maine Organic Farmers and Gardeners Association has agreed to act as financial umbrella organization.

Visit the Source List page to view the seed listings. The Source List is available to the general public for reading. If you are a Lister or a Sustainer you will need your password to access the Lister Profile page or to see guidelines for offering or requesting seed.

Nicole Caldwell

Nicole Caldwell is a self-taught environmentalist, green-living savant and sustainability educator with more than a decade of professional writing experience. She is also the co-founder of Better Farm and president of betterArts. Nicole’s work has been featured in Mother Earth News, Reader’s Digest, Time Out New York, and many other publications. Her first book, Better: The Everyday Art of Sustainable Living, is due out this July through New Society Publishers.