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Gardening: Inland Northwest Food Network workshop will offer lessons about saving seeds, Pat Munts writes

UPDATED: Wed., Jan. 31, 2018, 2:46 p.m.

Casey O’Leary of the Rocky Mountain Seed Alliance checks seed at her farm near Boise. She will be teaching the Seed School in a Day workshop March 3 at the Inland Northwest Wildlife Council in north Spokane. (Casey O’Leary / Courtesy photo)
Casey O’Leary of the Rocky Mountain Seed Alliance checks seed at her farm near Boise. She will be teaching the Seed School in a Day workshop March 3 at the Inland Northwest Wildlife Council in north Spokane. (Casey O’Leary / Courtesy photo)

I’ve talked a lot recently about buying seeds from seed companies, but what about saving your own from some of your favorite flowers and vegetables? That is what our grandmothers and farmers used to do to ensure they had seed for the next year. The development of hybrid seed in the past 70 years and the power of the seed companies has made that a lot more difficult but it is still possible.

On March 3, Inland Northwest Food Network will be offering farmers and gardeners of all abilities an opportunity to learn about saving seed at the Seed School in a Day workshop at the Inland Northwest Wildlife Council in north Spokane. The daylong workshop will be taught by Casey O’Leary of the Rocky Mountain Seed Alliance. O’Leary is a self-described Seed Freak who runs Earthly Delights Farm in Boise and co-founded the Snake River Seed Cooperative.

The cooperative is a group of 29 producers who grow more than 300 different varieties of vegetables, herbs, flowers and grains from the Rocky Mountain bioregion encompassing Idaho, Montana, eastern Oregon, Washington and western Wyoming. The Rocky Mountain Seed Alliance provides education and support to preserve heritage varieties found in the northern Rocky Mountains. According to O’Leary, saving seeds not only saves money but empowers communities to secure food access and build regional food economies. “It is a way for people to learn and appreciate the full cycle of food production and their part in it,” he said.

The seed school program covers a wide range of topics spanning the history, science, business and craft of seed saving. Attendees will learn about seed and pollination biology and open pollination that makes it possible for the next generation of seeds to be like the last. O’Leary will discuss organic farming and gardening practices to grow the seeds and ways to market your seeds. She will discuss the history and current structure of the commercial seed industry and its impact on the access to seed through the production of genetically modified seed and the practice of patenting seeds. She will discuss the ethical collection of seed from wild plants so the wild population maintains its viability.

O’Leary will also cover the practical aspects of saving and growing seed on a small scale. You don’t have to be a farmer to grow your own seed. Several members of the Snake River Seed Cooperative are backyard gardeners who have a particular flower or vegetable variety that has been handed down through a family that they want to preserve. There is no complicated equipment needed to save seed beyond a dry place to sort, clean and package your seed. Packaging can be as simple as paper envelopes stored in a cool, dry place.

CORRECTION: When I talked about the Safe Seed Pledge last week in my column, I meant to say that the pledge means seed companies do not knowingly sell GMO seeds. My apologies.

Pat Munts has gardened in the Spokane Valley for over 35 years. She is co-author of “Northwest Gardener’s Handbook” with Susan Mulvihill. She can be reached at pat@inlandnwgardening.com.


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