Spring is Here!  We are so excited here at theYardstead, to be preparing our Spring garden.  The garden is tilled and has two fine patches of green already.  One of the green patches is garlic and the other is onions, both of which were planted in the late fall for harvest this summer.  We start most of our veggies from seed and sometimes supplement with plants from our local feed store.  We have a box of seeds which has accumulated seed packets over the last several seasons, some of which we will plant this year.  Kathleen, who is in charge of garden planning, will be ordering the rest from seed companies.

In the past we ordered a lot of seeds from Johnny's Seeds and Burpee, but this year we decided to go with all heirloom seeds.  Heirloom seeds are.....

.....from plant varieties that have been around for at least the last 100 years or so and have not undergone any genetic manipulation.  Before the  industrialization of agriculture, plants were generally cultivated through open pollenation.  But as agriculture became more industrialized,  varieties of vegetables were selected which worked best for mechanized harvesting, were the most productive, and offered the most return on the farmers investment.  And all along way these varieties were fine tuned by selective plant breeding, and more recently genetic modification.  The result in modern agricutlture is the large scale production of monocultural plots of a few varieties of vegetables.  

Man has always selected seeds for replanting from the best plants for their particular situation.  Perhaps the tastiest, the plants which were most resistant to insects or disease, or the plants which produced the largest fruit.  Whatever the situation the selection of these plants led to "domesticated" varieties of plants we know today.  These selected seeds were handed down from one generation to the next (hence the term "Heirloom") in villages and communities all over the world.  Of all these domesticated varieties, only a few were found to be suitable for large scale industrial agriculture, and the rest have been slowly slipping into obscurity.  However, the recent introduction of genetically modified plants along with the associated health and environmental concerns, have helped spur new interest in heirloom seeds over the last decade.

The reason we decided to stop using  Burbee, is because they are associated with Monsanto.  Monsanto has been quietly buying up seed companies for years.  Many people believe Monsanto's reason for buying these seed companies is to take ownership of the seed patents these companies own.  Monsanto holds several patents on their own GM varieties and with the aquisition of these seed companies now hold many more.  Many people believe the ultimate goal of Monsanto is to eventually own the rights to ALL food production.  Regardless of Monsanto's plans, we felt like we were missing out on the vast variety of vegetables and fruits by choosing the more commonly cultivated varieties.  We are very excited this Spring to be planting some new heirloom varieties and we will be sharing our results in upcoming articles and in the picture gallery. 

I planned to include a list of seed companies owned by Monsanto and compaines with ties to Monsanto, but this article ran a little longer than I expected.  I will publish another article soon with the list and also details on the companies we are using this season.  Feel free to comment on this or any of our articles and as always you are invited to join our discussions in the forum.