National and Local Seed Networks Are Growing

By Amy Cotler

Seed saving is a centuries old art that is a critical necessity today. International Seeds Saver’s Day is April 26. And this spring, activities in San Miguel are bringing Seed Saving to the front burner, including a Mexican national assembly and the ongoing work of the local seed library, Somos Semilla.

The majority of the world’s farmers are seed savers, who do not buy seed. Just a few generations ago, everyone knew how to harvest seeds adapted to their local climate to plant the following year. Today, access to indigenous, uncontaminated, and biodiverse seeds is endangered by agri-business, mono-cropping, GMO contamination, and urbanization. As a result, the preservation and sharing of seeds—seed saving— has become an international movement. This is particularly relevant to Mexico, which is the original epicenter of seeds that are a vital part of our daily diet, such as those for corn, beans, squash, and tomatoes.

San Miguel is on the cutting edge of a relatively new movement to preserve these national treasures, our seeds. On March 18 and 19, Via Organica hosted the first national Mexican assembly of seed guardians. Seed savers, farmers, garden educators, and activists came from 18 states to learn about each other’s initiatives and create a national plan. Via Organica invited local coordinators of Somos Semilla to coordinate logistics and programming. The event grew out of an international gathering of the Red Semilla Libres de America in Xochimilco last fall. Mexican participants were inspired by the other national movements and decided to meet this year to initiate a Mexican movement.

At the Seed Savers Assembly in San Miguel at Via Organica’s ranch, the 150 participants created an initial mapping of Mexican seed saving organizations, producers, and seeds catalogs. State delegations created individual work plans, including plans for developing the minimum protocols for seed saving. Updates on GMO contamination and legislation were given by Doctor Elena Álvarez-Bullya of UNAM, the National Autonomous University of Mexico, and Adelia San Vincente from Semillas de Vida. Participants showcased their own seed varieties in a seed exchange to close the meeting. The two-day event was held in conjunction with Via Organica’s Fifth Seed Festival, which took place at the Charco del Ingenio for the first time this year.

What’s Next in San Miguel?

In support of this national movement, the San Miguel seed library, Somos Semillas, is working on a local catalog of local participants. The library is a collection of seed donations from organic commercial growers, gardeners, and other donors. It’s a free lending library where people who borrow seeds then grow and return their seed harvest back to the library. The project plans an expanded series of market and community pop-up libraries to expand the population and skills of local seeds savers and their supporters. This spring’s last pop-up in the Mercado Sano served more than 50 users, the majority Mexican nationals.

Somos Semilla is actively looking for volunteers to grow seeds, help organize their library, and expand fundraising initiatives. Everyone is welcome, including gardeners, the Mexican and expat community volunteers, farmers, universities, kindred organizations, and more. There will be a regional initiative in the fall to follow up.

For information, contact Somos Semilla co-directors, Sole Salvarez (mssalvarez.ss@gmail.com) or Jennifer Ungemach (jungemach@gmail.com).

 

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