BACKGROUND: Throughout history, humans have conspired with nature to develop a staggering array of crop plants. Their diversity is the cornerstone of all farming. Yet the past century has seen a dramatic loss of these precious resources. Traditional crop varieties are now at greater risk of extinction than ever before.
While a few popular heirlooms gain celebrity, thousands of others disappear as the seed-savers who maintain them retire or pass away. As we move into an uncertain future — with a changing climate, dwindling farmers, and rising population — the loss of crop biodiversity will be ever more painfully felt.
Today there is a growing seed-saving movement, with seed libraries and seed swaps increasingly common. Yet these seldom reach into the isolated communities where the greatest diversity of endangered seeds are still found. It follows that many young people interested in seed-saving only have access to the relatively few well-known heirlooms available coast to coast. Grassroots Seed Network exists to close that gap.
A SEED STORY: In the small town of New Hanover, a Pennsylvania Dutch woman by the name of Katie Hoffman Slonaker (1903-1983) long grew a delectable little ground cherry (Physalis pruinosa). Many decades ago, her grandson Jonas Slonaker passed a few of her seeds to Dr. William Woys Weaver, founder of the Roughwood Seed Collection, who declared the ‘New Hanover’ variety the best tasting of them all. Dr. Weaver passed some seeds to Nate Kleinman, who came to cherish them as well. In early 2018, Nate managed to track down Jonas — all the way in Laramie, Wyoming — and on a cross-country road-trip paid him a visit and returned some of his grandmother’s long-lost seeds! It was a profoundly special moment.
The ‘New Hanover’ ground cherry only survived because it was stewarded by dedicated people who also knew the critical importance of passing seeds from hand to hand. There are countless stories just like this one, but no doubt even more untold stories of seeds that have been lost — and with them the resilience, flavors, and heritage of all that came before.
WHAT IS GRASSROOTS SEED NETWORK? We are a democratically-run non-profit organization. Anyone can become a member by listing seed varieties on our website, either for sale or for free. Members vote to elect our Board and approve any changes to our bylaws. Our primary work is to facilitate the trading of seeds and to help pass knowledge and seeds from one generation to the next. The GSN website is our main tool for this work.
WHO ARE WE? GSN is managed by a Board of Directors composed of experienced seed stewards from across the United States: Irena Hallowell (Virginia), Will Bonsall (Maine), Jamie Chevalier (California), Randel Agrella (Maine), Nate Kleinman (New Jersey), Ama Hannan (Vermont), and Chris Hardy (Oregon).
SUPPORT GSN TODAY! Since our founding in 2014, GSN has been funded solely through membership dues. But genetic diveristy is being lost at such a rate that we need to move more quickly and widen our reach. In order to be more inclusive — especially of seed-savers from marginalized and oppressed communities — we have decided to prioritize expanding our membership by making participation free of charge. We know this is a risk, but we trust that our friends and supporters will have our backs.
Whether or not you garden or farm, you can help grow a more abundant future with your contribution. Saving precious crop varieties is an issue that affects us all.
WHAT YOUR DONATION WILL FUND:
- Providing small grants to support GSN members who maintain large & unique collections, reinforcing their efforts to help keep regional & family heirlooms alive.
- Bolstering efforts to reach and welcome into GSN more people of color, and elderly, impoverished, differently-abled or immigrant seed-savers.
- Printing promotional materials and covering travel costs of GSN members to represent the organization at conferences or other events.
- Offering compensation for administrative and other tasks above and beyond what can be expected of volunteers.
- Maintaining and improving our website.
Thank you for your support!