Thursday, January 28, 2010

Survival Seeds

survival seeds
Last week, Hometown Seeds offered to send me a "Survival Seeds" kit, which contains 16 varieties of open-pollinated vegetables. My initial reaction to this was - "Do I really need more seeds this year?" But as I read and thought more about it, I began to realize that unlike the other seeds I've purchased and intend to grow this year, this kit serves a different purpose.

I am a 32 year old husband and father - old enough to remember the Cold War tensions between Russia and the United States prior to 1990, and young enough (or should I say jaded enough) to be ultra-cynical about what happens on Capital Hill today. I wouldn't consider myself to be a food activist (well, maybe a passive one), but I will admit that all of the headlines of this past decade surrounding terminator genes, genetic engineering, decreasing bio-diversity and patenting life have made me a bit nervous about the security of our world's food supply. It seems that whenever human beings choose to limit the bio-diversity of our crops and animals, the more we put ourselves and our food at risk. It happened to the Irish and their potatoes; will it also happen to Monsanto's Round Up Ready soy beans?

When my survival kit arrived today, the first thing I noticed was how tightly sealed and heavy it was- like my own personal ark of veggies. It's somewhat comforting to know that these seeds will last for up to 10 years if kept frozen. Now all that's left to do is to make sure that I preserve enough of this year's harvest to stock our large pantry in case of a real emergency and learn the art of seed saving.

So what do you think? Are we really at risk for a sudden and widespread food catastrophe? Or is all of this talk about "Franken-foods" blown way out of proportion? I can't help but to think about all of those people who built nuclear bomb shelters underneath their homes during the Cold War. Were these people crazy, or just plain realistic?

Footnote: Please check out a couple of very interesting posts written today by Daphne (Daphne's Dandelions) and Kelly (How My Garden Grows) on issues related to this very subject.


  1. I lean on the side of "realistic". This is the reason I am learning to garden...and to preserve...and to save seeds...and grow Heirloom only. It's the reason I'm learning about home remedies. It's the reason I got a few chickens. I believe that we are getting further and further away from our husband just recently sent me a link about Codex Alimentarious that I found very interesting...and enlightening. It's worth the 40 minutes...see what you think. You might find that you are really glad for this Survival Pack after hearing about this. Let me know what you think...even if what you think is that I have completely fallen off my rocker!

  2. I’m not all that concerned about food issues. I guess it’s because that I live in part of a world where people have not lost that contact with food growing. All of my neighbors (in the village where I have my garden, not in the city where I live) raise animals for food (pigs, poultry...) they all have veggie gardens, have a cow or a goat for milk... They buy very few food items. So, I’m sure that all of them already have their own “survival kit” of some kind.

  3. I grew up in a family prepared to flee on a moment's notice. Growing up, we all had passports and one bag packed in case we had to flee in the middle of the night.

    Old habits die hard, I suppose. I'm not so worried about my food supply...yet, and whereas I don't have the bag packed anymore, we all have current passports.

  4. As in many aspects of my life, I keep some insurance in place for potentially bad things that may happen. I keep traditional insurance to protect against material loss and liability protection. I keep a good emergency reserve of readily available cash to cover financial challenges or job loss - so my mortgage and basics are covered for a reasonable period of time. And as it relates to food, I keep a very well stocked pantry of basics and I have a seed reserve I created myself - so that if my life should turn upside down, I can eat and I can garden for at least one (probably two) more seasons without having to acquire seeds externally. It's not doomsday stuff - it's just being real that bad stuff happens in many forms, and often. I need to eat, have shelter, keep the tax man at bay, and survive through such times until normalcy reestablishes itself - or I can adjust to the new "normal".

  5. Interesting that you mentioned the Irish potato famine...I should research this and do an article because I have read that the Irish had many potato varieties, in fact they had some that resisted the blight . This is interesting because there is this widespread notion that they were doomed due to monoculture, and M. Pollen has definately hyped that theory. I must investigate!!

    Bomb shelters? I would say a little bit of realism and insanity. Frankenfood? I don't want to eat it but I don't know all that much about it though I have ordered a DVD on the subject from Netflix which should be interesting.

    I worry more about the pest resistance that this gene altered food is producing, the crops and chemicals are likely to create pests that we will never be able to kill. That is what truly worries me about Monsanto.

  6. Nice to know I'm not alone! My job in the Navy in the 80's & early 90's was to track foreign (read Soviet!) submarines and was privvy to all kinds of knowledge that normal citizens would be shocked by. Bomb shelters, securing food and water, arming yourself... hey some might think it's crazy but it can happen, and from the state of the world affairs, will. Not sayin' people need to go overboard, but the most successful of us will be the ones who go about their preparation not with a doomsday attitude, but quietly and with common sense. I am looking forward to getting their package in the mail as well, should be here today!

  7. I like to err on the side of caution. You never know what will happen in the world and being able to grow my own and care for myself is much better than being dependant on the government or big business for my survival. For that reason, my garden gets bigger each year, I learn to save more seeds each year and I expand my knowledge of cooking and preservation. Better to be prepared for nothing, than to get caught with your proverbial pants down.

  8. Thanks everyone for your insightful comments.

    Michelle - I saw the video. Very enlightening. I also find it interesting the Slow Food USA is against codex as well.

    vrtlarica - I wish more of us, including myself lived in an area with a healthy local food culture. I mean, I can't even find raw milk anywhere near where I live!!!

    Ribbit - That's really interesting. Have you ever asked your parent why they did that?

    kitsapFG - I completely agree with you. When you look at it form that point of you, it sounds much more practical and less alarmist or radical. At the end of the day, it's really about how you look at it from you own personal perspective.

    Kelly - I think you're right. But I do think that the Irish still lacked the amount of bio-diversity that was found in other parts of the vast array of cultivated and wild potatoes found in say Chili. I wonder how close last year would have resembled the Irish famine if tomatoes and potatoes were our staple crops and access to other foods were vastly limited to the working class like it was back then.

    Erin - I'm sure that there's a lot that we as American's aren't aware of. I can understand the need to prevent widespread panic (we have he media for that) but it also makes us complacent.

    The Mom - self sufficiency has definitely become a lost art today. I sit in my office and walk the streets of the financial district everyday wondering how many of these people would be able unaided by all of our modern "conveniences".

  9. Thomas, it was WWII and the Holocaust. My grandparents on both sides went into hiding and only escaped because they were prepared. One of my grandfathers was saved by my grandmother whistling to her from the bushes. The SS were in the house at the moment he came home from work. They survived. The majority of their relatives did not.

    We were always taught to respect the 'family whistle." You never failed to turn up immediately when you were whistled for and you never doubted once that everything you held as serene and stable could be ripped from you in a moment's time.

    Sorry to wax on like that.

    Hmmm...maybe I do need to get into this survival seed thing.

  10. Thanks for sharing your family's history Ribbit.

    To add a personal note to my post, my own family went through periods of major famine after the Vietnam War, which in part affected my dad's decision for us to escape the country. I was too young to remember all of this, but I'm sure that had something to do with why my dad was always so insistent that we not waste food. I guess if we weren't so insulated in this country, we would be much more compassionate about the food shortages that regulatory affect other parts of the world.

  11. Thomas....I have never heard of this....but I love stock piling...maybe I need to stash away some never know....

    have a great weekend, my friend


  12. This is very thought provoking. I think people should do whatever helps put their mind at ease. I tend to worry a lot about “what if” scenarios. When I find myself dwelling on them, I have no choice but to develop a plan in case it happens and make preparations for the worst. Then my mind is at ease.

    Unfortunately, ignorance is bliss. If you don’t know anything about the issue, you can’t make your own decisions about it. I thought nothing about purchasing bagged spinach in the supermarket until reports of people getting sick. The more I learn about modified foods, the more I realize that they are ingrained in our food system in ways we can’t always see. I believe if more people understood the dangers of these, they would choose their foods more carefully.

    As a gardener, I feel the survival package from Homegrown Seeds is a wonderful idea.

  13. My family was one who prepared a bomb shelter during the height of the cold war, and I know many others who did the same. We even had emergency bomb drills in grade school. They were scary times.

    These days I'm more concerned about being prepared to survive natural events like earthquakes and storms, which are pretty much a certainty.

    I have no idea if the world is in for a food catastrophe or not. I like to think that growing most of our own fruits and veggies and keeping a well-stocked pantry of staples makes us more prepared than some.

    Interesting topic, Thomas!

  14. I received one of these packs too, I keep thinking I should do a post on it. So far I have only added the link they requested.

    Interesting subject none the less. With the current economic problems I think high inflation is a much more realistic issue at the moment. A lot of different foods are grown in Norther American so a food catastrophe would be pretty unlikely. Now if there was a disruption in any of the energy sources then we would be in trouble.

  15. I think it's best to make your own survival seed storage and to practice saving seed. If you don't read about how to save seed, forage, etc what good are the survival packages? Not only that but the idea of certain vegetable cultivars being more suited to your soil, pest, etc. But you lucky guy! Getting all these FREE seeds! Jealous :)

  16. Hi Thomas, I'm catching up on some of your blog posts, and this one really struck home. Very good post, along with some great comments. My feeling is that global climate change is the big bugaboo, and just one reason why I garden and save seeds. I do feel that an international food crisis is inevitable because of climate change and crop failures due to unseasonable heat or cold or storms. My little garden is a small way to give myself comfort in these trying times.

  17. Very interesting idea, I have never thought about this possibility to survive a future disaster