Frequently Asked Questions
Are Your Seeds non-GMO? – Yes.
GMO refers to Genetically Modified Organism, which is a new life form created through transgenic techniques, wherein a gene (or genes) are transferred from one organism to another. Notably strange examples are a flounder fish gene being inserted into a tomato, or spider genes into a goat. These “crosses” could never occur outside of a laboratory under natural circumstances. Further still, transgenic/GMO technology is not open-source or public domain and is virtually always considered intellectual property and protected by utility patents. We feel that this technology is being used in a way that is immoral and undermines food sovereignty. If you look at which crops were chosen to create genetically engineered variants, the biotech giants started with the annual crops that were planted over the largest acreage globally: soybeans, corn, cotton, canola, sugar beets, then alfalfa. When viewed from this perspective, their seemingly altruistic claims to feed the world are revealed as the wolf in sheep’s clothing that they are; not merely control of the global food supply, but further, to make the bulk of farmers beholden to their seeds and associated agricultural chemicals. As highlighted by UC Berkeley Professor, Miguel Altieri, most GMO crops are not actually used directly for human consumption as much of the corn and soy is used for the production of biofuels and ethanol, for feedlot beef production or in the case of cotton, it is not food. The private ownership of our genetic commons transgresses natural laws and is undermining our shared planetary wealth.
And as of the Fall of 2015 the entire Rogue River valley is free of GMO cultivation as a result of successful citizen driven initiatives wherein people voted overwhelmingly to ban the cultivation of GMOs!
What Does Open Pollinated (O.P.) Mean?
Since the 1950s, there has been a rampant proliferation of proprietary hybrid F1 varieties in commercial agriculture. Simultaneous with this has been an increasing neglect of traditional farmer bred, open pollinated and heirloom strains. Open pollinated basically means that if you harvest seed from a plant in your garden or farm, (assuming that it wasn’t grown too near another variety of the same species), and plant them the next season, that they will breed true and resemble their parents. This cannot reliably be done with F1 hybrids that are the offspring from an intentional cross between two inbred lines. Hybridization occurs in nature all the time and is a very important method for species evolution and adaptation to new environmental stresses. Hybridization confers increased vigor in some species, especially those that require wind or insect pollination. This increased vigor is known as heterosis. Only some species actually benefit from hybridization (corn, broccoli, carrots are a few examples), while in others (particularly self-pollinated crops) it confers no benefits (such as lettuce, peas, and beans).
The problem with commercial F1 hybrids is that it is primarily done for proprietary reasons to control a genetic resource and engender loyalty to seed companies, because of the commonly held notion that you cannot save seed from them. While seeds from an F1 parent plant can be grown, their progeny will eventually revert back to various combinations of the parent lines, a process known as genetic drift. Genetic disintegration usually occurs in the third to fifth generations (F3 to F5) and deleterious traits emerge. In many parts of the world farmers will routinely save seed from F1’s and plant the resulting F2, which still possesses most of the desirable characteristics of the original F1. This saves money by not having to buy seed that season. Rather than saving seed again, they recognize the above phenomenon and go back to the seed company and obtain new F1 hybrid seed.
The true value in open pollinated seeds is the opportunity to reliably reproduce your own vegetable varieties. Before 1951, nearly all seed grown was open pollinated. This is usually chosen as the cutoff line for varieties to be deemed “heirloom”. With our seeds you can save your own seed and what you see is what you get, as long as you have observed maintaining the proper isolation distances for the cross-pollinated species.
Do you grow all of the seeds that you sell?
No, but we do grow about half of the varieties. Although we have tried to do so when we first began selling seeds retail in 2009, we quickly discovered that there was no way to guarantee the quality that we strive for when we are growing over 200 varieties at 3 different fields. Also, some crops such as carrots would cross with a wild relative (Queen Anne’s Lace) and produce highly inferior seed. We have learned through the school of hard knocks that we are not in a favorable climate to grow crops such as cauliflower, cabbage, broccoli, peas and spinach seed. Fortunately we can grow pretty much everything else here in the “banana belt” of southern Oregon. So we have evolved to a model in which we grow about 75-100 varieties at our home farm and at one leased field 2 miles downstream. The remainder we buy from other artisanal organic farmers listed in our seed growers.
What is the Open Source Seed Initiative?
(OSSI) is dedicated to maintaining fair and open access to plant genetic resources worldwide. Established in May 2012, by a group of public plant breeders, private plant breeders, farmers, and advocates for a sustainable food system. OSSI was formed in order to enhance vigorous innovation in plant breeding by the creation of a framework for germplasm exchange that preserves the right to unencumbered use of shared seeds and their progeny in subsequent breeding programs. We are happy to be both a seed company supporter and a breeder member. www.osseeds.org. Varieties listed with OSSI are identified by the OSSI logo.
I feel very proud to know so many other farmers who are selecting and breeding the heirlooms of tomorrow in their fields, watching how they perform (or don’t) despite bugs, disease, intense weather and stress. We organic farmers get to see how these varieties do in the real world where we don’t have the time and resources to baby them. Without getting into too much technical detail, these varieties are the result of farmers going the extra mile to only save seeds from the most superior varieties. Through buying, planting and eating these varieties you are directly supporting open source, public domain, open pollinated plant breeding. I see this as one of the most relevant responses to climate change that humanity has right now. To put simply, we are breeding for adaptation to variable environments
Are your seeds Certified Organic?
Mostly yes - We are currently re-evaluating our organic certification at our home farm, Seven Seeds Farm where we have been certified organic since 1997. Everything that we grow at our farm is grown organically and using biodynamic practices. We are currently in the process of switching organic certifiers and will hope to have our current certificate available upon request. All of the other growers from whom we obtain seed are certified organic.
Siskiyou refers to the East-West mountain chain that our farm is nestled in. This mountain chain is the headwaters to the mighty Rogue River to the north and the wild Klamath to the south. According to the World Wildlife Fund they have designated the greater Klamath Siskiyou bioregion as one of 25 critical eco-regions that must be preserved in order to safeguard planetary biodiversity. The Klamath Siskiyou region stretches from the Umpqua River south of Roseburg, OR to the California wine country in the south and from the Cascade volcanoes to the Pacific Ocean.
We love the healthy, wild ancient forests of the Siskiyous and firmly believe that they play a crucial role in generating clean water and refugia from industrial, monocrop agriculture.
Siskiyou Seeds is named after our mountain home to bring awareness to the imperiled nature of so many ecological gems on this planet. We fully acknowledge that intact watersheds are our lifeline to clean water and ecosystem balance. While fortunately some lands in the Klamath Siskiyous are protected as wilderness, most are not and these lands are home to endangered or threatened species such as Pacific Fischer, Wolverine, Gray Wolf, Siskiyou Salamander, Lynx, Northern Spotted Owl, Red Tree Voles, Marbled Murelets and others. This region also boasts the second highest plant biodiversity in North America and the highest diversity of conifers on the planet. If you would like to learn more and support this critical conservation and restoration work please check out their website: www.kswild.org