Long term visions shape shot term actions – most of our decision making happens this way. Likewise the seeds we chose to grow in our garden, can define how much of a sustainable path we take. We generally have hybrid and open pollinated seeds (Heirloom are open pollinated) to choose from.
We generally get hybridized seeds in local markets, i.e. they have been cross-pollinated by human intervention. While this allows us to recharacterize the seeds to ensure more yield and less pests for the year, buying these seeds becomes a recurring cost – both financially and ecologically. Our carbon footprint increases every time we need to purchase something that is already created by using more energy than the natural cycle needs and provides. Hybrid seeds also lose their ability to propagate with every planting cycle, which is why we must run back to the market every time we want to repeat a crop. Most of these seeds also come coated with chemicals that protect them from getting eaten by creatures in your garden. So, imagine the ecological cost there, not so in line with our long-term goal.
Open pollinated seeds on the other hand, are pollinated by natural elements like bees, butterflies, and the wind, through their natural cycles. They may not promise the unusually high yield a hybrid seed does in the first year, but it does ensure a consistent and balanced yield forever. Using open pollinated seeds always goes hand in hand with creating an integrated natural system in your garden for pest management, soil remediation, biodiversification, and the practice of saving seeds. Heirloom seeds sold today are generations of open pollination and seed saving work that seed breeders and farmers used to do. The market for these is slowly being discovered and built, and it is not as hard as we might think, to secure our source for a lifetime. Open pollination does need to occur within the same variety within the same specie itself, otherwise the reproduced seed will not be true to its type. So, it is best to plant one variety of let’s say a tomato in one season.
Notice that all these efforts fit our long-term vision of the more sustainable future, and seed sovereignty is one parallel pathway there, our short-term action. Explore and choose heirloom or open pollinated seeds and see for yourself!