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One Seed at a Time
"One Seed At A Time is seeking out and collecting samples of the heirloom varieties that are currently being raised and banked by farmers and gardeners in Florida, Georgia, South Carolina, North Carolina, Mississippi, Alabama, Louisiana, Kentucky, Texas, and Tennessee, and banking these seeds both here in the Southeast and also at the Seed Savers Exchange in Decorah, Iowa. They'll also be regularly growing out all of the collected varieties at least every five years to ensure their viability today and for generations to come.
One Seed At A Time will also be combating the patenting of our heritage seeds by huge corporations. As you read this, the largest seed companies in the world are busy patenting all of the open-pollinated varieties of vegetables, flowers, and grains that they can. The major seed companies of the world have already patented thousands of open-pollinated varieties. As of now, the only way to keep a public variety from being patented by the largest seed dealers in the world is to document it and preserve a sample, as the One Seed At A Time project will do.
Seed saving organizations and foundations from around the country have indicated they are interested in supporting this project, but for it to succeed, we also need support from folks like you.
You don't have to be a farmer to have a back-yard garden or become involved in a community garden where you can grow some wonderful and bonuntiful heirloom varieties of vegetables or grains. You can even become a heritage seed-saver! If you are a farmer, you can raise a breed of rare livestock or poultry. Rare Breeds Canada (Joywind Farm Rare Breeds Conservancy) has a number of projects in which you can get involved, including a Heritage Hatchery Network and a Satellite Breeding Network. If you are an urban dweller you can adopt-an-animal through the Rare Care Program to help pay for the upkeep of particularly rare farm animals. To see some rare and heritage varieties of animals and plants, visit a demonstration farm. There are a number located across Canada. Contact Heritage Seed Programme, RR #3, Uxbridge, Ontario L9P 1R3 and/or Rare Breeds Canada.
Let your backyard go wild! If you have a backyard, it's easy to support biodiversity by supplying the three staples for all life: water, food, and shelter. Provide a bird bath that will attract not only birds but pollinating insects and even chipmunks. Or, if you have the space, create a pond that will atrract an even wilder variety of species incluing frogs, toads, salemanders, and a host of birds. Supply wild food by planting perennials such as fruit and nut trees, nectar producing flowers and berry bushes. The trees and bushes also provide natural shelter. But remember, insecticides and herbicides are out! They kill the "good" with the "bad". The spring 1995 issue of Canadian Nature Federation's Nature Canada is devoted to Biodiversity in Your Backyard.
Preserving heirloom seeds gives people a sense of history and cultural heritage. By growing heirloom plants and saving the seeds, we can all participate in saving many varieties from extinction and preserving plants with special genetic traits. In becoming a seed saver of heirlooms, we can pass on the rich history with which many plants are endowed. If you can learn the origins of your seeds, pass this heritage on to your family members and share these seeds with other growers of heirlooms. In this way it is possible to save special varieties not commonly grown.
Today, many of us are concerned about the widespread practice of genetic engineering and the unknown consequences of genetically modified foods. Taking up heirloom gardening reassures us that we can enjoy vegetables and fruits that are pure, natural, unchanged, and in complete harmony with nature.
Heirloom seeds have special features that distinguish them from hybrid seeds:
* The variety of seed should be able to reproduce itself. For example, one variety of tomato that has been saved for generation after generation of plantings will produce that same variety of tomato.
* Antique seeds are always self-pollinated or open-pollinated and will produce plants with the same traits planting after planting, generation after generation. Hybrid seeds will not be able to reproduce plants with exactly the same traits.
* The variety of seed must have been introduced at least 50 years ago, though some heirloom gardeners say they must be at least 100 years old. In recent years, however, varieties with shorter histories are considered heirloom because of their uniqueness.
* The particular cultivar, or variety, must have a special history. Perhaps one can trace the plant's origins to a particular region of the country. Or, perhaps seeds have been saved by farming families who can recall that their great grandparents brought them from Europe.
Today there is a growing interest in preserving heirloom varieties of fruits and vegetables along with their histories. Among the groups that have made special efforts to collect and save heirloom seeds are the Amish, the Mennonites, and Native Americans. There are seed companies devoted exclusively to saving and selling heirloom seeds and plants. Many universities are developing ecology departments that take a special interest in the preservation of heirloom seeds.
Many of us don't have the time or opportunity to grow our own heirloom vegetables, but we can make an effort to support those who do. In recent years, there are many small farmers who grow heirloom tomatoes, beans, cucumbers, and eggplants and bring them to the shoppers who frequent farmers' markets.
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How You Can Help Make A Difference
The same dismal words greet us day after day, in headlines and on television. Acid rain. Ozone depletion. The Greenhouse Effect. Environmental degradation. Species extinction. They come together, like bad news often does.
Belatedly, we've realized that nature is not endlessly self-renewing and self-cleansing. Environmental problems escalate while we point accusing fingers.
We've caused these serious environmental problems. As comfort-loving, consumer-oriented members of an industrial society, none of us can deny responsibility for the state of the environment. We have but to examine the environmental consequences of our daily routine to realize our individual roles in nature's disarray. By the same token, however, the saving of the environment rests on our individual daily actions, consciences and commitment. Your actions can make a difference.
There are a host of things you can do in and around your home to reduce pressures on the environment.
The average Canadian household produces 20-40 litres of toxic waste each year. Environmental groups, municipalities and provincial governments have realized that households make up the largest single class of hazardous waste generators in Canada.
Hazardous waste is created through the use and disposal of household hazardous products, which number in the thousands. Household cleaners, shoe polishes, paints, solvents, batteries, anti-freeze and insecticides are but a few of the culprits. These end up thrown down the drain, dumped in landfills or burned in incinerators, and contaminate our ground and surface waters. This waste stream includes chemicals that are known to cause cancer.
* Substitute non-hazardous or less hazardous products for the ones
you now use. For example, substitute a mix of vinegar, salt and
water for window cleaner. For other alternatives, write to Pollution
Probe, 12 Madison Ave., Toronto, Ontario, M5R 2S1.
Recycle Your Garbage
The average Canadian household produces one tonne of garbage a
year. Garbage doesn't disappear, and it's expensive to get rid of
$1.5 billion is spent each year in Canada on garbage disposal.
* recycle newspapers, magazines, paper, glass, bottles, cans, and
What about the Ozone Layer?
About 90 per cent of the earth's ozone is found naturally in a layer 15 to 35 kilometers above the earth's surface in the stratosphere. This ozone layer protects life from the sun's deadly ultraviolet rays by absorbing the rays which cause skin cancer, cataracts and damage to the immune system. These rays can do extensive damage to plant life as well.
Normally, ozone molecules are broken down by the ultraviolet light
they absorb. This light can also break apart oxygen molecules into
highly reactive oxygen atoms. These atoms can then attach themselves
to oxygen molecules to produce ozone. As a result, stratospheric
ozone levels are kept constant.
CFCs can stay in the atmosphere for 75 to 130 years. After 7 to
10 years, these chemicals rise up to the stratosphere, where their
chlorine atoms are liberated by ultraviolet light, leading to ozone
* Avoid foam egg cartons, coffee cups and food packaging.
Conserving energy around your home will save money and the life of our nonrenewable resources.
* Save water - the average Canadian uses an average of 285 liters
of water per day. Repairing leaking faucets - a dripping tap wastes
30-100 litres a day.
For more information and free publications on making your house energy efficient, call the HEATLINE, a toll-free energy advisory service at 1-800-267-9563 (995-1810 in Ottawa-Hull).
In the Garden
Over 600 chemicals are applied to Canadian food, forests, homes, lawns, parks and lakes in a war against unwanted plants and animals. These chemicals disrupt the ecological chain. In addition, pesticides have shown up in human tissues, in mother's milk, in fish and in open water.
* Try to avoid using pesticides, or use biological or non-toxic
methods of pest control. For free information on safe ways to control
pests write to: The Environmental Protection Service, Environment
Canada, Twin Atria #2, 2nd Floor, 4999 - 98 Ave., Edmonton, Alberta,
There Are Other Ways Too
Finally, you can reduce air pollution and fuel consumption by walking, bicycling, and using public transit or car pools. Car exhaust accounts for 30% of air pollution in our cities. If you do use a car, get it tuned up, it will burn up to 15% less fuel.
Your concern for the environment can be expressed in several ways. Start changing your lifestyle today - the savings will truly be yours.
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