Across the West, as we move into the hot days of summer, our memory of rain fades as the soil becomes dry and dusty. Snowcaps retreat on mountain peaks and waterfalls swell as they crash against sheer granite cliffs, briefly full of snowmelt. Our lower-elevation spring gardens, bursting with flowers, now feel heat bristling their leaves. Summer is on the horizon, and with it a time for collecting early seeds.
It’s a lesson in the old ways, gathering seeds throughout the season and keeping them moist so they can nourish us anew. The small hands of my preschooler push into the dirt, digging holes for the peas we’ve collected, learning to cover them with nutrients and water. I teach him about how to plant sister crops and how to grow food and healthy soil in cycles that promote native plants, clean water and undisturbed wildlife.
He learns that the cleanup crew of vultures keeps us safe from diseases, the night crew of owls and possums manages the ticks and mice, and gopher snakes (and coyotes and badgers) are the best and most humane solution to competing with gophers in the garden. When we think about our wild companions as relatives, along with the seeds and trees — and understand food as relationships — it grounds us in nature and helps us protect wild and farmed spaces.
There’s nothing quite like sitting down to a meal from your own garden, or from a neighbor’s or friend’s. Avocados and cucumbers, cherry tomatoes and apples grown with your own hands — free from chemical pesticides — taste better than anything found in a store. Even if it’s taken years for a tree to bear fruit, or the first season of a cucumber leaves a little to be desired, part of this gathering, replenishing, tending and nourishing is the cycle of time spent together.
My son and I practice collecting the seeds of the native wildflowers in the garden, and I teach him to wait for the right poppy pod that’s just about to burst open and disperse into the wind. We carry the seeds inside and shake dried lavender over the earth, spreading that soothing fragrance and the promise of more bundles to give as gifts.
Unfortunately, in the wide world beyond our backyard, more than 94% of seeds and seed varieties have been lost. Agrichemical companies like Bayer, Monsanto and Syngenta alone own two-thirds of global seeds, destroying thousands of years of traditions and food diversity and putting us all at risk.
That’s why the work of traditional seed savers is so important. It's why we need advocates for food systems free from pesticides — systems that protect marginalized communities from toxic food production. It’s why we need to listen to Indigenous knowledge and preserve space for wildlife in harmony with ecological practices.
On that note, the Center’s “Decolonizing Regenerative Agriculture to Build a Just Food System” webinar has been postponed for the summer. But you can watch past webinars in our "Grazing the Wild" series about food and ecology.
And finally, this month marks the one-year anniversary of Food X. Please celebrate with us by forwarding this issue to someone who'll enjoy it and sharing the signup page on social media.
Write to me with your questions at EarthFriendlyDiet@BiologicalDiversity.org.
For the wild,
Jennifer Molidor, Senior Food Campaigner
Population and Sustainability Program
Center for Biological Diversity