The sun rays calmed our shivers from the crisp wintery winds. Now we can even see what Chicago’s landscape looked like before the 20 inches of snow.
There is nothing like glimpses of Spring to make you start thinking about green. Thinking about seeds, vegetables, and the whole gardening experience that is. As you may have read in a previous post, my partner Franziska gave you a preview of the upcoming Hull-House Seed Library. The introduction of this Seed Library in Chicago will bring topics of heirloom seeds, the issues of food access and sustainability.
In order to start the conversation on these topics, we need some background in the area of heirloom seeds and sustainability. Heirloom seeds are like family heirlooms, and have been passed down from generation to generation, acquiring inherited traits in the process. These seeds are planted, picked, seed saved, stored and then the process is restarted. The whole idea behind planting heirloom varieties is that it offers genetic variation and a sense of sustainability. Monocultures (single strain crops grown over a wide area) are bred to resist certain common diseases. If a disease were to strike that the crop was susceptible to, the entire crop would be wiped out. That means if we only had one type of soybean and a new type of disease strikes it, we would have no more soybeans. So while it may seem reasonable to mass produce crops, we are essentially eliminating genetic variation that protects mass eliminations of plants and edging our way into unsustainable agriculture.
Now what is sustainability? Wikipedia says, “… sustainability is the potential for long-term maintenance of well being, which has environmental, economic, and social dimensions.” Jane Addams actively supported the food and nutrition security of the diverse communities in Chicago. She did not farm, but she advocated nutrition and offered classes and programs that catered to food justice. The Seed Library will provide free and regionally adapted seeds to any seed library card holder. This opportunity allows people to grow their own heirloom varieties in a community plot, in a private garden or in their own home. When people grow their own food, they are able to secure and create a sustainable food system.
As we impatiently wait for spring to arrive, we are also preparing for the launch of the Seed Library. Let’s hope it arrives soon with a great planting season. More updates on the launch will be coming your way soon!