by C. Forrest McDowell, PhD

Not all seeds are "created" equal. Today, large numbers of varieties of seeds are genetically modified to resist pests or diseases or to stimulate growth. These seeds are found aplenty, and sold very cheaply, at various discount stores and garden centers. Please do not purchase any seeds that are not organic and/or open-pollinated, heirloom regional varieties.

Here's how to make a wiser decision: buy seeds from companies who are committed to the Safe Seed Pledge.

Safe Seeds — How to Find Them

You can find safe, organic seeds from numerous companies both on the Internet or regional growers (best option). Most organic seed suppliers have voluntarily complied with the Safe Seed Pledge.

The Safe Seed Pledge was created in 1999 by High Mowing Organic Seeds, guiding a coalition of 9 other seed companies as a statement about the signers' stance on genetic engineering as well as a resource for consumers wishing to find sources of GE-free seeds.  As of 2012, over 70 companies have signed the pledge, ranging from large seed companies to family-owned businesses such as High Mowing Organic Farm. 

By signing the Safe Seed Pledge a company affirms their commitment to non-GMO (genetically modified organism) seed. The regulatory framework for the introduction of genetically modified crop varieties is flawed, and that GMO seeds themselves present a threat to plants' genetic diversity through their ability to pollinate non-GMO plants.

The Safe Seed Pledge

"Agriculture and seeds provide the basis upon which our lives depend. We must protect this foundation as a safe and genetically stable source for future generations. For the benefit of all farmers, gardeners and consumers who want an alternative, we pledge that we do not knowingly buy or sell genetically engineered seeds or plants. The mechanical transfer of genetic material outside of natural reproductive methods and between genera, families or kingdoms poses great biological risks, as well as economic, political and cultural threats. We feel that genetically engineered varieties have been insufficiently tested prior to public release. More research and testing is necessary to further assess the potential risks of genetically engineered seeds. Further, we wish to support agricultural progress that leads to healthier soils, genetically diverse agricultural ecosystems and ultimately healthy people and communities."

High Mowing Organic Seeds

High Mowing Organic Seeds is located on a 40 acre farm in northern Vermont and has been offering 100% organic seed since 1996. High Mowing also has a collaborative blog called The Seed Hopper, where you can find everything from farming advice, info on companion planting, to recipes.

“At High Mowing Organic Seeds, we believe in re-imagining what our world can be like. We believe in a deeper understanding of how re-built food systems can support health on all levels – healthy environments, healthy economies, healthy communities and healthy bodies. We believe in a hopeful and inspired view of the future based on better stewardship for our planet. Everyday that we are in business, we are growing; working to provide an essential component in the re-building of our healthy food systems: the seeds.”

For a 1st person story of their visit to High Mowing Organic Seeds, go to Earth Mama 101 and catch the reverence of seed-growing in action.

Kaua`i, also known as the "Garden Island", imports 90% of all its food! Kuaians pay 3-4 times mainland counter prices for food that is harvested prematurely, travels 5,000 – 10, 000 miles, and is usually 10 days old by the time it hits the store shelf.  

The state of Hawaii has the highest rates of obesity, diabetes, and heart and kidney disease in the nation, with the Native Hawaiian population in particular, at high risk. 

Kekaha, “the place” in Hawaiian, is not a “place” one can obtain fresh, local, organic produce.  This 4th largest and western-most town does not have a grocery store, has a high rate of low-income Native Hawaiians, and is surrounded by giant GMO fields.

When we got a call from Diane Shoemaker, co-founder of the Kekaha Community Garden (read more HERE), we were excited to know about their work.

Using a small education budget, they ordered a couple dozen of our Grow Your Own Food books, but clearly needed more.

Sponsor Bob Friedman to the Rescue!

Our Project was immediately able to identify an individual Sponsor who purchased the remaining books they needed to educate their community.

Hearing about our Project, Bob chose to sponsor more garden books specifically for the Kekaha Community Garden. Why? Because he was a long-time resident of the island, cares about the food and nutritional issues, and wants to help people on his favorite island in the world! Thanks Bob!

To read more about the awesome organizations we work with that are helping low-income families and individuals empower themselves, visit our Praise & Progress page. 

If you are interested in helping these or other causes, visit The Garden Stewards Project’s Giving Store

Thank you for your support!

JUST IN CASE you weren’t aware what companies like MONSANTO are doing, this diagram shows how agribusiness is trying to limit the number of seed variations, and then they send their armies of lawyers to claim ownership of the surviving species, which they then genetically modify. There can be no food security if their tyrannical goals are realized. 

They are attempting to OWN the building blocks of nature, and dominate our very sustenance. They deserve not an ounce of our support, and please educate yourself as to their mission, motives, and products — and deny them your dollars! 

Check out our friends at OCCUPY MONSANTO: http://www.occupymonsanto360.org/ and help defend the human race against Monsanto’s efforts to monopolize control over our food sources.


Every Day is Earth Day!

Inspired by Earth Day and the myriad events around the globe honoring nature, our founder Tricia Clark-McDowell came up with the following list of ways each of us can remind ourselves of the importance a clean environment has on our lives, and ways we can each reconnect with nature, and even more importantly, protect her. In-joy:

1) Sit quietly somewhere out in nature for one hour or more just observing birds, insects, water, wind - whatever is around you. Breathe deeply, relax, and enjoy the beauty.

2) Write a eulogy for some aspect of nature, or a particular place that has been harmed in your area. What would it feel like to see it utterly destroyed? Now pledge to be part of the solution to restore it to health, and perhaps take one simple step this week.

3) Plant something during Earth Week - vegie seeds or starts, flowers to beautify your yard or neighborhood, plants for and elderly person who needs help. Find a way to keep them alive and thriving through this season.

4) Write a short poem or story about caring for the Earth in some way, and post it on Facebook or other social media.

5) Create or participate in some small group action (possibly with family members or a group of friends) to clean up an area near you that has been trashed - a vacant lot, section of beach, an alley, street, or neighborhood park, etc. Take before and after pictures and post them on Facebook.

6) Give a set of garden books to one or more friends - someone you know who wants to learn about gardening. Give them encouragement and perhaps a little help in getting started.

7) Read up on natural and organic fertilizers and safely dispose of any non-organic products that are sitting around. 

8) Plant a tree in a special place! Keep it watered during the first season, and watch it grow. Someday soon, it will return the favor with delicious fruit!

Thank you to Urbanhomestead.org for this piece of truth. We would like to suggest ONE addition: help someone else do the same. Each one, teach one. Pay it forward friends. For $5 you can help one family or individual change their lives. For $25 you can help 5! There is no better way to help, if you are so inclined, than to help them feed themselves, and join our peaceful movement against the powers that be. www.gardenstewardsproject.com 
We hope you have found some time to get out and enjoy the beautiful Spring weather, and we certainly won’t judge you for getting a bit more risky as you endeavor to beautify the world. Here is the basic concept of Guerrilla Gardening:  

"Civil disobedience with a twist: Vegetable patches and sunflower gardens planted on decrepit medians and in derelict lots in an effort to beautify inner-city eyesores or grow healthful food in neighborhoods with limited access to fresh food.”

"Let’s throw some bombs,” yells one woman over her shoulder to her 25 companions.  

“Cool!” They respond in unison. 

They’re throwing “seed bombs,” golf-ball-size lumps of mud packed with wildflower seeds, clay and a little bit of compost and water, which they just learned to make at a free seed-bombing workshop for Washington’s guerrilla gardeners.

We LOVE it! Read more about Guerrilla Gardening in this excellent Washington Post article HERE

We also recommend checking out http://guerrillagardening.org/

Enjoy your weekend everyone! 

Good morning gardeners! Today’s topic is FERTILIZER, the smelly but necessary element that acts like a multi-vitamin for your garden. Much ado has been made about the differences between organic and inorganic, and with the help of our book Home Composting Made Easy, the University of Maryland and Steve the Gardenguy, we’d like to delve a little bit into the composition of fertilizer and the advantages and disadvantages of each. 

Common Components of Organic Fertilizer

Bone meal—slow release fertilizer high in phosphorus and calcium

Bat guano—contains all three major macronutrients (proteins, fats & carbohydrates)

Poultry humus—waste products from the chicken industry contain all three macronutrients and are used locally in Maryland

Fish emulsion—high in nitrogen, phosphorus, and trace elements

Fish meal—traditionally used as fertilizer prior to advent of synthetic sources, provides high nitrogen and phosphorus

• Cotton seed meal—high in nitrogen

Seaweed (kelp) meal—high in micronutrients

Advantages of Organic Fertilizer

• Made from naturally occurring sources, therefore limited amounts of fossil fuels are used in production, potentially lowering the amount of greenhouse gas that is released into the atmosphere.

• Nutrients are released only when media is warm and moist, coinciding with times of greatest need in lawn care and agriculture (although this may not be an issue for greenhouse/ nursery plants, which are always kept under optimum growing conditions). The slow-release nature of most organic fertilizers may slightly decrease the runoff of nutrients into local water systems when compared to some quick-release synthetic sources that release nutrients regardless of media conditions. It is important to note that slow-release synthetic sources may offer similar benefits.

• In terms of the end product, such as the quality of plant produced by a commercial greenhouse, organic fertilizers can be quite competitive with traditional synthetic sources (see http://environmentalhorticulture.umd.edu for a detailed study comparing products of organic and inorganic fertilizers).

• When used over a long period of time during in-ground production, organic fertilizers may increase the quality of the soil, improving the soil structure, or tilth, increasing its ability to hold both water and nutrients, and increasing the efficiency of nutrient utilization, whereas inorganic fertilizers have three main disadvantages: 

  1. They are subject to leaching, which occurs when the fertilizers are washed by rain or irrigation water down below the level of the plant roots. Nitrogen is particularly susceptible to leaching. 
  2. Heavy application of chemical fertilizers can "burn" seedlings and young plants. This is actually a process of drying out, or desiccation, due to the presence of chemical salts within the commercial fertilizers. 
  3. Overly heavy applications can build up toxic concentrations of salts in the soil and create chemical imbalances.

Disadvantages of Organic Fertilizer

• Generally costs significantly more than synthetic fertilizer.

• Organic certification requires documentation and regular inspections.

• Organic fertilizers, despite the advantages discussed above, still release nutrients into their surroundings; these nutrients can find their way into local streams, rivers, and estuaries just as nutrients from synthetic sources do.

Motivations for using organic fertilizer vary from user to user—businesses may want to go organic in order to sell product, and members of the general public might be interested in organic fertilizer for home use because of environmental concerns. Whatever the motivation, and whatever the fertilizer source, proper fertilization procedures will save money and benefit the environment. Soil testing prior to fertilizer application identifies nutrient needs and prevents excess fertilizer from being applied. This prevents waste of money and excess runoff into local waterways. Fertilizer should be applied at the right time; for lawn use, fertilization in early fall is generally recommended. Finally, use common sense to prevent waste; do not fertilize if a heavy rain is forecast! 

Thanks to the Home Composting Made Easy, University of Maryland Extension Service, & Steve the Gardenguy.

We found some great information in this article by Jackie Pou of PBS.org. While it is best to only eat organic, we understand that sometimes it can be quite expensive. That is why we advocate GROWING YOUR OWN! But if you can’t, this is a must read guide for what conventional produce you should, and shouldn’t risk consuming: 

The Dirty Dozen and Clean 15 of ProduceBy Jackie Pou

A recent report issued by the President’s Cancer Panel recommends eating produce without pesticides to reduce your risk of getting cancer and other diseases. And according to the Environmental Working Group (an organization of scientists, researchers and policymakers), certain types of organic produce can reduce the amount of toxins you consume on a daily basis by as much as 80 percent.

The group put together two lists, “The Dirty Dozen” and “The Clean 15,” to help consumers know when they should buy organic and when it is unnecessary. These lists were compiled using data from the United States Department of Agriculture on the amount of pesticide residue found in non-organic fruits and vegetables after they had been washed.

The fruits and vegetables on “The Dirty Dozen” list, when conventionally grown, tested positive for at least 47 different chemicals, with some testing positive for as many as 67. For produce on the “dirty” list, you should definitely go organic — unless you relish the idea of consuming a chemical cocktail. “The Dirty Dozen” list includes:
  • celery
  • peaches
  • strawberries
  • apples
  • domestic blueberries
  • nectarines
  • sweet bell peppers
  • spinach, kale and collard greens
  • cherries
  • potatoes
  • imported grapes
  • lettuce
All the produce on “The Clean 15” bore little to no traces of pesticides, and is safe to consume in non-organic form. This list includes:
  • onions
  • avocados
  • sweet corn
  • pineapples
  • mango
  • sweet peas
  • asparagus
  • kiwi fruit
  • cabbage
  • eggplant
  • cantaloupe
  • watermelon
  • grapefruit
  • sweet potatoes
  • sweet onions
Why are some types of produce more prone to sucking up pesticides than others? Richard Wiles, senior vice president of policy for the Environmental Working Group says, “If you eat something like a pineapple or sweet corn, they have a protection defense because of the outer layer of skin. Not the same for strawberries and berries.”

The President’s Cancer Panel recommends washing conventionally grown produce to remove residues. Wiles adds, “You should do what you can do, but the idea you are going to wash pesticides off is a fantasy. But you should still wash it because you will reduce pesticide exposure.”

Remember, the lists of dirty and clean produce were compiled after the USDA washed the produce using high-power pressure water systems that many of us could only dream of having in our kitchens.You can find the original article HERE.

Afternoon dreaming of a future where science prioritizes sustainability and human well-being as opposed to weapons of war..... 

Sweden has just begun construction on a skyscraper greenhouse, or “plantscraper,” the first of its kind. Located in the city of Linkoping, it was introduced by SymbioCity, which is a program that focuses on connecting people with solutions that “save the environment and money at the same time.”

The “Plantagon” project, as it is called, was in in part motivated by the prediction that population growth is expected to reach 9 billion by 2050, with an estimated 80% of humanity living in cities. By farming vertically, thus maximizing space, productivity can be greatly increased. It also reduces the distance of transporting the food produced, reducing pollution as well. 

While The Garden Stewards Project is a strong proponent of the connection to nature as an integral element of gardening, we applaud those committed to the future. As the Native American proverb says “we do not inherit the earth from our ancestors; we borrow it from our children."

Read more about this next generation of urban farming HERE

What makes the movement towards sustainability and a healthier world so compelling and fulfilling? For us it is the fact that for once, humanity is not competing, but working together! There are so many courageous and dedicated individuals all contributing their good intentions to improving our lives and communities. Join us!

Annie Spiegelman, author of "Talking Dirt: The Dirt Diva's Down to Earth Guide to Organic Gardening” and contributor to the Huffington Post’s Green Blog, writes about 10 ways that we can each be more present in our garden, make choices that are healthier for our bodies and the environment, and how we can participate to demand consumers are protected from the genetically modified products being pushed by Monsanto and others. 

Read the original article HERE. In-joy!