Friday, January 28, 2011

Guardians of the Seed

Last year I had loads of plans for the residency.... many of those did come to fruition... but one in particular I ran out of the necessary time for .

Being a curious soul I wanted to discover what indigenous plants we had growing in this region that were edible and quite suited to back-yard cultivation. I talked to people... from friends who were experimenting with various plants to nurseries with indigenous plants and then to the Library to read up on what has been here for a very long time.

I documented various ones in my journal pages last year... see some of those at this post.

At my other blog I posted this story on finger limes last year... a native citrus fruit called Citrus australasica that are sensational. Rereading that post brought back a delicious memory. Why have I not bought one of these plants?

These videos below I found at the Seed Savers site ...both showcase Davidson Plums - Davidsonia  which I've only tried in jam so far. They've been quite popular with chefs and foodies, are high in antioxidants, are naturally sour but can be used in all kinds of ways.

You will find more excellent videos at Seed Savers. Read about this wonderful organisation below:

The Seed Savers' Network is a national organisation dedicated since 1986 to the preservation of local varieties of useful plants. We work in Australia with our more than a hundred Local Seed Networks. We also work in other countries, forty so far. See an overview of our activities, the countries in which we have worked, our story so far with archives of our work and how you can get involved.
Founders, Jude and Michel Fanton, have authored and published three books, "The Seed Savers' Handbook", "Local Seed Network Manual" and "Seed to Seed Food Gardens in Schools" and produced a one hour documentary, "Our Seeds" - purchase our publications or film. Our new documentary "Our Roots" that we filmed in Vanuatu for CIRAD the French research institute will be out soon. Please use the resources we offer at no cost to you and without sponsored links.
The first six months of 2011 will be exciting for The Seed Savers' Network. We will give presentations at the Rare Fruit Society of SA in Adelaide in January, workshops in Tasmania  and north Queensland in April. Starting 19th March we will have five Saturday workshops  on the Nexus between Garden and Health at the Seed Centre in Byron Bay, NSW, Australia. You might like to plan to come to our week-long live-in course on the Politics of Food Growing at the Seed Centre in Byron Bay from 28th March to 2nd April 2011.

Seedy Sunday - the first Sunday in February every year
image from

A short history of the event
The short but illustrious history of Brighton and Hove Seedy Sunday began in 2001, when two members of Brighton and Hove Organic Gardening Group  (yes, BHOGG) went on holiday to Vancouver, Canada. There they happened upon a seed swap, organised by Sharon Rempel of Saltspring Seeds.
A seed swap is a sort of fair, where growers exchange seeds from plants they have grown themselves, meet kindred spirits, and reassure each other that preferring home-saved seeds to bought ones does not mean that they are just stingy or eccentric. The Brighton gardeners were so impressed that when they got back to England they persuaded a group of fellow growers to help organize a similar event. The result, the UK's first ever seed swap, took place in St George's Hall, in Kemptown in Brighton, in February 2002.

Here's a great story (via Treehugger) from England about this event held on the first Sunday of February every year.

seedy sunday seed swap photo
Image credit: Seedy Sunday

I guess spring really is on its way. From collecting fruit tree scions to community-run seed libraries to seed libraries in libraries, biodiversity in the garden seems to be a hot topic right now. I've just come across a story about what might just be the mother of all seed swaps.
Based in Brighton, England, Seedy Sunday is an annual event that claims to have "blazed the trail for UK seed swaps over the past decade". Held on the first Sunday of February every year, the seed swap attracts well over 1000 visitors who, in return for a donation or in exchange for seed they have saved, can choose seeds from dozens of traditional varieties of garden vegetables to take home and grow.
Seed Swapping as Protest Movement
Although the physical conservation and evolution of cherished seed varieties is a crucial part of the event, Seedy Sunday is also about education and fun, and it is an opportunity for gardeners to protest at the corporatization of the world's seed supply. Peter Giovannini talks about his experiences of Seedy Sunday, painting a picture of gardeners struggling against the systemic "outlawing" of non-approved seed varieties because of European Union legislation:
"The industrialisation of agriculture has caused an erosion of the diversity of crop varieties. Agrobiodiversity is declining at an alarming rate because growers are increasingly relying on purchased seeds, and the dynamic process that produces and conserves agrobiodiversity has been suddenly interrupted. EU seed marketing regulations have also contributed to this decline by imposing criteria for the commercialisation of seed varieties that are rarely met by locally adapted varieties or landraces. Indeed, seed swappers refer to the seed varieties that are not admitted in the national official lists, which list the varieties that can be sold, as "outlawed"."
The next Seedy Sunday is only just over a week away. Get your garden plan ready.
More on Seed Swapping and Biodiversity in the Garden
A Community-Run Seed Library: Shouldn't Every Library Loan Seeds? (Video)
How to Collect Scions for Growing Rare Fruit (Video)
Growing Apple Trees from Seed
Untouchable Organic Seed Bank: Saving Seeds and Empowering Women
Saving Seeds is Critical to Fighting Climate Change
Seed Libraries Prove Tough to Sprout
Massive Russian Seed Bank at Risk of Demolition

I'm diverting from seeds for a  moment to bring attention to another form of biodiversity heritage that's probably not given too much thought these days. This story of a flood-affected farm came from a friend who heard an ABC radio interview with Mark Tully whose family farm is called Blue Hills Poultry Stud.  About the farm:

Blue Hills collection has been collected and sourced from around Australia over the past 10 years in earnest upon realising that so many breeds, varieties and colours of fowl were disappearing at alarming rates.  Blue Hills Poultry Stud is dedicated to the preservation of rare and heritage breeds of poultry encompassing soft and hard feather chooks, ducks, geese, turkeys, guinea fowl, pea fowl and chucka partridges.
Blue Hills Poultry Stud has over 160 breeds, variety and colour of poultry.  We specialise in rare breeds and waterfowl.  Chickens are available depending on season and can be ordered if you are after a particular breed of poultry that we may breed.  All breeding birds are purebred and show quality.

"He was putting out a desperate call for assistance this weekend – needs help to rebuild fences on the property at Helidon.  He lost 50% of his rare breed animals. Pig on the spit will be available for all helpers to have a feed.  Please pass onto anyone whom you think might be able to assist."

Blue Hills Poultry Stud
click to go to website

17/1/11 Please help us!
We need a hand!  If you can help us to rebuild it would be a favour to us and also greatly contribute to saving rare breeds of fowl and other domestic livestock.  Please phone Mark on 0433 179 844 if you would like to offer physical or financial assistance.
This kind if farming venture takes a great deal of perserverance I imagine at the best of times.

And on another very sobering note... news I just received through twitter - thanks to blogger Elaine from California Living. It details a decision just made in the US that is being seen as setting a precedent for further decisions to come that will affect Organic farming.

@sophiemunns “@SeedLibrary: The Organic Elite Surrenders to Monsanto: What Now?

Now I'll close with a wonderful video form the visionary team at Seed Savers who got going with their important work back in 1986.

Guardians of the Seed : ... worth watching 3.5 minutes of celebrating the seed!

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Update on the Food Safety Modernisation Act

Anyone who visited a few days ago will probably have read the previous post on the Brisbane-based venture Food Connect which supplies local, sustainably produced food in the South East Queensland region. This excellent organisation links producers with the community, bringing greater connection to what's involved in the entire process from farm to table.'

I picked up a lead through this site that took me on a most circuitous journey to find out what was behind the story coming out of the US on Food Safety Legislation. Some may ask why bother knowing what's happening over there ... but in a global landscape the ripple effect does indeed make it smart to take notice of what's occurring elsewhere.... issues travel these days!

The claim circulating was suggesting The Food Safety Modernisation Act of 2009 would eliminate home gardens and put organic farmers out of business.

As I wondered further about this my thinking centred around why something this major had not come to my attention before ... surely if it were true everyone would be up in arms. With the film "Food Inc" coming to mind ... and the track record Transnationals have had in lobbying and pushing for problematic, even disastrous legislation to get through I was left with... surely not.. but maybe!

So I emailed a number of friends and bloggers who either live in the US or whose curiosity about such matters might have meant they would know of this story and consequently set my mind at rest.

Click here if you wish to read about the Food Inc film

What a wonderfully worthwhile call out. Responses filtered back... along with a few from people Id thought of contacting but hadn't got round to who happened to read the post. Some came as comments ... others as emails. I was so pleased to learn that this wasn't anything so sweeping and sinister as rumour would have it. Chinese whispers via social media had successfully resulted in misinformation.

We live with misinformation and distortion of stories on a daily basis. This is one story that needed to be clarified and put in perspective.

The circulating claim:  The Food Safety Modernisation Act of 2009 would eliminate home gardens and put organic farmers out of business obviously struck a lot of people as actually believable in the light of recent history. said the claim was "mostly false" (interesting in itself) and went about outlining their take on the Bill closing with Myths and Facts and then referring readers to the Farm-to-Consumer Legal Defence Fund ..... which mentions the possibility this bill would place undue financial and regulatory burdens on smaller farms and businesses that primarily engage in the local production and sale of food items.  (information supplied by Sharmon Davidson)
You can read the summary of the bill here at  and the truly perservering types might like to read the complete bill here supplied by The Artist Within Us.  Thanks to all who contributed thoughts and links to sites worth reading! 

This entire exercise was very telling.

When it comes to Food legislation, safety, food security and the future people are becoming more and more distrustful and skeptical about what they're told...with increasing anxiety over all aspects of food production. Read most of the comments that have come in concerning this story and the signs are there.

Australia has elected to celebrate in 2012 the National Year of the Farmer and the objectives are;
  • Establish closer ties between Australia's rural and urban communities.
  • Celebrate the broad range and fine quality of the produce our farmers grow and harvest.
  • Share how Australia is leading the world in farming techniques and innovation.
  • Highlight the essential role of Australian agriculture to the maintenance of national and global food security.
  • Promote the role our farmers play as environmental managers, creating and delivering sustainability through best practice management.
  • Recognise farmers for feeding the nation and sustaining our vital agribusinesses.
  • Communicate to all Australians the importance of farming and rural communities to our national economy and social fabric.
  • Encourage Australians to reflect on the origins of the food they consume and the fibre they use every day and perpetuate the call to buy Australian produce.
  • Focus on -- and prepare for -- the future of farming in Australia by creating awareness of career opportunities in agriculture and related areas.

There's a sense of urgency to this plan. I dont know when it was devised and how it gained momentum... but its clear that there is a need to massively overhaul the position we place our farmers in in the scheme of things.

an image of the contemporary industrialised food scenario

Monday, January 24, 2011


NOTE ABOUT THIS STORY ADDED SATURDAY 5TH OF FEBRUARY: It took 2 days and many conversations, links and updates to get to the bottom of the central story in this post. I was caught off guard... couldnt work out why such a HUGE issue was so under the radar. The investigation proved that there is a lot if misinformation going around out there... but that there is a LOT to be concerned about at the same time!

Can I say how profoundly important it is we discuss these matters and get to the bottom of what's happening ... wherever possible ... easier said then done I know!

There is so much lobbying and legislation pushing things in directions many are very concerned about. Its so easy to miss whats happening on that level and not have a voice. Living in Brisbane through a hellish summer for so many Queenslanders I saw the most amazing ground swell of care, giving and volunterring take place from so many concerned citizens.

I'd like to think we could apply some of that same energy and drive to some of our long term global issues as this year unfolds and we reflect on the long term implications of current events and what we can do about it.

Lets make our actions really count for the future!

From Ro Bruhn in Melbourne, Australia

artists celebrate seeds... Postcards from the Blogosphere
... Mail art show in July 2010 
from passage paradis in L.A.

Just visited the excellent Brisbane-based venture Food-Connect where I read the most worrying news.

First - THE GOOD NEWS .... about Food Connect:

Food Connect’s aim is to supply local, sustainably produced food to the community in South East Queensland. We are creating a new, more equitable way of distributing local produce in a socially responsible way. Our delicious seasonal produce comes from local farmers living within a five hour radius of Brisbane who are paid a fair price for their hard work and who are encouraged to farm using the most sustainable methods possible. Our subscribers know where their food comes from and are invited to see for themselves on regular farm tours. Click the links below if you want to know more about our unique way of doing things.
Food connect is a good news story. And so successful it has been set up in other states recently.

Go to the inspiration page is you want to be inspired.

So what did I find that bothered me so at this blog just now... an article coming out of the US on the proposed new US FOOD SAFETY LEGISLATION.

The US senate Bill S510 “Food Safety Modernization Act” proposes to ban growing food in backyards, seed saving and people will also be unable to sell their produce at markets should this legislation go ahead. See the Natural News website for more information on this story.

Senate Bill S 510 Food Safety Modernization Act vote imminent: Would outlaw gardening and saving seeds

Im going to post that article here. I think it needs to be discussed and I'm wondering what the time-frame for this is... and the likelihood it will come into being! I'd really like to hear from anyone living in the US.... what have you heard about this? 

Senate Bill S 510 Food Safety Modernization Act vote imminent: Would outlaw gardening and saving seeds
by Mike Adams, the Health Ranger, NaturalNews Editor 

(NaturalNews) Senate Bill 510, the Food Safety Modernization Act, has been called "the most dangerous bill in the history of the United States of America." It would grant the U.S. government new authority over the public's right to grow, trade and transport any foods. This would give Big brother the power to regulate the tomato plants in your backyard. It would grant them the power to arrest and imprison people selling cucumbers at farmer's markets. It would criminalize the transporting of organic produce if you don't comply with the authoritarian rules of the federal government.

"It will become the most offensive authority against the cultivation, trade and consumption of food and agricultural products of one's choice. It will be unconstitutional and contrary tonatural law or, if you like, the will of God." - Dr. Shiv Chopra, Canada Health whistleblower (

This tyrannical law puts all food production (yes, even food produced in your own garden) under the authority of the Department of Homeland Security. Yep -- the very same people running the TSA and its naked body scanner / passenger groping programs.

This law would also give the U.S. government the power to arrest any backyard food producer as a felon (a "smuggler") for merely growing lettuce and selling it at a local farmer's market.

It also sells out U.S. sovereignty over our own food supply by ceding to the authority of both the World Trade Organization (WTO) and Codex Alimentarius.

It would criminalize seed saving (, turning backyard gardeners who save heirloom seeds into common criminals. This is obviously designed to give corporations like Monsanto monopoly over seeds.

It would create an unreasonable paperwork burden that would put small food producers out of business, resulting in more power over the food supply shifting to large multinational corporations.

I encourage you to read more about this dangerous bill at the Food Freedom blog on Wordpress:

Watch this excellent video on NaturalNews.TV which explains S.510 in more detail:

Take action now or lose your right to grow your own food

Sign this petition at Citizens for Health:

Do it today! This is really important.

In addition, the Cornucopia Institute recently sent out an urgent call-to-action email containing the following information: (

How to protest Senate Bill 510

1) Go to and type in your zip code in the box in the upper right hand corner.

2) Click on your Senator's name, and then on the contact tab for their phone number. You can also call the Capitol Switchboard and ask to be directly connected to your Senator's office: 202-224-3121.

3) Once connected ask to speak to the legislative staff person responsible for agriculture. If they are unavailable leave a voice mail message. Be sure to include your name and phone number.

Give them this message in support of the "Tester Amendment" which would exempt small farms from S.510:

"I am a constituent of Senator___________. I ask that he/she support the Tester Amendment to the food safety bill. The Tester Amendment will exempt the safest, small, owner-operator farms and food facilities and farmers who direct market their products to consumers, stores or restaurants. Food safety legislation should not create inappropriate and costly regulatory barriers to family farms and the growing healthy food movement in the drive to crack down on corporate bad actors. Please support the Tester Amendment and market opportunities for small and mid-sized family farms, and small food processing facilities."

You may also wish to explain that you oppose the Food Safety Modernization Act in its entirety, and it is a destructive, freedom-crushing law that will destroy the future of food inAmerica.

Remember, America has already lost control over its money supply to the Federal Reserve (nearly a hundred years ago). America has lost its health due to the medical industry and its profit-from-sickness agenda. Now we may lose our right to grow our own food and save our own seeds if Senate Bill 510 passes.

This is a dangerous, tyrannical law that would thrust the American people into an age of darkness and malnutrition. It would criminalize many of the very people growing our food and turn food production into yet another corporate monopoly.

Please take the time right now to contact your U.S. Senator and voice your strong opposition to this bill.

Food safety?  ... it seems each time we hear the words food and safety used together there is a rather worrying issue at stake. Euphemisms such as this result in many thinking there's nothing to worry about.

Given there is a huge backyard phenomenon going on in this country as elsewhere ... with people turning to backyard food growing for any number of reasons... this is a critical issue with consequences we all need to be well aware of. ... right around the globe. Please leave a comment and do share this information. Of course we need to learn more on this and verify the story... but given, unfortunately, that there is a precedence for this kind of legislation in measures we well know have taken place already around seeds and copyright... in North America, with the World Trade Organisation ... and thats for starters... we really have to
take notice now... make no mistake about that. What we do ... or don't do now .... can make a historical difference... one way or the other. 

Food sovereignty for all!

NB "Food sovereignty" is a term coined by members of Via Campesina in 1996 [1] to refer to a policy framework advocated by a number of farmerspeasantspastoralistsfisherfolkindigenous peopleswomenrural youth and environmental organizations, namely the claimed "right" of peoples to define their own food, agriculture, livestock and fisheries systems, in contrast to having food largely subject to international market forces.


thanks to everyone,
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