Amy Goldman, Kent Whealy’s Nemesis, Joins ‘Fine Gardening’

Last week I received a press release announcing several people joining Fine Gardening, the magazine published by Taunton Press, as contributing editors. Among the list was Amy Goldman and I realized it was the same Amy Goldman who I'd been reading about on forums and blogs for a couple of years. Who is Amy Goldman? She’s a garden author, philanthropist and board member of Seed Savers Exchange and The New York Botanical Garden. In November of 2008 Kent Whealy, co-founder of Seed Savers Exchange, sent out a letter to the listed members of the Seed Savers Exchange. In the letter he warned about plans by SSE, at the direction of Amy Goldman and fellow board member and Cary Fowler, to deposit seeds in the Svalbard Global Seed Vault. What’s so bad about this? Well, according to Kent the depositing of SSE seeds into the “doomsday vault” may

…have exposed for patenting the 485 varieties that SSE deposited at Svalbard’s official opening last February. All depositors are required to sign the Svalbard Depositors Agreement (actually an international treaty with Norway) which links those deposits to the International Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources of the FAO (Food and Agriculture Organization of the U.N.), Article 7 of which states, “The Depositor agrees to make available from their own stocks samples of accessions of the deposited plant genetic resources and associated available non-confidential information to other natural or legal persons in accordance with the following terms and conditions:….” The agreement goes on to dictate that “original samples” (the other seeds of those 485 varieties being stored at Heritage Farm) are also covered by the terms of the FAO Treaty, which allows patenting on “derivatives” of those samples.

By signing the treaty, Seed Savers apparently cannot refuse any requests for seeds of those 485 varieties in storage in the seed vaults at Heritage Farm. That would mean Monsanto and others now can, as a right, request those 485 varieties of SSE’s heirlooms, splice in GMOs, patent the product and sell the seed. The actual movement of each sample covered by the FAO Treaty (including the “originals” of all samples deposited in Svalbard) will require the use and signing of FAO’s Standard Material Transfer Agreement (also part of the FAO treaty) that includes language describing a 1.1% tax on patents (the main way that the FAO Treaty will generate funding for itself)…

Back when this letter was published discussion of Kent Whealy, his removal from SSE and the contents of his letter were not allowed to be discussed on the SSE forums. People chose sides and either became Team Kent or Team Amy and a rift was created that has not healed. Judging by the speech that Kent gave at the Land Institute back in September that rift will never heal. In the speech Kent alleges that Amy Goldman used her money to buy influence with members of the board by financing their personal projects and stocking the SSE board with people who were “financially beholden to her.”

All of this in an apparent attempt to wrestle control of the board and ultimately oust Kent, which subsequently happened when he was fired from SSE for building a storage shed without the approval of SSE board, which describes a “fabricated charge.” You can read the full text of Kent’s speech here where he again warns about the possibility that the seeds provided by farmers and gardeners to SSE that have been deposited in the “doomsday vault” are at risk of being controlled by corporate breeders. The most shocking thing to me is his offer to pay the legal fees of SSE members who donated seeds to the Seed Saver Member’s Seed Collection and who want them back. 

Over on the SSE forum it looks like they’re lifting their ban on discussion of Kent and his speeches and letters. They’ve posted a response to his recent speech and even have a webpage on the SSE site where they are posting various responses and rebuttals.

Meanwhile, Patrick at Bifurcated Carrots is calling for a boycott (of sorts) of Seed Savers Exchange. He recommends potential members not join and current members demand the recovery of SSE member seed from Svalbard and the resignation of Amy Goldman, Cary Fowler and Neil Hamilton  from the SSE Board.


Review of the J.L. Hudson Ethnobotanical Catalog of Seeds

When I first came across the J.L. Hudson Seeds website I didn't know what to make of it. Although I haven't sent away for a copy of the seed catalog it is on my list of things to do. Especially after reading this review of the catalog on Arthur Magazine by Mathew Erickson.

Here's a snippet:

"It must be the only seed catalog that has simultaneously appeal to those with a taste for fine printed works, radical politics, early Natural History, botany and gardening practices. The work being done by the company called J.L. Hudson, Seedsman is already well known and loved by plant growers, who have been ordering from the company’s stock for the past 100-plus years. Yet as far as I know, little has been written about the Hudson catalogs themselves, and what they represent aesthetically and politically."

Read the whole review here and visit the J.L Hudson Seeds website.


Seed Swapping on Facebook

Recently I was invited to join the Great American Seed Swap on Facebook. I haven't signed up, but it looks like a group on Facebook for gardeners who swap seeds either one-on-one in a round robin style. I'm not associated with the group and you shouldn't consider this an endorsement of the group or anyone who trades seeds there. Don't have a Facebook account? You can always swap seeds at various gardening forums around the internet.

If you know of any other Facebook groups set up for seed trade leave a comment and I'll add them to this post.

The Heirloom Life by Baker Creek Seeds

Jere Gettle has been described as "the Indiana Jones of seeds" and gardeners that count on the Baker Creek Heirloom Seed Company carrying rare and unusual vegetable varieties would probably agree with the comparison. The Heirloom Life is the forthcoming gardening book my Jere and Emilee Gettle.

The Heirloom Life gardening book by Baker Creek Seeds

The book will cover vegetable growing, preserving vegetables, and of course seed saving. The book is being published by Hyperion Books and will be available nationally in Autumn 2011. You can learn more about the Baker Creek Heirloom Seed Company, their heirloom gardening magazine, pioneer village, and heirloom seed bank in Petaluma, California.


Seed Dispersal & Germination Time-Lapse Videos

Japanese cheesewood (Pittosporum tobira) seed pods ripening reveal fleshy red seeds that look like the seeds of pomegranates.

Soybeans (Glycine max) seed germinate and break through the soil-surface and expose their first set of leaves. The video then zooms in to show us a view of at the cellular level of the leaves.

There are more incredible time-lapse videos of seed dispersal and seed germination on Odakatoshio's YouTube Channel.