Heirlooms and civic agriculture.
What does this even mean?
“Heirloom” is an interesting term, and like the word “sustainability”, it means different things to different people. A couple of years ago, I read The Heirloom Life Gardener, a book written by Jere and Emilee Gettle. The Gettles are the co-founders of the Baker Creek Heirloom Seed Company, which publishes a lush and incredibly informative seed catalog and has spun off a variety of gardening-related enterprises across the nation. The Gettles’ define heirloom seeds as being “non-hybrid and open-pollinated” and as usually having been in circulation for more than fifty years. Some heirloom seed types currently in use could have been found in Thomas Jefferson garden at Monticello. Some appear more recently, during the Great Depression, including the Mortgage Lifter tomato (who couldn’t use one of these in today’s economy?).
While reading the Gettles’ book, I began thinking once again about the relationship between land and the American character. I was inspired to pull some of my favorite books off the shelf and revisit them, to consider the notion of “civic agriculture.”
The term “civic agriculture” – coined by the former Thomas Lyson of Cornell – is used by some to refer to the movement towards locally based agricultural models that tightly link community, social and economic development. Models of civic agriculture include CSAs, farmer’s markets, roadside stands, urban agriculture, community gardens, and farm-to-school/farm-to-institution programs. I also argue that civic agriculture includes school and home gardens…any place where people seek to connect land to the development of community or as an expression of engagement or citizenship. You can read more about all of this in my book, “Sowing the Seeds of Victory.”
The civic aspect of agriculture is much older than […]