Panic Buying Comes for the Seeds

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The coronavirus pandemic has led to a run on vegetable seeds across the nation, which brings into sharp relief the need for resilient local food and seed systems. Cultivate Oregon and its coalition partners have been advocating for protections for the vegetable specialty seed industry so Oregon can ensure a climate-adaptive seed system that improves regional food security. We are also participating in the national Cooperative Gardens Commission #CoopGardens to distribute seeds to people in need.

This eye-opening and informative story from the New York Times, Panic Buying Comes for the Seeds, is a must-read! Hear from our local Victory Seed Company on what they're experiencing during these challenging times and why it's so important to protect our seeds.

Panic Buying Comes for the Seeds
by Kendra Pierre-Louis
The New York Times | March 28th, 2020

I knew firsthand how calming gardening can be, especially when you’re not dependent on the food for your immediate survival. Time slows down a little, thoughts meander, and a feeling of flow can arrive, even when the land you’re cultivating is a tiny patch in earshot of a bus stop.

But as I searched for seeds to grow beautifully swirled red and white Chioggia beets, fiery peppers and enough basil to start my own pesto company, website after website warned that my vegetative dreams may be delayed.

"It feels like we are selling toilet paper," Mike Dunton, the founder of The Victory Seed Company, a small seed company focused on horticultural biodiversity told me via email. (He was too busy filling orders to come to the phone.)

I’d been searching his company’s website for glass gem corn, a popping corn that originated with Carl Barnes, who was a part-Cherokee farmer in Oklahoma. In recent years, the corn has become internet famous because of its kaleidoscopic jewel-like appearance. My pandemic prep included buying four pounds of standard yellow popping corn; glass gem corn felt like a way of stepping up my game.

But the website cautioned that all buyers were agreeing to abide by “pandemic ordering terms,” and warned that the current shipping backlog was 18 to 24 days.

Clearly, I was not the only person who felt that the best path through the pandemic was to panic-buy a bunch of seeds."


Noah Schlager, the conservation program manager of a nonprofit seed seller called Native Seeds/SEARCH, said: “I was talking with a colleague who was saying that a lot of elders lived through the Great Depression, and they remember times like this."

“They’ve been saying, ‘This is the time to be saving these seeds and making sure that we can feed ourselves,’” he added.

The mission of Native Seed Search, a nonprofit, is to promote and conserve the crop biodiversity of the arid American southwest. (Native Seed Search is responsible for bringing attention to glass gem corn.) The company sells seeds to the public, “but our priority is seeds for Indigenous communities,” Mr. Schlager said, pointing out that the Navajo Nation is already suffering because of the new coronavirus.

“They’re oftentimes the last place where real aid, or FEMA support, or anything really gets handed out to people,” he said."

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