Local Seed is the Heart of Local Food

By Petra Page-Mann, Co-Founder of Fruition Seeds, Farmer, Storyteller
I absolutely love watermelons! However, as a child in the Finger Lakes, I thought watermelons were an absolute waste of valuable garden space. It’s true, practicality has never been a quality I’ve cultivated, but nonetheless, with long, trailing vines yielding a single fruit and sometimes none, my anticipation was almost always unrequited. Every few years we’d give them another try, only to reach the same conclusion by September: next year we’ll sow more tomatoes, more lettuce, more beets, less watermelon.
I could not have been more wrong.
Like our reticent red peppers and unenthusiastic eggplants, I simply needed different seeds to have different experiences. 
Regionally adapted seed makes all the difference. At Fruition Seeds, we’ve dedicated our days to these seeds that grow us more than we’ll ever grow them, right here in the Finger Lakes, so every little girl can enjoy watermelon straight from her garden.
A Brief History of Seed
Each seed tells the story of an entire life history, millions of years in the making. A few seeds, in a single generation, may travel the globe. But most will stay within their watershed and, most likely, their microclimate. In this way, seeds become profoundly adapted to place.
Agricultural seed tells an additional story–one of human relationship. For the last 10,000 years, these seeds have slowly adapted to place, spreading first on our backs, then by camel, then by boat. Fast forward to 2019: most seed companies offer seed from all over the world and nearly 80% of the agricultural seed sown globally is controlled by two companies. How did this happen?

From Commons to Commodity
If “regional seed” is seed adapted to a bioregion, then most seed before World War I was regional. Each generation selected varieties to meet the shifting conditions on each farm, in each region. Farmers largely would share their seeds as a commons—like clean water and fresh air—as precious resources to be honored and shared, not to be owned or restricted.
After World War I, F1 Hybrid corn was introduced. Met with resistance from wary farmers, the transition was slow but it came to dominate the market within 40 years, due in large part to government subsidies during World War II. In a single generation, farm-grown seed was replaced by seed from other bioregions that would not grow true-to-type in future generations, if saved. As a result, seed became just another commodity, like fertilizers and pesticides, that farms purchase annually, reflecting an industrial, one-size-fits-all mentality rather than a commons reflecting the unique values and needs of each region.
Sown Locally, Grown Globally
Most of us share a blind faith that our seed is produced by the companies selling them. This is most often not the case.
Today, most seed is grown where the climate favors commercial industrial dry seed production, such as the Central Valley of California. Unless you grow in the Central Valley, the seeds you sow are not likely to be well-adapted to your climate. We know Trader Joes doesn’t have a farm behind their stores. Most seed companies are distributors of seed rather than growers of seed, making much of the seed on the planet regionally adapted to the long, dry climates where seed is commercially grown rather than where you might sow it.
Does Regionally Adapted Seed Thrive Outside its Bioregion?
 In a word, yes!
One of our most frequently asked questions is if our seed with thrive outside our bioregion. I’m thrilled to report that though we focus on regional adaptation for our short seasons here in the Northeast, we have friends and family growing and loving, sharing and saving our seeds from our farm all across Turtle Island, from Alaska to Florida and many well beyond our borders.
This is not surprising, since seeds are impressively driven to adapt, thriving and indeed making life possible in every ecosystem on the planet, including our gardens and farms, as well.
Let’s zoom out: The vast majority of us have only sown seeds from long, dry seasons where the climate is more conducive for commodity production, centered largely in China, the mid-East and American West. These seeds seed the world! One-size-fits-most has worked for several generations, though we are, individually and collectively, finding its growing edges. Decentralization of currently concentrated control, wealth and power, including seeds, is critical for our species to survive.
Here it’s vital to share that regional seed companies often share seed from outside their bioregion (we do, it’s true! more soon!) and large companies often trial extensively to dial in varieties for bioregions, making it challenging (impossible!) to draw clean lines around which seeds will thrive where. But we’re here to ask deeper questions rather than share conclusions, right?

Food for Thought
Friends, there are key crops where regional adaptation is particularly important for each bioregion. For example, I grew up thinking our season was too short to grow watermelon; I simply needed to sow better-adapted seed to be successful. Advantages are not always advantages, disadvantages are not always disadvantages. What are the key growing conditions in your garden?
As you’re considering seed sources, keep in mind that seeds adapted to shorter seasons thrive more easily in longer seasons than the other way around.
Also, if you grow in short seasons like us, be sure your long-season crops (tomatoes, winter squash) have realistic days to harvest. If you don’t have consistent heat in your summers, like the coastal Pacific Northwest, be sure to source heat-loving plants (tomatoes and eggplants) adapted to those conditions. If you have ludicrously hot summers, source lettuce that is well selected to resist bolting in heat.
The root is this: these selections can be made outside your bioregion and you can still be successful, but if you can find them within your bioregion, resilience is possible on many more levels. 
We’re seeding so much more than seeds, indeed.
Cultivating Questions
Knowing that seed companies are predominately distributors rather than growers, asking questions of your seed companies allows your dollars to amplify your deepest values. Where are your seeds grown? By what size farm? Are farmers paid to select seed or only by weight? Be kind, curious and critical as you reach out to us, Friends. Seed companies are as fabulously flawed as the humans who are their flesh, bone and soul.
This includes seed companies focused on regional adaptation:
For example, Fruition grows 60% of our seed on our farm in the Finger Lakes. Another 25% is grown in our Northeastern bioregion by an incredible network of organic seed growers (more on this to come, too!). The balance of our seed is grown in those long, arid seasons, especially for those crops we struggle to grow high quality seed of. Carrots, for example, cross with Queen Anne’s Lace up to one mile! We are grateful to source seed from an incredible network of seed growers, including about 5% from large seed companies, it’s true.
And Friends, though we founded Fruition with the vision of regional adaptation, organics and sourcing transparency, we have failed with the latter. After year two we didn’t keep up with updating our website on our seed sourcing and are fabulously not proud of this fact. This winter, as we’re redesigning our website, we’re committed to this transparency, so misleading and problematic when not present. Again, stay tuned!
Our seed system is as nuanced and problematic as our food system, exploitive and extractive by design. We’re here to grow ourselves as well as extraordinary seeds, our deepest teachers, adapting to all the ways the world is changing. Thanks for joining us on the journey!
Amid the questions, concerns and fraught constructs, we are grateful to grow acres of organic, regionally adapted seed each season to share with people we love, confident these seeds grow us so much more than we are growing them.
Hope to see you on the farm one day, when the watermelons are ripe and the dahlias are in bloom!
Until then…
Sow Seeds and Sing Songs,
Petra
Fruition Seeds, fruition seeds.com, 585.374.8903, 7921 Hickory Bottom Road, Naples, New York 14512
All photos courtesy of Fruition SeedsBy Petra Page-Mann, Co-Founder of Fruition Seeds, Farmer, Storyteller
I absolutely love watermelons! However, as a child in the Finger Lakes, I thought watermelons were an absolute waste of valuable garden space. It’s true, practicality has never been a quality I’ve cultivated, but nonetheless, with long, trailing vines yielding a single fruit and sometimes none, my anticipation was almost always unrequited. Every few years we’d give them another try, only to reach the same conclusion by September: next year we’ll sow more tomatoes, more lettuce, more beets, less watermelon.
I could not have been more wrong.
Like our reticent red peppers and unenthusiastic eggplants, I simply needed different seeds to have different experiences. 
Regionally adapted seed makes all the difference. At Fruition Seeds, we’ve dedicated our days to these seeds that grow us more than we’ll ever grow them, right here in the Finger Lakes, so every little girl can enjoy watermelon straight from her garden.
A Brief History of Seed
Each seed tells the story of an entire life history, millions of years in the making. A few seeds, in a single generation, may travel the globe. But most will stay within their watershed and, most likely, their microclimate. In this way, seeds become profoundly adapted to place.
Agricultural seed tells an additional story–one of human relationship. For the last 10,000 years, these seeds have slowly adapted to place, spreading first on our backs, then by camel, then by boat. Fast forward to 2019: most seed companies offer seed from all over the world and nearly 80% of the agricultural seed sown globally is controlled by two companies. How did this happen?

From Commons to Commodity
If “regional seed” is seed adapted to a bioregion, then most seed before World War I was regional. Each generation selected varieties to meet the shifting conditions on each farm, in each region. Farmers largely would share their seeds as a commons—like clean water and fresh air—as precious resources to be honored and shared, not to be owned or restricted.
After World War I, F1 Hybrid corn was introduced. Met with resistance from wary farmers, the transition was slow but it came to dominate the market within 40 years, due in large part to government subsidies during World War II. In a single generation, farm-grown seed was replaced by seed from other bioregions that would not grow true-to-type in future generations, if saved. As a result, seed became just another commodity, like fertilizers and pesticides, that farms purchase annually, reflecting an industrial, one-size-fits-all mentality rather than a commons reflecting the unique values and needs of each region.
Sown Locally, Grown Globally
Most of us share a blind faith that our seed is produced by the companies selling them. This is most often not the case.
Today, most seed is grown where the climate favors commercial industrial dry seed production, such as the Central Valley of California. Unless you grow in the Central Valley, the seeds you sow are not likely to be well-adapted to your climate. We know Trader Joes doesn’t have a farm behind their stores. Most seed companies are distributors of seed rather than growers of seed, making much of the seed on the planet regionally adapted to the long, dry climates where seed is commercially grown rather than where you might sow it.
Does Regionally Adapted Seed Thrive Outside its Bioregion?
 In a word, yes!
One of our most frequently asked questions is if our seed with thrive outside our bioregion. I’m thrilled to report that though we focus on regional adaptation for our short seasons here in the Northeast, we have friends and family growing and loving, sharing and saving our seeds from our farm all across Turtle Island, from Alaska to Florida and many well beyond our borders.
This is not surprising, since seeds are impressively driven to adapt, thriving and indeed making life possible in every ecosystem on the planet, including our gardens and farms, as well.
Let’s zoom out: The vast majority of us have only sown seeds from long, dry seasons where the climate is more conducive for commodity production, centered largely in China, the mid-East and American West. These seeds seed the world! One-size-fits-most has worked for several generations, though we are, individually and collectively, finding its growing edges. Decentralization of currently concentrated control, wealth and power, including seeds, is critical for our species to survive.
Here it’s vital to share that regional seed companies often share seed from outside their bioregion (we do, it’s true! more soon!) and large companies often trial extensively to dial in varieties for bioregions, making it challenging (impossible!) to draw clean lines around which seeds will thrive where. But we’re here to ask deeper questions rather than share conclusions, right?

Food for Thought
Friends, there are key crops where regional adaptation is particularly important for each bioregion. For example, I grew up thinking our season was too short to grow watermelon; I simply needed to sow better-adapted seed to be successful. Advantages are not always advantages, disadvantages are not always disadvantages. What are the key growing conditions in your garden?
As you’re considering seed sources, keep in mind that seeds adapted to shorter seasons thrive more easily in longer seasons than the other way around.
Also, if you grow in short seasons like us, be sure your long-season crops (tomatoes, winter squash) have realistic days to harvest. If you don’t have consistent heat in your summers, like the coastal Pacific Northwest, be sure to source heat-loving plants (tomatoes and eggplants) adapted to those conditions. If you have ludicrously hot summers, source lettuce that is well selected to resist bolting in heat.
The root is this: these selections can be made outside your bioregion and you can still be successful, but if you can find them within your bioregion, resilience is possible on many more levels. 
We’re seeding so much more than seeds, indeed.
Cultivating Questions
Knowing that seed companies are predominately distributors rather than growers, asking questions of your seed companies allows your dollars to amplify your deepest values. Where are your seeds grown? By what size farm? Are farmers paid to select seed or only by weight? Be kind, curious and critical as you reach out to us, Friends. Seed companies are as fabulously flawed as the humans who are their flesh, bone and soul.
This includes seed companies focused on regional adaptation:
For example, Fruition grows 60% of our seed on our farm in the Finger Lakes. Another 25% is grown in our Northeastern bioregion by an incredible network of organic seed growers (more on this to come, too!). The balance of our seed is grown in those long, arid seasons, especially for those crops we struggle to grow high quality seed of. Carrots, for example, cross with Queen Anne’s Lace up to one mile! We are grateful to source seed from an incredible network of seed growers, including about 5% from large seed companies, it’s true.
And Friends, though we founded Fruition with the vision of regional adaptation, organics and sourcing transparency, we have failed with the latter. After year two we didn’t keep up with updating our website on our seed sourcing and are fabulously not proud of this fact. This winter, as we’re redesigning our website, we’re committed to this transparency, so misleading and problematic when not present. Again, stay tuned!
Our seed system is as nuanced and problematic as our food system, exploitive and extractive by design. We’re here to grow ourselves as well as extraordinary seeds, our deepest teachers, adapting to all the ways the world is changing. Thanks for joining us on the journey!
Amid the questions, concerns and fraught constructs, we are grateful to grow acres of organic, regionally adapted seed each season to share with people we love, confident these seeds grow us so much more than we are growing them.
Hope to see you on the farm one day, when the watermelons are ripe and the dahlias are in bloom!
Until then…
Sow Seeds and Sing Songs,
Petra
Fruition Seeds, fruition seeds.com, 585.374.8903, 7921 Hickory Bottom Road, Naples, New York 14512
All photos courtesy of Fruition Seeds

fruition2019-58.jpg

By Petra Page-Mann, Co-Founder of Fruition Seeds, Farmer, Storyteller

I absolutely love watermelons! However, as a child in the Finger Lakes, I thought watermelons were an absolute waste of valuable garden space. It’s true, practicality has never been a quality I’ve cultivated, but nonetheless, with long, trailing vines yielding a single fruit and sometimes none, my anticipation was almost always unrequited. Every few years we’d give them another try, only to reach the same conclusion by September: next year we’ll sow more tomatoes, more lettuce, more beets, less watermelon.

I could not have been more wrong.

Like our reticent red peppers and unenthusiastic eggplants, I simply needed different seeds to have different experiences. 

Regionally adapted seed makes all the difference. At Fruition Seeds, we’ve dedicated our days to these seeds that grow us more than we’ll ever grow them, right here in the Finger Lakes, so every little girl can enjoy watermelon straight from her garden.

A Brief History of Seed

Each seed tells the story of an entire life history, millions of years in the making. A few seeds, in a single generation, may travel the globe. But most will stay within their watershed and, most likely, their microclimate. In this way, seeds become profoundly adapted to place.

Agricultural seed tells an additional story–one of human relationship. For the last 10,000 years, these seeds have slowly adapted to place, spreading first on our backs, then by camel, then by boat. Fast forward to 2019: most seed companies offer seed from all over the world and nearly 80% of the agricultural seed sown globally is controlled by two companies. How did this happen?

FruitionSeedsSummer2020-51crop.jpg

From Commons to Commodity

If “regional seed” is seed adapted to a bioregion, then most seed before World War I was regional. Each generation selected varieties to meet the shifting conditions on each farm, in each region. Farmers largely would share their seeds as a commons—like clean water and fresh air—as precious resources to be honored and shared, not to be owned or restricted.

After World War I, F1 Hybrid corn was introduced. Met with resistance from wary farmers, the transition was slow but it came to dominate the market within 40 years, due in large part to government subsidies during World War II. In a single generation, farm-grown seed was replaced by seed from other bioregions that would not grow true-to-type in future generations, if saved. As a result, seed became just another commodity, like fertilizers and pesticides, that farms purchase annually, reflecting an industrial, one-size-fits-all mentality rather than a commons reflecting the unique values and needs of each region.

Sown Locally, Grown Globally

Most of us share a blind faith that our seed is produced by the companies selling them. This is most often not the case.

Today, most seed is grown where the climate favors commercial industrial dry seed production, such as the Central Valley of California. Unless you grow in the Central Valley, the seeds you sow are not likely to be well-adapted to your climate. We know Trader Joes doesn’t have a farm behind their stores. Most seed companies are distributors of seed rather than growers of seed, making much of the seed on the planet regionally adapted to the long, dry climates where seed is commercially grown rather than where you might sow it.

Does Regionally Adapted Seed Thrive Outside its Bioregion?

 In a word, yes!

One of our most frequently asked questions is if our seed with thrive outside our bioregion. I’m thrilled to report that though we focus on regional adaptation for our short seasons here in the Northeast, we have friends and family growing and loving, sharing and saving our seeds from our farm all across Turtle Island, from Alaska to Florida and many well beyond our borders.

This is not surprising, since seeds are impressively driven to adapt, thriving and indeed making life possible in every ecosystem on the planet, including our gardens and farms, as well.

Let’s zoom out: The vast majority of us have only sown seeds from long, dry seasons where the climate is more conducive for commodity production, centered largely in China, the mid-East and American West. These seeds seed the world! One-size-fits-most has worked for several generations, though we are, individually and collectively, finding its growing edges. Decentralization of currently concentrated control, wealth and power, including seeds, is critical for our species to survive.

Here it’s vital to share that regional seed companies often share seed from outside their bioregion (we do, it’s true! more soon!) and large companies often trial extensively to dial in varieties for bioregions, making it challenging (impossible!) to draw clean lines around which seeds will thrive where. But we’re here to ask deeper questions rather than share conclusions, right?

fruition_seedpackets-11crop.jpg

Food for Thought

Friends, there are key crops where regional adaptation is particularly important for each bioregion. For example, I grew up thinking our season was too short to grow watermelon; I simply needed to sow better-adapted seed to be successful. Advantages are not always advantages, disadvantages are not always disadvantages. What are the key growing conditions in your garden?

As you’re considering seed sources, keep in mind that seeds adapted to shorter seasons thrive more easily in longer seasons than the other way around.

Also, if you grow in short seasons like us, be sure your long-season crops (tomatoes, winter squash) have realistic days to harvest. If you don’t have consistent heat in your summers, like the coastal Pacific Northwest, be sure to source heat-loving plants (tomatoes and eggplants) adapted to those conditions. If you have ludicrously hot summers, source lettuce that is well selected to resist bolting in heat.

The root is this: these selections can be made outside your bioregion and you can still be successful, but if you can find them within your bioregion, resilience is possible on many more levels. 

We’re seeding so much more than seeds, indeed.

Cultivating Questions

Knowing that seed companies are predominately distributors rather than growers, asking questions of your seed companies allows your dollars to amplify your deepest values. Where are your seeds grown? By what size farm? Are farmers paid to select seed or only by weight? Be kind, curious and critical as you reach out to us, Friends. Seed companies are as fabulously flawed as the humans who are their flesh, bone and soul.

This includes seed companies focused on regional adaptation:

For example, Fruition grows 60% of our seed on our farm in the Finger Lakes. Another 25% is grown in our Northeastern bioregion by an incredible network of organic seed growers (more on this to come, too!). The balance of our seed is grown in those long, arid seasons, especially for those crops we struggle to grow high quality seed of. Carrots, for example, cross with Queen Anne’s Lace up to one mile! We are grateful to source seed from an incredible network of seed growers, including about 5% from large seed companies, it’s true.

And Friends, though we founded Fruition with the vision of regional adaptation, organics and sourcing transparency, we have failed with the latter. After year two we didn’t keep up with updating our website on our seed sourcing and are fabulously not proud of this fact. This winter, as we’re redesigning our website, we’re committed to this transparency, so misleading and problematic when not present. Again, stay tuned!

Our seed system is as nuanced and problematic as our food system, exploitive and extractive by design. We’re here to grow ourselves as well as extraordinary seeds, our deepest teachers, adapting to all the ways the world is changing. Thanks for joining us on the journey!

Amid the questions, concerns and fraught constructs, we are grateful to grow acres of organic, regionally adapted seed each season to share with people we love, confident these seeds grow us so much more than we are growing them.

Hope to see you on the farm one day, when the watermelons are ripe and the dahlias are in bloom!

Until then…

Sow Seeds and Sing Songs,

Petra

Fruition Seeds, fruition seeds.com, 585.374.8903, 7921 Hickory Bottom Road, Naples, New York 14512

All photos courtesy of Fruition Seeds

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