The Seed Underground: A Growing Revolution to Save Food [NOOK Book]

Overview

There is no despair in a seed. There's only life, waiting for the right conditions-sun and water, warmth and soil-to be set free. Everyday, millions upon millions of seeds lift their two green wings.

At no time in our history have Americans been more obsessed with food. Options- including those for local, sustainable, and organic food-seem limitless. And yet, our food supply is profoundly at risk. Farmers and gardeners a century ago had five times the possibilities of what to ...

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The Seed Underground: A Growing Revolution to Save Food

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Overview

There is no despair in a seed. There's only life, waiting for the right conditions-sun and water, warmth and soil-to be set free. Everyday, millions upon millions of seeds lift their two green wings.

At no time in our history have Americans been more obsessed with food. Options- including those for local, sustainable, and organic food-seem limitless. And yet, our food supply is profoundly at risk. Farmers and gardeners a century ago had five times the possibilities of what to plant than farmers and gardeners do today; we are losing untold numbers of plant varieties to genetically modified industrial monocultures. In her latest work of literary nonfiction, award-winning author and activist Janisse Ray argues that if we are to secure the future of food, we first must understand where it all begins: the seed.

The Seed Underground is a journey to the frontier of seed-saving. It is driven by stories, both the author's own and those from people who are waging a lush and quiet revolution in thousands of gardens across America to preserve our traditional cornucopia of food by simply growing old varieties and eating them. The Seed Underground pays tribute to time-honored and threatened varieties, deconstructs the politics and genetics of seeds, and reveals the astonishing characters who grow, study, and save them.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
In this enchanting narrative—part memoir, part botany primer, part political manifesto—Ray, author of the acclaimed Ecology of a Cracker Childhood, and lately returning to her childhood obsession with farming, has a mission: to inspire us with her own life to “understand food at its most elemental... the most hopeful thing in the world. It is a seed. In the era of dying, it is all life.” Ray is inspired by the eccentric, impassioned, generous characters she visits and interviews, gardeners and farmers who populate the quietly radical world of seed savers, from Vermonter Sylvia Davatz, self-proclaimed ‘“Imelda Marcos of seeds,”’ to the more phlegmatic Bill Keener of Rabin Gap, Ga., who gives Ray two 20-inch cobs of Keener corn, grown by his family for generations, as well as Greasy Back beans and some rotten Box Car Willy tomatoes to save for seed. Despite the book’s occasional tendency toward polemic, avid gardeners will relish recognizing their idiosyncratic, revolutionary sides in its pages, and it’s likely to strike a spark in gardening novices. Even couch potatoes will be enthralled by Ray’s intimate, poetically conversational stories of her encounters with the “lovely, whimsical, and soulful things happen in a garden, leaving a gardener giddy.” Agent: Sam Stoloff, Frances Goldin Literary Agency. (Aug.)
From the Publisher

“Saving seeds isn’t just good science; it’s a subtler war against the loss of our stories, our history, our connections with each other: ‘Where we live and what we live with is who we are.’ Add to that, what we eat. And share. For readers eager to get started, several how-to chapters offer basic seed-saving tips and lessons on hand-pollinating and controlling the purity of certain seeds. The Seed Underground [is] not a seed-saving manual, but Ray recommends several reliable guides in the resource section at the end of the book. The effect she hopes to have on readers, Ray claims, is modest: ‘My goal is simply to plant a seed. In you.’ But a poet knows full well the power of words, and if a rally could be contained in the pages of a book, The Seed Underground is one, its language by turns incantatory, pleading, rabble-rousing, a challenge to rise to the occasion, to ‘man up or lie there and bleed.’ From the stirring call to reclaim our seeds — ‘developed by our ancestors, grown by them and by us, and collected for use by our citizenry’ — to their irresistible names, like Little White Lady pea, Speckled Cut Short Cornfield bean, Purple Blossom Brown-Striped Half-runner bean and Blue Java pea, Ray boldly seduces us into joining this critical and much-needed revolution.”--Atlanta Journal Constitution

Kirkus Reviews
A naturalist's rally for the preservation of heirloom seeds amid the agricultural industry's increasing monoculture. Ray (Drifting into Darien: A Personal and Natural History of the Altamaha River, 2011, etc.) unabashedly proclaims that seeds are "miracles in tiny packages." Through accounts of her own journey in saving them, as well as facts and anecdotes, she urges readers to consider the practice, in order to avoid genetic erosion, to improve health, to work against a system that determines and limits availability, and more. Without stridence, Ray forthrightly presents her case, advocating for small organic farmers and less corporate dependence. In her most persuasive chapters, she recounts her travels in Georgia, Vermont, Iowa and North Carolina to meet others involved in saving specific varieties. She emphasizes the importance of diversity and also the ways in which preservation becomes a cultural resource; each seed bears a singular history that is often not only regional, but familial. Readers new to the topic will find that Ray's impassioned descriptions skillfully combine discussions on plant genetics and the metaphorical potential of seeds. Alternating between science and personal stories of finding her own farm, attending a Seed Savers Exchange convention, and increasing activism, the author also includes a brief section on basic seed saving and concludes with chapters that confront the idea of the homegrown as merely idyllic. With a nod toward Wendell Berry, this work emphasizes the importance of individuals working as a community. Recommended for experienced gardeners—guerrilla or otherwise—and novices searching for alternatives to processed, corporatized food.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781603583077
  • Publisher: Chelsea Green Publishing
  • Publication date: 7/6/2012
  • Sold by: Barnes & Noble
  • Format: eBook
  • Pages: 240
  • Sales rank: 848,190
  • File size: 4 MB

Meet the Author

Writer, naturalist, and activist Janisse Ray is a seed-saver, seed-exchanger, and seed-banker, and has gardened for twenty-five years. She is the author of several books, including The Seed Underground, Pinhook and Ecology of a Cracker Childhood, a New York Times Notable Book. Ray is on the faculty of Chatham University's low-residency MFA program, and is a Woodrow Wilson Visiting Fellow. She has won a Southern Booksellers Award for Poetry, a Southeastern Booksellers Award for Nonfiction, an American Book Award, the Southern Environmental Law Center Award for Outstanding Writing, and a Southern Book Critics Circle Award. She attempts to live a simple, sustainable life on a farm in southern Georgia with her husband, Raven Waters.

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Table of Contents

1. More gardens, less gas
2. A brief history of industrial agriculture
3. Me growing up
4. Sycamore
5. What is broken
6. A rind is a terrible thing to waste
7. Losing the Conch cowpea
8. Hooking up
9. Sylvia's garden
10. Keeping preacher beans alive
11. Oakreez
12. The poet who saved seed
13. The anatomy of inflorescence: a quick lesson
14. Red earth
15. Pilgrimage to Mecca
16. The pollinator
17. The bad genie is out of the bottle
18. Tomato man
19. How to save tomato seeds
20. Sweet potato queen
21. Keener corn
22. Getting the conch back
23. Winning the mustaprovince
24. Basic seed saving
25. Seeds will make you a thief
26. Gifts
27. Seed banking
28. Grassroots resistance
29. Public breeding, private profit
30. Breed your own
31. Wheat anarchists
32. A vanishing plant wisdom
33. Stop walking around doing nothing
34. Last stand.

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Customer Reviews

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Sort by: Showing 1 Customer Reviews
  • Posted July 24, 2012

    more from this reviewer

    Saving the Planet One Seed at a Time In the lyrical writing on


    Saving the Planet One Seed at a Time

    In the lyrical writing only Janice Ray produces, she alternately tells the tales of the seeds she saves and slashes at those seeking to end such practices and destroy our heritage produce. We stand with her in the fields as she writes.

    Hard as it may seem to believe, the owners of genetically modified (GM) seeds have patented their products and used those patents to eliminate competition. Seed savers propagate “open” seeds, meaning seeds that will produce viable plants. GM seeds harvested from produce produce nothing.

    Janisse is one of the “quiet revolutionaries” who will not be held back. She recommends the reader do likewise and explains in detail the sex lives of plants and how to propagate seeds and properly save them. Bees will actually force open a female bloom to get to the nectar. This is not good for the seed saver who is hand pollinating to promote desired plant characteristics. The blooms must be taped shut, hand pollinated, and retaped. Bees already have enough problems without encountering chastity belts, but this is an exception.

    Through universities, workshops, lectures, The Seed Exchange, and various plant festivals around the country, word goes out, and magnificent historical seeds are rescued, saved, and promoted. It’s working, per Janisse, and the organic produce movement helps. Seed saving is now her calling. She hopes it will become yours as well.


    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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