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By Hillie Salo, Slow Food South Bay

Two models of agriculture exist these days. One is oriented towards the production of food, while the other is instead focused on producing commodities for the global market.

Slow Food promotes the first of these models, which is economically, socially and environmentally sustainable, sensitive to the needs of local communities, attentive to quality, respectful of the environment, democratic, and based on grassroots participation. The production and selection of seeds by the local communities themselves is the cornerstone of this agricultural model.

To that end, here in Silicon Valley, Slow Food South Bay supports One Seed, One Community. One Seed, One Community is based on “one book, one city” or “community read” programs such as Silicon Valley Reads. Instead of uniting a community in reading a single book, common ground is found by growing the same seed.

Our urban gardens are usually too small to grow the minimum plant numbers to maintain the genetic stock of many seed varieties. When we share seeds with one another through the vehicle of a seed library, choosing one seed for many gardeners to grow and save builds a greater diversity into the genetics of that variety.

Seed libraries, not to be confused with seed banks which hold and store seed in the event of an environmental disaster, lend seeds with the goal that successful gardeners will return seeds. Over time, this process has the potential to build local adaptation in these seeds and strengthen our local food systems.

More often than not, seed libraries have more patrons borrowing seeds than returning. According to an academic paper by Daniela Soleri, Civic Seeds, “Every Year about 4776 people borrow seeds from, and 238 people return seeds to the California seed libraries.”

Increasing seed returned to seed libraries can be done by growing a group of dedicated gardeners, whose commitment is to “Grow a Row for the Seed Library”, based on the American Garden Writers' “Plant a Row for the Hungry.”

With One Seed, One Community, even gardeners who offer just a few treasured handfuls generate greater diversity in contributions to Seed Libraries. Many gardeners find being part of OSOC is to be part of something greater than themselves, making a contribution to their community at the spiritual level.

Creating a local OSOC starts with choosing a seed. Perhaps there is a local heirloom that could use your support or maybe a resident has a long time favorite that has been grown for many years. Consider seeds of crops boarded on the Slow Food Ark of Taste, “a catalog of delicious and culturally significant foods in danger of extinction. By promoting these foods, we help keep them in production and on our plates.”
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Last year, 50 gardens from Redwood City to Gilroy grew a local heirloom bean, the Petaluma Gold Rush Bean. Slow Food South Bay and friends gathered in honor of World Food Day, October 16, for the Great Silicon Valley Bean Weigh Off. Together, we raised 25 pounds of this local heirloom for donation to our local seed libraries. Next year, our local communities will have locally grown, local heirloom seeds to grow in their gardens. Local food begin with local seeds!

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