Saving Seeds in the Hilltowns

Seed Saving

The world’s largest seed bank opened on February 26th 2008 in an attempt to gather and preserve the world’s agricultural biodiversity in one facility-a sort of “insurance policy” for global agriculture. The new facility, the Svalbard Global Seed Vault, will hold a maximum of 4.5 million different seed samples below freezing temperatures in a remote region of northern Norway.

Today, an estimated 1,000 plant species become extinct each year, with one in eight surviving plants at risk of becoming extinct. A large number of these plants have been used primarily for food production, but are currently less favored for production or are not widely available. As climate change alters growing conditions, the genetic diversity represented by these nearly-extinct varieties may prove valuable. Oftentimes, local, heritage, and heirloom varieties are at highest risk of being lost. Seed banks are formed in response to this and other looming problems facing the future of agriculture.


Farmers have practiced the art of seed saving throughout the history of agriculture, but in recent times, many farmers have stopped collecting seed for a variety of reasons, including the increasing availability of cheap seed from commercial suppliers and rising popularity of hybrid and cloned plants. Despite this widespread trend, there are some local farms that are choosing to preserve their seeds for future plantings, some of which contribute to local seed banks. Red Gate Farm in Buckland, MA, has a small seed bank with fourteen varieties available for purchase this season. The goals of the Red Gate Farm Seed Bank is:

  • To provide community access to quality, local seeds.
  • To preserve local, heritage and heirloom seed varieties.
  • To promote seed saving.
  • To develop and distribute seeds that are optimum for our unique New England soils and climate.
  • To collect the social histories of our local seeds.

For information about how to save seeds from your garden, visit the International Seed Saving Institute.

Photo (ccl)

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