Free Native Seeds!
A Tucson-based group called “Native Seeds/SEARCH" is a seed bank that works to preserve varieties of plants that have grown in Native communities for centuries.
The group formed in 1983 as an off-shoot of a gardening project designed to improve the diet of the diabetes stricken Tohono O’odham community in Southern Arizona. It was the beginning of a seed bank of crops native to the region’s climate and culture.
Now, seeds collected by Native Seeds do more than just help to preserve a culture of farming. Many of the crops have resistances to heat, lack of water, alkaline soil and
certain diseases that have developed over centuries and are a source of genetic information that can be used to breed new types of drought resistance plants for modern agriculture.
Kevin Dahl, executive director of Native Seeds/SEARCH, gives the example of the tepary bean, a relative of the pinto bean that requires very little water for growth which is being researched for the drought-stricken areas of Africa.
The seed bank has grown to include more than 2,000 varieties of plants across 99 species coming from 18 tribal groups. Each variety of plant is preserved in the group’s seed bank for 10 years, then are planted so new seeds can be collected.
Last year, Native Seeds gave more than 5,000 seed packets to individual Native farmers and Native farming groups for free. Dahl added, “People have to request them … we want our seeds to go to good homes.”
The group also sells seed packets of 400 varieties. Last year 30,000 seed packets were sold at $2,50 per packet to people in far away places such as South Africa and Norway.
In 1997, the group, along with the Nature Conservancy purchased 160 acres in southern Arizona to serve as the Native Seeds/SEARCH farm. The land allowed the group to return even more ancient crops to the modern world.
Most popular packets requested from Native Seeds:
Tepary Beans – First grown during the time of the Hohokam. Teparies mature quickly and are tolerant of the desert heat, drought and alkaline soils.
Minnie’s Apache Hubbard Squash – Fruits are of variable sizes and shapes, light to dark orange skins with white and tan seeds.
Hopi Black-Eyed Sunflowers – called “iceqa”. The blue black hull is used as a dye.
Tohono O’odham Yellow Meated Watermelon – Originally from Africa. A high yielder of green oval fruit with a sweet and crisp yellow to orange flesh.
Chapalote “Pinole Maiz” – One of the most ancient corns. It is small-kerneled with slender ears and is the only brown corn.
Native Seeds/SEARCH offers free membership and free seeds, in limited quantities, to Native peoples from or living in the Greater Southwest region.
For more information, CONTACT US:
Website – http://www.nativeseeds.org/
Phone – (520) 622-5561
FAX – (520) 622-5591
E-mail – email@example.com
526 N. 4th Avenue
Tucson, AZ 85705-8450
This article has been edited for length and content from the pps of The Arizona Republic bylined Matt Dempsey and the Internet Native Seeds/SEARCH website.
NATIVE UNITY - A place for Native American Peoples to solidify their tribes to make a positive impact on the cultural, social, economic and political fabric of American society and a place for non-Natives to better understand the ways of the American Indian.