The CSA program at Creekside Farm grows several varieties of heirloom seeds that help to preserve important genetic information and plant diversity.
A quick lesson in Heirloom Vegetables:
Most people are concerned, and rightly so, about the terrible loss of bio-diversity in our plants and animals in the oceans and rain forests. Most people are not aware of the tremendous loss of bio-diversity that has happened in the last 100 years in our food supply. As an example, in 1903 our country had over 300 different varieties of sweet corn seeds available to plant and harvest. Today that number is estimated at less than 12 varieties. The same is true for tomato varieties, and most other vegetables. In the United States an estimated 90 percent of our historic fruit and vegetable varieties have vanished. Most varieties may be lost forever. Large corporate growers, and the largest seed companies, are contributing to the reduction in the number of varieties of produce available to the consumer. As we've come to depend on a handful of commercial varieties of fruits and vegetables, thousands of heirloom varieties have disappeared.
Every variety of plant has developed its own unique genetic defenses that help it survive different challenges in its environment, whether that is resistance to some pest, fungus or heat. If we lose that plant, we lose the genetic trait it has developed over thousands of years, and a genetic trait we may need at some point in the future. The clearest example of the risk in growing a limited crop of one variety of plant, and the one most people are aware of, is the potato famine in Ireland in 1845. A potato fungus swept thru the country and in one year caused massive starvation and migration. Another potato variety could have been more genetically resistant to the fungus.
It’s happening elsewhere on the farm. People eat more eggs and poultry than ever, but the world’s reliance on a few high-yielding chicken breeds is edging out hundreds of others. Nearly a third of all chicken breeds are at risk of extinction. That’s alarming because many varieties have traits, like heat or pathogen resistance, that could be invaluable in the future. Creekside Farm will attempt to support several varieties of animals and livestock over the coming years, including breeds of goat, sheep, horses, grass fed cattle, and donkey (donkeys mostly just because they’re fun to look at, but they’re very territorial and keep the coyotes away from the other animals).
Non-profit companies like Seed Savers and others are helping to protect varieties of vegetables thru the sharing, sale and distribution of heirloom seeds. Creekside Farms is dedicated to growing only heirloom seeds in our CSA program, and as many varieties as possible. The farm and gardens will become an experiment in finding the best varieties for our native soils and climate, with a focus on bringing back many of the old seeds and vegetables that were grown here in the early days of farming in the region. We’ll be growing for variety and for taste, with limited chemicals, and to save and share seeds. We’ve already collected hundreds of varieties of heirloom seeds.