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Of the thousands of seed varieties available at the turn of the 20th century, 94% have been lost – forever. Janisse Ray brings us the inspiring stories of gardeners whose aim is to save time-honoured open-pollinated varieties that will be lost if people don't grow, save, and swapthe seeds. Ray introduces readers to dozens of seed savers like the eccentric sociology professor she dubs 'Tomato Man' and Maine farmer Will Bonsall, the 'Noah' of seed-saving who juggles hundreds of seeds, many only grown by him. And Ray tells her own story – of watching her grandma save squash seed; of her own first tiny garden at the edge of a junkyard; of falling in love with heirloom and local varieties as a young woman; and the one seed – Conch cowpea – that got away from her. The Seed Underground reminds us that while our underlying health, food security, and sovereignty may be at stake as seeds disappear, so, too, are the stories, heritage, and history that passes between people as seeds are passed from hand to hand.
Writer, naturalist, and activist Janisse Ray is a seed-saver, seed-exchanger and seed-banker, and has gardened for 25 years. She is the author of several books, including Pinhook and Ecology of a Cracker Childhood. She attempts to live a simple, sustainable life on a farm in southern Georgia with her husband, Raven Waters.
"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