Headfirst into the new year

It’s time to dive into catalogs!  I’ve been staring at the growing stack of them on the potting shed table for nearly 2 weeks now, waiting for Gail to return from vacation, and resisting the urge to begin the browse.  (We shop as a team.)  But there are a couple of catalogs that I just can’t keep myself from flipping through and others that I’m inclined to recycle without a glance because of where my head is this year.  Over the summer I read Animal, Vegetable, Miracle: A Year of Food Life
by Barbara and Camille Kingsolver and Stephen L. Hopp; last month I read In Defense of Food: An Eater’s Manifesto by Michael Pollan and right now I’m in the middle of The Omnivore’s Dilemma: A Natural History of Four Meals, also by M. Pollan.  These three books have me thinking differently not only about food but about ordering seeds.  Call me naive, but this time last year I didn’t know that most of the seed companies we order from are either owned by Monsanto (the largest producer of genetically engineered seeds and the largest seed company in the world) or buy seeds from them.  I also didn’t know that

…in 1981 there were approximately 5,000 vegetable seed varieties available in U.S. catalogs. Today there are less than 500, a 90 percent reduction.

-from The gardening game By Jerri Cook Wisconsin

Gail and I will be shopping primarily for ornamentals – mostly flowers, some veggies (Super Volunteer Dick orders seeds for the vegetable bed) – and we’ll still order from our usual array of companies (including Johnny’s, Territorial, Stokes, Burpee, Thompson & Morgan, Seeds of Change, Jung, and Pinetree) because they do carry seeds for some of the plants we love to grow and I’m all for encouraging those sources to keep providing our favorites.  But I’m really looking forward to placing big orders (maybe larger than usual) with Seed Savers Exchange and Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds because that’s where my head is.  These companies (Seed Savers Exchange is a non-profit membership organization) sell open pollinated seeds even though (and because) it means we might save seed (we do!) and not have to buy the same thing from them again.  They sell heirloom varieties that our grandparents might have grown.  The cool thing is that, like me, more and more people are interested in these varieties and the selection grows every year.

Have you read any of the books I mentioned?  (Have they changed your life?)  If you’re in the area and have read Animal, Vegetable, Miracle – or want to, it happens to be the selection for the very first “Book Worms” Book Club meeting on February 23rd hosted by Blithewold and the Norman Bird Sanctuary.  Please join us!

Do you have favorite seed catalogs?  Do you make a point of ordering heirloom varieties?  Do you save seed?