Food Fight and Seed Bombs*

“Seed is not just the source of life. It is the very foundation of our being.”  – Vandana Shiva

 If the name Vandana Shiva doesn’t ring a bell, you probably don’t know jack about why saving and sharing seeds from your organic produce is the ultimate act of rebellion against the corporatocracy.  No matter.  Just know that this food fight is anything but a frivolous venting of teenage high spirits.  In fact, with California’s drought worsening and threatening crops, and Monsanto scoring big in legal battles to continue privatizing nature, the timing couldn’t be better.  If you eat, this fight is your fight. Consider yourself enlisted.

Vandana Shiva 2Dressed in her beautiful saris and signature bindi, physicist, author, ecofeminist and seed activist, Dr. Shiva hardly looks the revolutionary. But spend a few minutes in her company – there are plenty of videos to choose from – and she will make a powerful case for why you absolutely must 1. Support your local organic farmer and grow what food you can sustainably and 2. Save your seeds – see links below on how to do that – and/or start a small seed-sharing circle. The goal is nothing less that long-term food security and reclaiming your rights as a world citizen.   It is food democracy that benefits everyone in the food chain.

“We need to build the direct relationship between those who grow the food and those who eat it. Care for people has to be the guiding force for how we produce, process, and distribute our food…We need to shift the paradigm of economics to measure the well being of people not the profits of the oligarchs.”

Shiva’s organization, Navdanya, is a network of seed keepers and organic producers across 16 states in India. It has helped set up 54 community seed banks across the country, and has trained half a million farmers in sustainable agriculture. According to Dr. Shiva, these actions were also aimed at stemming an epidemic of farmer suicides as farms and livelihoods were lost to Big Ag’s invasion of India.

Maybe farming isn’t in your blood or your future. Perhaps converting a patch of your lawn into a vegetable garden isn’t your thing. Don’t expect an automatic deferral. You can still be a part of the support corps, carefully conserving seeds from your produce — easy in the case of squash, pumpkins, melon and peppers – and a little more challenging with tomatoes. Tip: just cut a small section from the next great organic tomato you eat and put it in a pot to sprout. More specifics from Organic Gardening. Organic potatoes and sweet potatoes give you a clue about what to do next by sprouting conveniently in your vegetable bin. Plant one in a pot and follow these directions from Container Gardening.

All of this seems pretty mild mannered as revolutionary action goes, although you may encounter some strong resistance from HOA’s that love pouring your money down the drain (into the water system) to maintain large expanses of grass, or communities hell-bent on upkeeping standards of conformity.   (Backyard chickens, hold the fort.)

seed bombYou could waste a lot of time fighting city hall.  So here’s one of my favorite weapons of grass destruction: the seed bomb. These come in many forms – balls of clay embedded with seeds and organic fertilizer, eggs filled with the same, and seed pills, all the above in miniature.  These little projectiles are perfect for challenging locations, “spontaneous floral attacks,” and vegetable gardening below the radar. You can carry a seed bomb (or pill) in your pocket and launch an attack of edible landscaping in the least expected public places. Think of this as a time-bomb that does some good in the world. Sneak back for the harvest, if you dare.

*Seed bombing is a technique of introducing vegetation to land by throwing or dropping compressed bundles of soil containing live vegetation (seed balls).

More good reads:,1


End Factory Farming; Stop Runaway Climate Change

Will Allen, organic farmer ~ Change Your Diet ~ Buy Local

… the largest elephant in the room of climate chaos is our food and farming system. And hardly anyone is talking about it … We need to change our food habits. We need to stop eating factory-farmed meat and milk products. Since over 90 percent of all non-organic meat, dairy and eggs in the U.S. come from factory farms, we need a nationwide boycott and marketplace pressure, in the form of a CAFO labeling campaign.

Will-Allen-01-200x200Will Allen, Ph.D., organic farmer/teacher/activist and author of The War on Bugs, isn’t one to mince his words, and his keynote at the second Healing Our World and Ourselves Conference at the Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of Vero Beach last week, documented exactly what kind of mess we are in and what we have to do to get out of it.

Like Vandana Shiva and the permaculture community, Allen delivers a clear message: since agriculture as it is currently practiced is “the single largest contributor of greenhouses gases,” we must eliminate the products of factory farms and create new markets for local, organic, sustainable agriculture by voting with our food dollars. That such a shift in diet could also eliminate some of the diseases of the so-called rich world is already in the popular culture via books (Michael Pollan. “Eat food. Mostly plants. Not too much.) and television shows (the ubiquitous Dr. Oz).  (And yes, it will reduce belly fat.)

Compared to some of the latest techno fixes for “energy shortfalls” (some euphemism!) that come across my desk regularly, e.g. the moon as a solar plant, the switch to organic, locally-sourced crops and humanely-raised livestock seems like a reasonable strategy. The myth that organic food is too costly has been debunked, see my post Externalities.  And it wins the taste test, hands down.  But it would be naïve to imagine that Big Ag will give up without a fight, any more than Big Oil will suddenly switch to renewables.

What to do?  For one thing, you might post the link (see below) to Will Allen’s article to your social media circles.  You could pay a virtual visit to Cedar Circle Farms and see how he is training the next generation of farmers.  Perhaps you can fund a scholarship or two while you’re at it.  Educate yourself on the subject (see More Reading).  If you want to join the next march against Monsanto, have at it!  But look into your own eating and food-sourcing habits first.  With a 4°C warmer world already looming, we can’t afford the decades it took to make cigarette smoking decidedly uncool, or to get folks to routinely recycle.

Here are a few more things you can do today: check labels in your own pantry of staples and make a plan to eliminate all GMOs; don’t eat or minimize consumption of processed foods; ask your supermarket for more organic produce; let the meat and dairy departments know you want products from pastured, humanely raised livestock.

Here are a few things you can do in the coming weeks/months:  Go meatless as much as possible (here’s a great recipe for Hummus); grow something, however limited your space.  It just feels good; when you buy organic produce, SAVE YOUR SEEDS; compost your vegetable wastes; get familiar with the laws in your community – on the books or unspoken – against backyard vegetables and/or small livestock.   You don’t know until you check.  For example, most of us think we don’t have the right to solar panels if we live in an HOA.  Actually, this is not true.  Use your farmers markets to support the farmers and ranchers in your area.  Get to know your farmer.  Some, like our CSA Kai-Kai Farms, use pesticide-free sustainable methods, but are not certified organic.  We trust them.  That’s good enough for us.

If you have an idea for a good PSA on this or related topics, let me know.  If the idea of using social media to spread the word lights you up, let’s collaborate.  Let’s plant some virtual seed bombs around our neighborhoods and get this started.

More reading:

Climate Chaos: Boycott Genetically Engineered and Factory-Farmed Foods, Will Allen and Ronnie Cummins
Organic Consumers Association
Cedar Circle Farm
USDA Organic
Food Growing Summit 2014
Beyond Pesticides

Too Big to See?

“Sometimes the fate of the Earth boils down to getting one person with modest powers to budge.”   So writes Rebecca Solnit in a recent HuffPo piece,  Bigger Than That.  She describes what happened when a bureaucrat defending the status quo (because he is stuck in ‘ordinary-time’ thinking) meets Divest activists who want to defund the fossil fuel industry, one endowment at a time.  The article itself is bigger than that and  worth your time.  Solnit is well-versed in, and passionate about, her subject yet manages to inspire optimism against all the odds.


That climate change is the elephant in the room is a cliché.  We get a lot of support for failing to recognize the big, obvious issue that we are all, to one degree or another, complicit in the melting of Artic ice, drought in  Australia, forest fires and monster storms.  It’s easy these days to blame media, corporations and government lackeys for inaction on global warming.  It can make you feel powerful, yet is a waste of time and energy, of which we have neither.  Better to find the one thing you can do, and do it, because if nothing else, it can be a very humbling exercise.

Support the divest movement if you can’t physically join the students at Harvard or Brown calling their respective schools to account.  Hooray for The Harvard Crimson taking a stand in an Open Letter to President Faust: …we believe it will take the world’s most renowned academic institution to reign in the world’s most wealthy, powerful, and destructive corporations.

Today, Congress is negotiating the Farm Bill.  Do you understand what this could mean for the future of food in our country?  Why are so many people opposed to GMO seeds?  Who is Vandana Shiva anyway?  Why is the  health of our soil vital to life on the planet?  What is Rob Hopkins, founder of the Transition movement, up to these days?  How does the Slow Food movement fit into the big picture of climate change?   More questions.  Few answers.  I have made food security my thing because I can. What’s yours?

Here’s Wendell Berry on Moyers and Company recently: We don’t have a right to ask whether we’re going to succeed or not. The only question we have a right to ask is what’s the right thing to do? What does this earth require of us if we want to continue to live on it?