Learn the art of survival
A HUON Valley market gardener has developed a two-day workshop to teach home gardeners on how to save seeds.
Linda Cockburn said her seed-saving passion and next month’s Seed Storm workshop stemmed from her concern about global and local food security.
“It is amazing to think there is no vegetable and herb seed bank in Australia. A point of vulnerability that needs to be addressed,” Ms Cockburn said.
The two-day workshop on May 27 and 28 at the Sustainable Learning Centre at Mt Nelson will be run by experts including Green Harvest’s Frances Michaels and Royal Tasmanian Botanical Garden’s seed bank manager James Wood.
“This is about importance of seeds to our survival. We’ve lost 94 per cent of seed diversity in the past 100 years,” Ms Cockburn said.
“Recently we’ve needed to reach back into heirloom varieties to find genetic traits to overcome present-day diseases that, without their assistance, may have resulted in loss of crops, for example sunflowers in the US, rice and wheat.”
She said the workshop would have demonstrations to help home gardeners.
“These are the people who are doing the most to perpetuate rare species of vegies, herbs and fruit,” she said.
Ms Cockburn said with open-pollinated seed, people would be able provide themselves with food.
“We need a southern hemisphere Svalbard, which is a secure seed bank on a Norwegian island,” she said.
“We have a well-established native seed bank, but believe we need to go the next step.”
Ms Cockburn said the workshop was not going to address the issue, but it was a step in gauging interest in being involved in establishing one.
“We don’t need a gene bank, which requires a massive funding undertaking, but a seed bank. I believe Tasmania would be a great place to establish one,” she said.
Ms Cockburn started Seed Freaks to source seed that was acclimatised to the area and performed well, providing high quality crops.
By growing their own seed on the farm, they have established what works and what does not.
“We’re sitting about 80 per cent of our own seed, and aiming for 100 per cent,” she said.
Ms Cockburn and her partner, Trevor Wittmer, from Surges Bay, also grow organic vegetables selling them at the Huon Farmers Market.
“We specialise in unusual tomato varieties, with 150 varieties grown this year,” she said.
“It’s a big time of year for harvesting and I’ve been processing up to 200kg of tomatoes in a week. Now we’re into pumpkins, cucumbers, beans, sunflowers, spinach and moving on to corn in a week or two.”