Garden Club Plans Workshops on Importance of Seed Diversity

  • An "art pack" from Hudson Valley Seed Company is a packet of seeds that, once emptied, can be folded out and framed. The flower painting is by artist Girija Kaimal. In her work the cycles of nature are a metaphor for human existence. (Courtesy photograph)

Valley News Staff Writer
Tuesday, January 02, 2018

The Hanover Garden Club will host a free, two-day “Celebration of Seed Diversity” next week, with a documentary screening on Monday at the Montshire Museum of Science in Norwich and a gallery presentation and lecture on Tuesday at the Howe Library in Hanover.

But the events are not just celebratory, said Diane Guidone, a Hanover Garden Club program committee member, in a phone interview last week. They’re also meant to “illustrate the importance of seed diversity in today’s time” by bringing attention to regional seed-saving resources, and unpacking the reasons why mass-marketed seed varieties are less likely to stand up to diseases and climate change, she said.

Ken Greene, founder of the New York-based Hudson Valley Seed Co., and the keynote presenter of the two-day celebration, will introduce Monday’s 5:30 p.m. screening of Open Sesame: The Story of Seeds, from the Canadian filmmaker M. Sean Kaminsky. He will also lead a Q&A after the 80-minute film, which explores the far-reaching impact of seeds on our daily lives, from fabric to fuels, and responds to the large number of heritage varieties that have already been lost.

On Tuesday afternoon at 1, Greene — who is also an avid art lover — will present a gallery of the original agriculture-themed artwork he’s commissioned through his seed company, in the form of posters, prints and what he calls “art packs” (seed packets that you can fold out and frame once they’re empty). His accompanying lecture will discuss the storied relationship between agriculture and art, and suggest ways for the home gardener to make their growing practices more sustainable.

Greene’s company started out as a seed library that was one of the first of its kind, in that it allowed people to “check out” heirloom seeds as they would a library book, plant them and “return” the saved seeds from what grew. This method is one of the “hows” of seed-saving that the events will cover, Guidone said, in addition to the “whys.”

“Traditionally, you would select seeds from only the strongest plants,” thereby passing on the genetic superiority that allows plants to better “deal with the host of natural issues” that can come up in a growing season, including blight, unusual precipitation patterns and extreme temperatures.

These days, with the rise of corporate seed companies and the decline of traditional seed-saving practices, “our seed base is just not as adaptable as it once was,” Guidone said. And according to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, about 90 percent of fruit and vegetable varieties that existed 100 years ago have gone extinct, with many remaining varieties also close to disappearing.

But as people learn what’s at stake in sacrificing seed quality for quantity, many are turning to seed-saving as a way “to make sure we have the ability to plant varieties of seeds that have been exposed to changing situations — and have thrived,” she said. “And that’s what we’re celebrating.”

Open Sesame: The Story of Seeds will screen at 5:30 p.m. on Monday at the Montshire Museum of Science. Ken Greene will present his art gallery Tuesday at 1 at the Howe LIbrary. Both day’s events are free and open to the public. For more information, contact the Hanover Garden Club at HGCinformation@gmail.com.

EmmaJean Holley can be reached at ejholley@vnews.com or 603-727-3216.


The Hanover Garden Club will host a gallery presentation of seed packets decorated by artists at the Howe Library in Hanover on Tuesday, Jan. 9, at 1 p.m. The garden club changed the venue mentioned in an earlier version of this story because of water damage from frozen pipes.