Living as remote as we do, you don’t expect to encounter the problems of the world at large. And when I think about it, most of us don’t encounter much beyond our own communities. But last Sunday after church we met someone very interesting. He’s in the military and is part of the public relations branch of the army. His mission is in sustainability, something I wasn’t really aware that the military was interested in. And he was VERY excited that an heirloom seed company was here on the island. He’s been working with the farmers in Afghanistan. Before the war, each valley had it’s own heirloom wheat variety, cultivated over the centuries for the microclimate of each valley and tailored to the growing conditions and farming practices of each region. When the war started, the people dumped out the wheat seeds to use the jars that the wheat was stored in. They didn’t realize that they were dumping out their precious seeds and throwing out the years of work that their ancestors did to create each strain.
Now they have a problem. They lost their wheat varieties. The modern, American varieties don’t work for them. They work well here, with our intensive commercial farming practices with machinery and chemicals. They don’t work with primitive agricultural methods and in their climate. And the army is working to find them seeds that will work. And in the next few weeks we’ll be talking with him to help figure out if we can help find some varieties that might work.
It is so important to keep these old varieties around. You never know when they’ll be needed. The modern, commercial chicken breed is a cross of two heritage breeds that were almost lost because they weren’t considered valuable. And now almost all of our chicken that we eat is the result of these two rare breeds. They aren’t rare anymore, but we almost lost them. All of us working to keep heirlooms alive and thriving are in part working to keep these options available. You never know when they’ll be needed, but I know that I’m doing my part to keep them around.
So our farm is a collection of heirloom vegetables and fruits, heritage sheep and goats, guinea fowl, chickens, geese and ducks. Each is chosen for a reason, and each is being preserved on our little farm. We are doing our part, as all of us are who are keeping a flock of chickens, a herd of goats, or our favorite tomato.