Traditional farmers, backyard gardeners and farming hippies have shared the occasional viewpoint in these parts, sometimes just agreeing on a good beer down at the local tavern. Many also share a feisty independent streak when it comes to being told what they can and cannot grow. Companies like Monsanto somehow gaining the right to own life itself – to control and alter the very seeds of food plants – well, that just doesn’t sit right. Growing old varieties that haven’t been mixed with sardine or Round-Up genes keeps these strains alive and available.
Drive down a street in Petaluma, California and you will pass a stone edifice of a bank, like many old towns have. But wait – that says Seed Bank! Run by Baker Creek Heirloom Seed Company, you can find 1200+ varieties of heirloom, non-GMO, non-adulterated seeds from all over the world. Try growing tomatoes with names like Black Elephant and Amazon Chocolate, a Lipstick Pepper or a Blue Podded Blauwshokker Pea. Make your own Southern-style syrup by growing Honey Drip Sorghum, crushing the stems and boiling the juice down. Plant some local history and enjoy the Wonderberry, developed by Luther Burbank. Many are suited for containers so you can macro-farm your heart out.
If you’re too impatient to grow your own from seed, get down to the farmers markets here , where next to the dewy pile of lettuce you can find a table full of inexpensive heirloom starts already acclimated to our yo-yo climate. We’ll clue you to some of our favorite special plant sales when they pop up, too.