Small seeds’ producers preserving biodiversity and food variety

The association Kokopelli works with several local and mostly small producers to grow plants, herbs, and vegetables for their organic seeds. This means that different varieties are grown that have almost been lost and/or have been evacuated by the agro-business. Just think of the different types of cucumbers one can find in a supermarket, usually only two: ‘normal’ and organic! On a yearly basis Kokopelli takes stokes of the need for certain types of seeds and checks with its network of small producers who can grow which seeds for that year.

the village Lagorce

the church in Lagorce, seen from a field of the producer Stéphane

Stéphane Forissier, in the beautiful little village of Lagorce in the Ardèche, is one of them. He does this already more than 10 years and has ample experience with a large variety of vegetables.

 

He works about 2,5 hectares of land spread over different plots. Growing vegetables for the production of seeds means that you do not have any crop or eat the vegetables, as the plants have to grow on until they produce their seeds. In case of food production, they don’t get to that stage.

Stéphane in the garden

salads for seeds

 

A pity at first sight to see these beautiful vegetables left untouched.

 

 

 

vegetable garden

 

Part of his production is for the seeds which are sold to Kokopelli and the rest of the vegetables are for sale, mostly direct sales to local consumers. I have never seen and eaten so many varieties of salads; a delight for the tastebuds!

 

 

Tomato: a vegetable or a fruit?

I remember the never ending discussion on this topic. Well here is the answer. Stéphane told me that in botanic terms a tomato is a fruit! Why? The plant first gives flowers before it produces the fruit, in this case the tomato. Salads or carrots for instance do not bloom in order to produce their vegetable. This is by the way also the case for the eggplant, which is also a fruit!

Discover a lot more on seeds and plant varieties

Plant breeding is a profession in itself. Kokopelli edited (already the 11th edition!) a book called “Les semences de Kopelli”. This 848 pages book with over 1300 photos is almost a bible on seeds and plant varieties. The book consists of two parts. The first part, covering many articles by different authors on food biodiversity, agro-ecology, alternative beekeeping, water issues, medical plants, effects of mechanised agriculture, radioactive pollution in the food chain following Fukushima, etc. The second part is a manual for gardeners on seeds, plant varieties and soil quality with for each variety the story from seed to plant, treatment, botanic classification and nutritious value. Worthwhile reading!

For those interested in further reading on the history on plant breeding and agriculture in transition check these articles in English at the Kokopelli web site: http://kokopelli-semences.fr/articles/short_history_of_plant and http://kokopelli-semences.fr/articles/agriculture_in_transition.

 Still room for more variety

Alternative seed and plant breeding is still rather marginal as EU legislation blocks the free production and trade of so called non-registered seeds and plants. Recent court decisions however seem to change directions on this topic towards opening up to other varieties. However, for the sake of our future food and biodiversity, for the joy and wealth of the many different flavors on our plates, and for the multiple applications, including preventive medicine, of the many different vegetables, herbs and fruits we need more of these seeds and producers that can make a decent living with this important activity.

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