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The mission of Native Seeds/SEARCH is to conserve, distribute, and document the adapted and diverse varieties of agricultural seeds, their wild relatives and the role these seeds play in cultures of the American Southwest and Northwest Mexico.
Native Seeds/SEARCH is a nonprofit conservation organization based in Tucson, Arizona. NS/S works to conserve, distribute and document the adapted and diverse varieties of agricultural seed, their wild relatives and the role these seeds play in cultures of the American Southwestern and northwest Mexico. Our mission began in 1983, springing from the nexus of cultural longing and impending loss of genetic diversity. Today we safeguard 2000 varieties of arid-land adapted agricultural crops. Some, like watermelons, were adapted from seeds brought by early Europeans. Most of our collection consists of varieties of indigenous crops developed over centuries or millennia to suit the needs of their human partners. We promote the use of these ancient crops and their wild relatives by distributing seeds to traditional communities and to gardeners world wide. Currently we offer 350 varieties from our collection, grown out at our Conservation Farm in Patagonia, Arizona. We also work to preserve knowledge about the traditional uses of the crop we steward. Through research, seed distribution and community outreach NS/S seeks to protect biodiversity and to celebrate cultural diversity. Both are essential in connecting the past to the future. Crop loss means an inevitable reduction in genetic diversity: thousands of years of evolution down the drain. The loss, in human terms, is equally severe. Traditional farmers are a stabilizing force in many Native American communities. They conserve historic seeds adapted to local conditions, keep traditional agricultural and culinary practices alive, donate crops for ceremonies and feast days, and feed extended families from their fields. We are as concerned about the loss of ecological relationships, the traditions of humans and plants evolving together, as we are about the extinction of a single species. When peoples once sustained by agriculture lose their agricultural traditions, their survival as a culture may also be at risk. For many Native American tribes in the southwestern U.S. and northern Mexico, these relationships are endangered. The good news is that a tide is sweeping through Native American communities, traditional crops and foods are again sought for their power to nourish body and soul. Native Seeds/SEARCH is grateful for the opportunity to return the seeds of grandparents to people who seek them, and to make available to everyone this wondrous gift, the delicious joy of seeds.
- Diana Peel
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