We are first and foremost an organic farm and seed center. We feel like bringing seed saving back into the hands of farmers and growers can empower people as well as increase the quality of seed and varieties we have to consume.
As a seed center we collect rare and indigenous seeds from Thailand and all around the world, propagate them at the farm, and when we have enough distribute them through our loose network of other organic farmers and communities. We are a living seed bank meaning we do not only collect seeds to keep but grow and exchange the seeds continually to propagate the species coming back to use.
We are a small seed center, growing and propagating what we can while mostly encouraging other farmers and growers to do the same. We don’t strive to have all varieties at our center but to slowly grow a network of people continually growing and saving seed themselves as well. While we do work to grow for seed, we also work to propagate the idea of bringing the practice of seed saving back to the lives of farmers and growers all over. We feel this is the true way to bring back our edible diversity. At the farm we first grow for seed, second for our own consumption and of those who come to visit or do programs at the farm, and third with any extra give away, make into products, or sell.
If you are interested in seed, you can send us a self-addressed envelope and what seeds you are most interested in to our PO box at PO Box 5 Mae Taeng, Chiang Mai, 50150 or contact us by phone at 081.470.1461 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org. We give seed by donation.
Jo’s talk on why we need to save seeds:
“Why do we have to save local seeds? There are so many important reasons people don’t see. Seeds are in a dangerous situation but people see over it or don’t think about it.
When I was a child families grew five varieties of rice because the fields had low and high areas. In the least they grew five varieties. Some varieties could withstand flooding conditions. If flooding came they could stretch up to one meter high within two to three days. That made rice able to survive. So if you have flooding, you still have rice to eat. But sometimes we faced drought, where it didn’t rain for many months but there were varieties of rice that could withstand drought. So whether we faced flooding or drought, we still had rice to eat. Some varieties could withstand disease. When we had disease come, we still had rice to eat. This helped us to see that having food plant diversity, gave us life security. If we don’t have diversity, our lives do not have security. Just like now, everyone now grows only a few selected varieties of Jasmine Rice. If you have a lot of rain and flooding they all die. If you have drought, they all die. If pests come, they all die. This means that if anything happens, we do not have security. This is not security if we don’t have plant diversity.
At this time, we have developed not many varieties and not many species are left. We only grow these few. This is because we don’t grow for ourselves and our lives anymore, we grow for sale only. We grow for sale to build wealth for others. Growing for sale only, it is impossible to every get rich. No matter how much they do, they just get poorer. Because of this, the diversity of seeds is very important in our lives at this time. Another example I’d like to express is about watermelon. My village has been growing watermelon for a long time. When I was a kid, there was one variety called “Pillow Watermelon” because it was such a big fruit. When farmers were done planting rice, they would plant watermelon. When they harvested the rice, there were watermelons all on the ground. When I was a kid, I couldn’t pick them up because they were so big and long. We kept them in the rice grain shed. We could keep them for a month before eating and they were a beautiful red color inside. But now, this variety cannot be found. It has disappeared. In about the last 20 years in my village, we sold watermelon regularly and saved the seeds ourselves. After not long, there was someone who came in to give us a hybrid seed for villagers to try. People liked it because it was nice and small, red, really sweet, and abundant. People liked to grow it so the next year they didn’t give it out for free. They started to sell the seed, I can’t remember exactly but maybe for 5-10 baht/kilo. At that time rice was 3-4 baht/kilo. But after that, every year the price of watermelon seeds got more and more expensive. In the last 15 years, the price of watermelon seeds has exceeded to 12,000 baht/kilo but in the past 15 years, the price farmers can sell rice for raised to only 6 baht/kilo, at the most 7 baht/kilo. (Farmer’s main income is from rice sales). This helps us to see the difference between seed that is from companies, that gets so expensive it’s unbelievable. But the production of villagers has not changed. The price stays the same. This helps us to see clearly that being a farmer, you cannot be rich. Whoever thinks you can is being silly and is not doing farming for the right reason.
Now the problem that has arisen is that seeds are starting to become controlled by large international companies. This is because now these companies see that investing a lot of money is beginning to fail. People used to believe that investing in oil would be secure because it is something everyone has to use, but now oil is almost gone, so it is not secure anymore. Or investing in nuclear is good for the future but there has been much protest against this making it not feasible as well. There are not many places to invest. Businesspeople are starting to see that food is the most important thing in the world. Buddha said this very clearly that food is the most important thing in the world. And businessmen are starting to see this. So many companies are starting to take-over food of the world by monopolizing our food sources. Monsanto company has joined with the US government to invest together to monopolize the food of the world, making terminator seed technology, GMOs, and others. Monsanto makes GMOs and America is the country who put pressure on other countries to make intellectual property rights laws.
This law gives Monsanto the rights to take-over the rights to food. You see clearly that the American government and Monsanto company and other companies are working together to pressure the world to allow them to control their food. Every government is starting to talk about starting to experiment with GMOs in fields. This is the way to try to push Thai people to allow rights laws and invite GMOs in. This is very confusing and people cannot see it. Deeper than that, food is in the hands of business and business uses food and seeds as a tool to suck the fertility of our soil and the labor of people all over the world to build wealth for themselves. This helps us to the see the pictures that people who grow watermelon on 10-15 acres, have to invest in the least 100,000 baht. And 60% of that investment , 60,000 baht, is the price of seeds, chemical fertilizers, pesticides. This expense is money we send to companies. In the past we never sent this money to anyone. However much we sold, was our money to use. And we could live on this. But at this time, we have to send our money to the companies all the time. This is a confusing picture because it is a slavery system that we cannot see. We have been taught that we have abolished slavery since King Rama IV, or other countries in other times, and that we don’t have slavery anymore. But actually now almost everyone are slaves and not even knowing it. All farmers are slaves in their own fields. They work hard but have what leftover from it?
No one thinks of this. In the past, people did not work hard. They worked 2 months per year. They planted rice for one month and harvested for one month. That’s all. They had enough to eat because what time was left over was free time. They used their free time to find fun things to do. In the past, they had so many ceremonies. In Thailand, we have every month because people had so much free time. They looked for fun things to do to give their life value and ease. They had time to relax and be with themselves. People who have time with themselves, can see and know themselves. People who have never been with themselves and have only worked, have never had time to think of themselves, why they are here, what we need in life. We never have time to ask ourselves. We use all of our time working, looking for work. Our lives become a machine that work and work and then die. We do not enjoy with life or enjoy the beauty of life. But people in the past did not work. Like people in Northeastern Thailand in the past did not have the word, ‘work’. When they went to do planting, they called it planting, when they harvested, they called it harvesting. They never used the word ‘work’. Harvesting as fun, planting was not work because we all did it together. Everyone wanted to go. It was so fun, more fun than watching theatre, movies. Everyone wanted to go. Everyone did not think of time. They were surprised it was evening so quickly. This is life without work. But now everyone likes to say, ‘I’m not free’. And have so much work. And people use time and clocks as part of their lives. When working, they look at the clock thinking, ‘When am I going to be done so I can go home?’ Even if they say they love this work and are so impressed with it, actually they like the money, not the work. They still all look at their clocks to see when they can do home. If we are still looking at the clock, this is work. If we feel enjoy with it and are not interested in time and are happy with it, that is not work. It is life that is abundant.
But at this time we are controlled to be slaves, all farmers. In the past we grew rice once a year but now we grow rice all year. We farm all year long. Some places they grow rice four times a year. Many people grow corn, then soybeans, then onions, then rice. Four times a year. But the more you do, the poorer you become. All you have is debt. Then you have to sell your land. Some people have to rent their house. It is so sad. They work so hard but they don’t have enough to eat. No one asks themselves, ‘Why they work so hard and don’t have enough, why they continue to do it? What’s happening in the system?’ It’s very scary because all farmers if they want to farm have to buy their seed. Buying seeds, chemical fertilizers, and pesticides is giving their effort away to their slave owner. We don’t know who Monsanto and CP company are, we don’t know them, but we send them money everyday we grow plants in our fields. The more you do, the richer they become. They have more and more money to buy our government. At the same time, our bodies deteriorate from working too hard. Our bodies are getting more and more diseases from the chemical use. Our soils are starting to die more and more because we’re sucking the fertility out of our soil to export away and then we import more and more chemicals.
In the end, we will be left with dead land, deteriorated health. We are stupid slaves. What are we doing it for? No one ever asks this. Seeds that have been used as tools to control people to be slaves, or used as tools to take advantage of people all over the world without them knowing, is a very scary thing. Because in the past people who were slaves knew they were slaves. They would try to find freedom. But at this time, we look back to see that slavery is fashion that is popular. We’re so glad to show we have five credit cards. But actually that is the way to say we have many slave owners. These are my slave owners. Some farmers drive pick-up trucks and use cell phones to show, ‘I’m the best slave because I can get money. Look at what I made my slave owner.’ They take the little things they got from it, pickup, cell phone, and then they are proud of this. Actually that is all trash that makes our burden heavier and heavier. It’s really sad that we’re so proud of being slaves.
And what’s left in our lives? The next generation will have what kind of life? Seeds are no small deal. They are in a dangerous situation. It’s probably the most dangerous situation humanity has faced because now many of the varieties we used to have are gone. We used to have more than 2,000 varieties of rice and now only 200 or so are left that we still grow. And of those we only really grow about 20 varieties. This is not life security. We have less and less diversity and less security. Not just security of humans but other animals as well. Everything is related. The companies and government are developing seed to be weaker, to be able to get seed that cannot be propagated, that they can only produce. We develop seed to be worse and worse until nothing is left. Our ancestors developed seed for many thousands of years, selecting seed that is the strongest and best tasting, selecting for more yield, and longest-lasting yield. They thought of taste and sustainability and they gave it to us. Until now, we have Jasmine rice, other kinds of rice, good mango varieties. These are the gifts of our ancestors who selected for these characteristics and gave them to us. But now we are the last generation of humans who are not respecting our ancestors because we are developing degenerating seed. We develop seeds to get yield as fast as possible, consistent yield, and seed that cannot be saved again. We develop for the market, not for people so the varieties left now are very weak, who cannot survive without human support. If they don’t have chemicals, they cannot thrive. We developed weak seed for our next generation. Developing seed at this time, is at the end of development to the end of where we can go.
We are not developing for ourselves. How can we believe the food we have now has the same nutrition? Because the taste of the food we have left now, has no taste left to enjoy. Everything is bland. We can see this clearly looking at chicken species. Local chicken is very delicious. It’s firm, chewy, and sweet. It’s delicious by itself. People really like it. When farm chickens were starting to be sold, people felt like there was no flavor. It was like eating a sponge, bland and watery. But they controlled the market by selling very cheaply. People started to eat it more and more because it was better than nothing. They bought it very cheaply and added a lot of Monosodium Glutamate and sauce and it gave it taste. They kept eating it and then started to believe that the taste of chicken is this way. The new generation who was raised on farm chicken started to believe this is the way chicken tastes. It tastes awful but they taught us to like it. They told us to eat it and we had to. This made us have to eat things that we don’t like but we had to.
This was not started with just chicken but many things—fish, and many vegetable varieties. We can see that vegetables that we used to eat had strong tastes—sweet, bitter, sour, astringent. But now the vegetables sold in the supermarket they have developed, are all bland. They are big and beautiful. The old vegetables were not as consistently shaped and big but you cannot compare the taste. This is the kind of development that is not thinking of humans. It is only thinking of growing vegetables that can stay on the market for the longest time. We can see that development of seeds at this time is at the end of its development. People that plant, are forced to plant because companies come and sell this variety and they have to buy this variety from them always. After they grow, they have to sell it to the companies. If they plant something else, the companies will not buy it. This has made the local varieties disappear quickly. No one wants to buy the local varieties. You can’t sell them so you can’t grow much of them. So people don’t grow them for 2-3 years and the varieties begin to disappear. After the local varieties disappear, more and more hybrid varieties appear. When they disappear, they don’t come back. They are gone from the earth. There are many varieties that we have very few of left that are in the hands of companies now. This is monopolizing. After this, every bite of rice we eat we send money to these companies.
It is not just farmers, but also all that city dwellers eat as well. It doesn’t matter if you are a farmer or work in an office in the city, we are all equal slaves who send our money to these companies. This is the truth now. We see it very clearly. This is the situation now. This is what makes everyone not able to be rich. Or not even thinking about being rich, people cannot get rid of their debt. Everyone is in debt this day because debt causes this slavery system. These are the strongest chains. Chains that when tied to someone, make them work very hard without a slave owner controlling them to work. So anyone who is tied by chains of debt, they become slaves, working harder and harder to make money to send to the point that farmers are working so hard they’re working by candlelight in the fields at night. This has never happened before in human history that humans have worked as hard as we are working now. This is very scary because we only have one life. All we have is this life and this is all the time we have. The time we have to enjoy the beauty of life and peace we lose by working hard all the time. It’s very sad. So saving local seed is a way to come back to humanity and freedom. It’s not too late to start saving local seeds together. There are many seeds left to grow and propagate on for hope for our next generation to not be slaves and have an alternative. Those who want to be slaves can, but people who want an alternative and an easy life full of happiness, need their own seeds.
How are We Going to Do It?:
“So how are we going to save seeds? Actually saving seeds is not only about saving seed. It means changing your life to come back to self-reliance. We can’t save seeds without freedom in our lives. We can’t save seeds without thinking about sustainability so saving seeds means going back to self-reliance. The easiest way is to think about self-reliance in terms of the four basic needs; food, shelter, clothing and medicine. If we can be self-reliant, that means we stop sending money to international companies that are trying to control us. We stop sending money to them and we become independent. It’s so easy. If we still send money there, we are still slaves. If we stop, we’re immediately independent. It’s not hard but it’s in our minds. Are we ready to be self-reliant? For example, I used to live just like anybody else but I decided to make myself independent from the slavery system. I went back home and built my own home, grew my own vegetables, and did farming like in the past. I worked two months a year, 30 minutes per day. I was able to make enough food to easily feed six people with leftover to sell. It was so easy working 30 minutes per day, 2 months per year. Before this I was a slave working in Bangkok. I worked 8 hrs a day. It wasn’t enough to just support myself. It made me chose what was much easier. I built my own house. Others may use 20-30 years before having one house but I built my own house spending 2 hrs/day and in two months I had a house. It’s so easy. The rest of my time is free time.
About clothes, if we’re not slaves to fashion, its’ so easy. I haven’t bought new clothes in the last 15-20 years. But I live happily just like everybody else. When I think about the time when I worked (in Bangkok) I worked one months just to buy one pair of jeans. It’s so sad when you think about it. Now I just use old clothes.
When you talk about medicine, the last need, if we don’t have a lot of burden and stress, our diseases will be lessened, especially if we grow organic vegetables to eat and reduce our stress. New technology is good but if we just have small ailments it’s better to take care of ourselves. If we have a small cold or cut, we don’t have to run to the doctor. We can take care of ourselves. So becoming self-reliant takes us out of relying on the system.
It makes us more independent. It’s a period of time we can come back to saving seed. If we continue to stay in the system, we cannot save seeds. If we are still slaves, we have to use all of our time to run to make money to send to the companies all the time. If we come back we have more free time to grow and select seed for ourselves. Seeds that are strong, we save. Those that have good taste, we keep. It’s not hard, it’s so easy. Children can do it. It’s fun and we enjoy doing it. Saving seed it much more fun than saving antique cars we can’t even drive anymore. We can plant them in the soil and see them come up, add compost, and see them grow without chemical use. We get to eat them and see them from when they are seeds to their fruiting. We get to enjoy the taste and beauty of them and the beauty of them come into us. After we eat them, they come back out of us and into the soil again and come back to life. This is the cycle of life that is easy to understand. We should see this because when we do we understand life so much better. And we have more free time in our lives, making our lives easier. This lets us to enjoy the environment around us, seeing the breeze in the trees, birds singing, and brings us happiness. It’s so easy but we’ve been taught to think it’s hard. But coming back to easy life seems hard. But it’s not if you can change your mind. This is another alternative letting us see how saving seeds and becoming self-reliant are related.
Some people may ask, ‘Now people who live in the city have to quit their jobs and come live like farmers to do this right?’ Not actually. People in the city are able to help in the saving of seeds and get out of being slaves themselves. An easy technique is to quit sending money to the companies. Everyday we send money, whether we’re farmers or people in the city. We wake up and we have to send to Unilever for making our toothpaste and shampoo. We don’t know who they are but why do we have to send money to them? People who live in the city have to quit sending them money. They need to start making their own toothpaste, shampoo, dish soap, etc. It takes 1-2 hrs and we can use it for a year and after doing this for many years we can save several ten-thousand baht. We have more income without working more. City people can stop running to follow fashion. They say this brand is good, popular, we don’t have to be interested. We know we are worthy ourselves without it. Whatever we wear is good because goodness is within us, not in our clothes. If we’re good, no matter what we wear is good. It’s an easy way to live.
We don’t have to work more to try to follow fashion. Life becomes easier. City dwellers can also come into this life. About food, it’s not necessary for people in the city to grow their own food but city dwellers can promote farmers to grow organically with local seeds that are not from companies. Promote farmers to save seeds. People in the city could set up a market or cooperative for organic farmers to sell at. This will create self-reliance. Self-reliance also means reliance on each other as well. But self-reliance does not mean relying on international companies. Self-reliance and relying on each other are the same because we are not alone. We are all connected. We are all the same. People in the city live in the city. They have an urban lifestyle. But they can help in seed saving by eating and buying organic foods and creating markets for organic food in our communities. It will all be connected to create sustainability and make life easy. Seed diversity will come back to being and everyone will be free. We don’t have to work hard to be slaves of fashion or the system anymore. We have independence and happiness. Life is easy, why do we make it so hard? We can do it because we only have life once, we’re only born once. If we don’t do it, why are we here and why were we born? Just to be slaves and to die? Should we just be born to be machines?