Homegrown Heirloom Seeds from Our Permaculture Homestead

How our Seeds Support Australian Food Sustainability

We grow the vast majority of our seeds here at permaculture homestead in rural VIC, Australia. This makes us very different from most other seed sellers who are to a large extent mostly seed re-sellers, buying in bulk and on-selling seed from unknown origins. Organic or not, resold seed is usually from overseas large scale mono-crop operations owned by a handful of multinational corporates. There are no laws in Australia that require the country of origin of seeds to be labeled and it is is not even included in the voluntary best code of practice guidelines followed by most Australian seed suppliers. Buying seed from Loganberry Forest supports seed grown using the most sustainable permaculture principles and is well adapted over multiple generations to Australian growing conditions. We also share seed saving instructions so that a single seed packet can last a lifetime and you too can join us in taking action for Australian food sustainability, sovereignty and security.

The Inspiration for this Mission

Back in April of 2018 we and many other Australians, outside of the farming or market gardening industry, first learnt of the precarious place of our country’s food supply. It turns out all this time the vast majority of our vegetables were grown using seeds imported from overseas. This came to light when the Australian government proposed new rules to require a fungicide treatment of all brassica seeds coming into the country, and this caused great concern amongst the organics industry, as this treatment would have voided their organic certifications. This proposal was eventually (and thankfully) scrapped, but it left a lasting impression on myself about the true tenuousness of our nation’s food security.

There are several problems with relying on overseas seed imports. Firstly this exposes our country’s food to potential supply issues overseas. What might have been a shortage caused by local conditions becomes a risk for global food shortages when seeds are positioned within a globalised economy.

Food sovereignty also should be a priority both for individuals and nations as it ensures that the very essence of life is protected and managed within the interests of people and communities. When seed supply is controlled by large corporations who prioritise global profit over all else, we erode our ability as consumers and voters to dictate the conditions in which our food is grown in the best interests of human health and the environment. There are corporations such as Monsanto that now own patients on the very genetics of some food plant seeds and have successfully won legal cases against farmers who have saved the seeds from these plants. While some of these plants are genetically modified, patents on plant genetics extends far beyond to include some conventionally bred and even some organic seeds. 

In 2002 in the EU after only consulting large multi-national seed corporations, a draft law was proposed which would have prevented anyone from using or selling any seed without registration and approval from the EU government. This would have effectively even outlawed home gardeners from saving and using their own seed and spelled a disaster for the diversity of the EU food supply. Thankfully the law never passed but that does not mean seed sovereignty is safe from future attempts by these big companies to influence laws under the guise of protecting against plant diseases. This is almost ironic given that centralised control of seeds which limits their diversity is a far bigger risk in the face of plant diseases or pets (more on that next). Even without changes to laws there is an increasing conglomeration of the seed supply to ever fewer mega corporations. In mid 2018 the company Bayer merged with Monsanto meaning that there is little to no competition for either the seeds or pesticides used to grow the majority of Australia’s plant foods.

Rare vegetables from an 1898 illustrations by John Lewis Childs

A major problem with a centralised seed supply is that of a lack of diversity. Diversity is a key principle of the permaculture philosophy because it is a way to ensure the greatest resilience against future problems and is how nature itself adapts to changing conditions. In the last 80 years we have lost 93% of the unique varieties of vegetables within the main food supply. Much of the fruit and vegetables grown are hybrid varieties produced through calculated cross-pollination with the resulting plants producing seed not even worth saving as they do not grow true to type. Heirloom seed growers and savers represent the last vestiges of many of these now highly rare varieties that would never be found on a supermarket shelf. With a fast changing climate, plant diversity will be ever more important as the monoculture hybrids which were bred to perform best within past conditions begin to fail or are quickly wiped out by diseases or pests which adapt to take advantage of the genetic monotony.

Lastly another issue that would affect farmer and home gardener alike is that if the majority of our seed supply is derived from overseas sources, this means we do not get the benefits of plant genetics adapted to local conditions. Any home gardener who has saved seed over many years will attest that if you save the seed from the best plant in your gardener each year, the vegetables you grow become better and better with each generation as they are selectively bred to perform best in your own local conditions. That is why the best seeds you can get your own saved seed, followed next by those grown locally.

Loganberry Forest Supports Local Seed Heritage and Seed Saving

We are a small family owned business and are committed to preserving heritage seed diversity and to empower others to be active participants in the protection of food security and adaptation in a changing climate. We are committed to 100% transparency in the source and growing conditions of our seed. We document our sustainable permaculture growing methods at Loganberry Forest on website, through social media and our youtube channel. We also use these platforms (as well as in person activities in our local community) as a way of skill-sharing to give back and empower others in permaculture, gardening, seed saving and garden based cooking.

Being committed to providing homegrown seeds means that our catalogue may be smaller than other companies. Since some varieties of plants require seclusion from others to prevent cross-pollinated hybrids this limited the number of varieties we can grow simultaneously on our single property. Since many varieties of seeds last many years in good storage conditions, through your support overtime this will range will expand.

We truely believe that growing your own food using sustainable organic (and permaculture) practices, saving your own seed and recycling nutrients through composting are some of the greatest contributions you can make to the collective fight to reduce the impact of climate change or where that isn’t possible by supporting local grown (seed and food).

2020 UpdateWe now include a few 100% Australian Grown (but not by us) seeds in our catalogue and this is why

As time has gone on doing this little business, we’ve had more opportunity to talk to our customers. Many of you love that our seeds are homegrown and locally adapted. But you also need to grow and eat many things we just can’t get in stock, particularly members of the brassica (cabbage family) because of the cross-pollination issue (we can only grow and save one of a variety within a family at a time otherwise the seed isn’t pure). You don’t want to have to pay postage multiple times to get things from multiple different places. So we listened and have now started stocking a few 100% Australian grown seeds where there were obviously some major gaps in our catalogue. This way we can still support our mission of Australian grown, ensure the seed we grow and sell are still pure and provide a more complete range of the plants we love to grow and eat for ourselves.

We will always make it very clear in a listing where a seed for sale is not grown at our homestead and is from another Australian seed farm. Where its not our homegrown seed it’s written at the bottom of the listing. Homegrown seed from our homestead will always be the vast majority what we offer (about 95%).

In the long term we would love to be able to create our own community of seed growers – perhaps other local permie families we could support. So that’s something we will work towards and dream for the future.

Further Reading:
Why Australia Imports so Many Veggie Seeds:
https://theconversation.com/why-australia-imports-so-many-veggie-seeds-and-do-we-really-need-to-treat-them-with-fungicides-94576

What is Agrobiodiversity: http://www.fao.org/docrep/007/y5609e/y5609e02.htm