Traditional Seed Saving

“Without the ability to feed oneself there is no sovereignty”

— Phil Seneca

Seeds are the beginning and the end of the life cycle of a great number of plants, and we rely on this rhythm in many ways. Corn, beans and grains are our staple food crops and are seeds themselves. The practice of growing and saving seeds each season ensures the chance to plant again the coming season and perpetuates varieties that express desirable traits like pest resistance, unique color, or large harvests.

In my opinion the easiest and best way to collect seed for replanting is to first start working with Heirloom or Open Pollinated seed plants from traditional breeding techniques. I discourage working with Hybrids and Genetically Modified species, and for good reason. 

For Hybrid species you are required to maintain two distinct parent varieties that then need to be cross-pollinated to obtain the hybrid seed. Saving the seeds from the resulting hybrid plant will express a variety of traits, usually possessing few, if any, of the intended traits. 

With most GM (GMO) food crops, special breeding, propagation and field conditions are required, and there is a lot of discussion about the long term viability and safety of the technology. 

Open Pollinated seed can be harvested from the parent plant retaining its original traits, requiring no special conditions, and that seed line is then adapted by the plant to its environment every season it is grown out. This is essential for adaptation of food crops to the changing environment.

All plants, including food crops, are either suited to a region or must be adapted to grow well. When you save seed, you produce specially adapted seed for your region, that will likely increase yield, reduce environmental impact and in some cases allow year round production, when previously not possible. 

Traditional breeding and seed saving yields food crops adapted to a region that will likely provide greater harvests and protects varieties, (heirlooms), for future generations to grow and adapt further, contributing to local food sovereignty. 

Seed saving provides a platform to begin a conversation about growing food and the importance of having a focus toward sustainable local food systems, supporting local business and regional financial security. 

If you’re a grower and seed saver, share your gift with a friend, and if you never have, try it just once because food you have grown yourself tastes the best for some reason.  And grow out and save seeds just for the fact that food is a commodity that is priceless and ultimately needed across the board. A poor man’s jewels, the currency of life…


Andy Bittner is a Farmer working towards Regional Food Security in the Greater Cincinnati Area.