• MINH THY NGUYEN NGOC

Stolen Harvest. #SeedSecurity From Farm to Table, where are organic seed used?


When we eat a fruit, we are seeking the pleasure of the fruit and forget about the seeds inside. The seeds often end up in the trash bin or, with luck, they start new life in someone’s garden. But today, many fruits are genetically modified to be seedless or so that the seeds cannot develop.Whether food has been growing with Organic methodologies, fruits we have today are no longer served in their natural way.

Organic farming journey in Vietnam.

A new trend is starting in Vietnam Agriculture and Food consumption, it is Organic Farming. Once people start to question about where their food is coming from, lots of changes are happening with the seeding, planting, caring the crops; and as result, new business encouraging Organic Food.

In order to research on this new farming/food movement, I meetup with organic farmers, organic food shops and try to know their motivation to be on the Organic Food Production, also in the Organic F&B (Food & Beverage), as well as what they can do to build up sustainable business with environmental impacts. Since May, I have been traveling across Vietnam with some FoodTech entrepreneurs to find great initiatives in food innovation.

However, every farm we visit in Vietnam, we just see the beautiful products: green vegetables on the ground and earthworm in the soil. We heard the startup stories of farm founders, we know how the trees are planted and protected. But we have not yet discovered one simple element in Organic food producing: the Seed origin.

I hadn’t asked the farmers about the importance of growing and keeping the Seeds until I met Adele, a FoodTech nomad who wants to make web series on Seed Security.

A green walk at Happy Veggi, organic family farm in Ho Chi Minh city.

Interview with two organic farms in Ho Chi Minh city.

With Adele, we made the 4th #OrganicHuntingTour to discover Organic farm entrepreneurs. Adele is a FoodTech nomad traveling across Asia to learn about organic farming, and seed security. I met her by a friend’s recommendation since we were both interested in FoodSecurity. She is making a documentary film about #SeedSecurity to raise awareness of Organic food. We all know that we need high quality, non-GMO, no diseased, and specially, vegetables that can be regenerated.

Inspired by Vandana Shiva, the famous author of "Stolen Harvest", Adele and I teamed up to visit organic farms in HoChiMinh city. We chose HoChiMinh to see how the farmers can manage to increase awareness on Organic food in a big city where almost all the soil, water and air are not good enough for Organic food standards. And personally, this time I would ask the organic farmers about keeping their organic seeds.

We visited Happy Veggi and Lady Bug Farm, both are in HoChiMinh city, Vietnam.

- Happy Veggi (2 Ba Queo, Tan Binh D., HCMC) is an organic and community garden. They grow tropical vegetables; they have some shops selling their products and are now starting to build Kid Garden - a kind of events for children to visit with their families at weekend.

- Lady Bug Farm (130 Nguyen Van Huong, D.2, HCMC) is an organic farm, food delivery and KidGarden playground. They grow vegetables inside greenhouses: “[By] putting trees in boxes, and in high shelves, that is good way to do gardening in cities, at your home rooftop garden or buildings, to prevent the droughts, to [better] use spaces, we try to give best suggestion for families [so that they] can build an organic garden at their home" - told by Huong, a garden staff at Lady Bug Farm. Unlike planting trees in soil, planting in boxes can control the veggie's diseases: any box that starts showing tree illness, the farmers just give away the box and start growing another one again.

They put plants in the high shelves to avoid illness from soil, and healthy clean soil is already in the boxes.

Adele told me that in France, her father is an Organic Seed Producer, he sells them to some organic seeds companies, and later on organic farmers will buy the seeds from him. After, the farmers can keep the seeds for later crops. Unlike GMO, everyone is happy to keep the seeds, share and regenerate it. They also have some fair-trade organizations protecting the #local seeds, great gene sources! But what is the #SeedSecurity in Vietnam? How is it happening? We asked the 2 farm entrepreneurs whether they keep the good original plants and generate seeds.

They have interesting answers: " NO, WE BUY FROM COMPANIES THAT IMPORT THEM". “ Do you use any local seeds or you take from your trees to generate the new crops?”. “ No, we want our food is best quality, reliable so we are count on the seed company. We don’t want to take risk on nature pollen, we have already done lots of farming work, in comparisons to non-organic farming” .

after carefully discussing on why organic farmers wouldn't keep their seeds, we noted these reasons:

- They want to maintain the valid quality of their products by getting rid of nature pollen and mix-gene generations.

- They want to prevent the disease factors that the original plants can later inherit to the seeds. At HAPPY VEGGI, after harvesting, they pick up all the old roots, give them away and plan another new kind of vegetable (spinach, cabbage, herbs), which they buy new every time. By planting different vegetables, refreshing the soil, they believe it helps lowering down the future diseases and keep the food products back to quality line again!

- They want to save time. At LADY BUG FARM, any sick plant box is given away! The whole thing is about keeping the good quality in control! This is not what I learn about #Permaculture that everything- soil, water, air, trees, need to be regenerative. Or is this reality and am I such a dreamer?

Navdanya means “nine seeds” (symbolizing protection of biological and cultural diversity) and also the “new gift” (for seed as commons, based on the right to save and share seeds In today’s context of biological and ecological destruction, seed savers are the true givers of seed. This gift or “dana” of Navadhanyas (nine seeds) is the ultimate gift – it is a gift of life, of heritage and continuity. Conserving seed is conserving biodiversity, conserving knowledge of the seed and its utilization, conserving culture, conserving sustainability” . (Navdanya is a network of seed keepers and organic producers spread across 18 states in India. http://www.navdanya.org)

Where should your seeds travel?

For the permaculturists, and truly organic farmers, the seed is not merely the source of future plants and food; it is a vehicle through which culture and history can be preserved and spread to future generations.

For centuries, farmers have develop crops and produced an incredible diversity of plants that provide life-sustaining nutrition. Although getting the best quality seeds and regenerate it for next harvest is a hard work, it is a good way to protect the farm's profit without relying on seed companies. The worst thing in agriculture is that it relies on GMO seed companies, but is even worse that the organic farmers rely on organic seed companies as well. There is different between preserving the good genes of seeds from nature's beauty into monopoly business, but that difference is as thick as paper.

This productive tradition of keeping seeds for next crops, however, is under attack as globalized, corporate regimes increasingly exploit intellectual property laws to annex these seeds and remove them from the public sphere.

There are some organic permaculture farms in Hanoi such as Tue Vien Organic farm, where they keep the seeds after harvesting. They choose the best seeds and grow them. They don't control everything, " doing Organic should be about going back-to-nature of whole things. The plants raise and give birth, it's nature. We are human beings and we are borrowing from Nature to live..."

At the end of the journey, Adele suggests me the book " Stolen Harvest" from Vandana Shiva in which she writes about how India can produce organic food and increase large number of organic farms by Seed Banks and sharing organic seeds within the organic farmer community.

Talking with Adele, and asking where the farmers get their seeds from, I see why people say: "Growing vegetables like wild plants" (from the book " One-straw Revolution of Masanobu Fukuoka).

I look forward to a chance #OrganicHuntingTour in India for #SeedSecurity.

*Reference about Seed Security -Seed Sovereignty

My suggestion DIY tips How to start your own seed bank (http://inhabitat.com/growing-trees-from-seeds-which-work-which-wont/)

Biodiversity Seed Banks in India: (http://www.ecoideaz.com/innovative-green-ideas/biodiversity-seed-banks-india)

If you are interested in eco-tourism, traveling organic farms, and working with me on agriculture, FoodTech start-up researches, you can contact me in Vietnam via email: minhthy1016@gmail.com


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