I couldn’t put down my copy of The Heirloom Life Gardener, the fascinating story of how Jere Gettle started the Baker Creek Heirloom Seed Company. You can win a copy of the book that boldly states, “Anyone can start a garden.”
To enter the book giveaway, post a comment here on what gardening means to you before Friday, January 13, at 5:00 p.m. Mountain time. The winner will be selected at random from all comments and notified January 16. This giveaway is open to gardeners in the U.S. and Canada.
Jere Gettle started working in his family’s garden when he was only 3 years old and almost immediately he knew he wanted to become a seedsman one day. He started Baker Creek Heirloom Seed Company in 1998 in the bedroom of his family’s home when he was only 17. That first seed catalog has grown to one that includes 1400 varieties from 70 different countries.
The Heirloom Life Gardener: The Baker Creek Way of Growing Your Own Food Easily and Naturally (Hyperion Books, 2011, $29.99) describes how he first fell in love with the rich colors of the garden and surrounding landscape. He describes in detail how he started searching for rare and wonderful seeds with his first trip–alone–into Mexico. His need for seeds, what he calls seed fever, has taken him to the places where people are still using traditional farming and gardening methods. He’s stopped at roadside vegetable stands in Guatemala and bustling markets in Thailand to find the most beautiful and delicious varieties to share with us.
I like how Jere, his wife Emilee and writer Meghan Sutherland create an interesting timeline that shows how his interest in heirloom seeds intersects with changes in our food supply and the grow-your-own food revolution. Heirloom vegetables, fruits, herbs, and other plants, don’t just tie us to the past, they are important to our food safety.
Heirlooms are seeds that have been around for many years and no one has tinkered with them. These are the seeds that are non-hybrid and open-pollinated. That means any heirloom seed you plant today will grow into the same plant next year and the next year, just as it grew years (and years) ago. One of the oldest seeds Baker Creek sells is the ‘Black Spanish’ radish that dates to around 200 A.D.
I think every gardener needs to read the chapter called “Seeds in America.” This chapter explains how agriculture underwent dramatic changes starting in the mid-twentieth century when it became industrialized. Advances thought to improve agriculture, such as genetically-modified seeds and chemical pesticides and fertilizers, are actually “mixed blessings, which have the potential to jeopardize the health and well-being of future generations.”
It’s my hope that gardeners everywhere will pick up a copy of The Heirloom Life Gardener, buy a pack of heirloom seeds, and start planting.
[I received this free review copy of The Heirloom Life Gardener to keep, but I'm such a fan of Baker Creek Seed Company that I've decided to pass it along to one lucky reader.]