Here is an excerpt from a great article at Food Down the Road:
Farmers are saving heirloom varieties and breeding new ones, writes Cate Henderson.
“All the flowers of all the tomorrows are in the seeds of today.” This Indian proverb succinctly states why Kingston area farmers are ahead of the sustainability game in at least one respect; many of them save a portion of their own seed. Why is this a sustainable practice, and why should local eaters care whether farmers buy seeds anew each year or save their own?…
…Titia Posthuma is a Biodynamic farmer on Ravensfield farm near Maberly. She sells her beautiful produce at the Kingston Farmers Market and to local chefs. She has recently started putting aside produce at her market stand from which she wants to save seeds. She sells that fruit on the condition that the buyer puts some of its seeds into a labeled bag provided by Titia and brings those seeds back to her at the earliest opportunity. The buyer is welcome to keep some of those seeds for her or his own use as well.
Titia does this because some harvested fruits are so perfectly true-to-type (meaning true to the variety’s essential characteristics) that she feels she must both share them with the public and have them in her seed stock!
Titia has observed that when catalogues replace older varieties, the new ones are often inferior – the latest carrot strains contain “more water and sugar than carrot,” for instance.
More broadly, she shares the concern of many farmers that control over seeds will become concentrated in a handful of companies who breed varieties for appearance and suitability to industrial production instead of for taste or nutrition.
Titia saves seed from many plant varieties: tomatoes, beans and peas, lettuce, as well as any cucumbers, pumpkin and squash that have been properly isolated (that is, kept separate from other varieties to keep them from cross-pollinating). Beets, parsnips, swiss chard, onions, leeks and garlic are some of the biennials that survive the winter. “Any seed I can save, I save,” she declares.