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Saturday, January 31, 2009

Guaranteeing the food supply

One of the most important parts of prepping for me is guaranteeing the food supply for the future just in case. Part of that is having a full pantry of things you get from the grocery store. But, part of it for us is having a good garden/harvest each year, collecting seeds and canning our extra produce for the future.

Planting a garden is addictive for me and I tend to get a bit carried away. I could sit for hours flipping through seed catalogs dreaming about exotic varieties of vegetables to start in the spring. Really, the best thing to do is to plant what you know your family is going to eat. No sense putting in three rows of lima beans if no one is going to eat them.

So you’ve got your seed catalogs with you and you’re trying to decide what to plant. If you’re new to gardening (or not), there may be some terms that you aren’t familiar with. I don’t have a degree in agriculture. These are my unofficial layman definitions.

Organic – Organic seeds means that the parent plant was grown under organic conditions. This means that any fertilizer, mulch, spray, etc that was used on the parent plant, was organic. No dangerous pesticides, fungicides or chemical treated mulches or sprays were used.

Heirloom – Heirloom seeds are seeds that have been grown during an earlier period in our history and aren’t grown in mass quantities today. They are usually open pollinated and non-hybrid.

Hybrid – Hybrids are seeds whose parents have been artificially crossed in order to “improve” them somehow. Maybe the company took two different types of tomatoes and crossed them to get a new “improved” tomato. The “improved” seed is a hybrid. The way a hybrid works is that you plant the hybrid seed, the "improved" tomato grows, you collect seed from the hybrid tomato, you plant the seed and what you get is not what you had last year. A hybrid seed won’t grow true the second time. It will revert to one of its parent plants. So, yes, you’d probably get a tomato, but you won’t get the type you thought you would.

GMO – Genetically modified organism. Someone has gone into the seeds cell structure and genetically modified it to “improve” it somehow. Generally the seed has been combined with something that makes it tolerant to drought, herbicides, pests, etc. These GMO seeds are mostly supplied by Monsanto owned companies or companies that buy seeds from Seminis which is owned by Monsanto. For those that don’t know, Monsanto is the maker of Agent Orange and more recently, Round Up. If that doesn’t freak you out enough, a gene from a cold water fish could be spliced into a tomato gene to make it more resistant to frost.

So why is this bad? Well if you’re not concerned about the health risks, be aware that GMO seeds are patented. You cannot legally use the seed unless you purchase it from one of their companies. So…. You cannot take that tomato you grew & collect the seed and plant it next year. Let’s say your neighbor grows with GMO seeds and a wind blows some of the seed over to your yard and it lands in your wheat field and grows beside your regular wheat seed. Technically Monsanto owns your wheat crop because you have their patent seed without buying it from them. I’m sure you can search on Monsanto and GMO if you’d like to learn more.

Terminator Seeds – If you’ve heard about GMO seeds, you may have heard about Terminator Seeds. A Terminator Seed is a seed that has been genetically modified (GMO) NOT to grow the following year without a yearly application of a certain chemical. So again, you cannot collect the seed to grow next year. These seeds are patented as well.

You can read more about them here:

and here:


Here’s a list of Monsanto/Seminis owned or provided seed companies:


GMO or Terminator seeds may not be labelled that way. But, it's a safe bet that if it's organic or heirloom, you won't have to worry about it.

So, now that you have some idea of what the terms are, I’ll let you know my favorites.

I never buy hybrids because I like to collect seed from year to year. It’s a lot cheaper than buying new seeds every year and if “someone” should decide to not offer the seed I want in the future, I’ll have a stock of my own to fall back on.

I like heirloom seeds. These seeds have been around for a long time. They are not grown in huge amounts and it’s important to maintain genetic diversity. Do you remember the potato famine? One disease wiped out almost the entire potato crop in Ireland because everyone grew the same type of potato. If we all buy the same type of tomato seed to plant and another disease comes along, we risk loosing our entire crop. If there are several varieties planted, it’s likely that at least one will be resistant to the disease.

I like organic. Yes, organic is generally more expensive than non-organic but it is a guarantee of healthy, safe seeds. I don’t always buy organic but I do when I can find it and afford it. You can minimize the expense by collecting seed the following year. If you don’t use pesticides, etc. on your plants, you should still have healthy seeds the next year to plant. Be aware! You can have an organic hybrid seed. Read the seed package and make sure you know what you’re getting.

Here are a few of the companies I buy from:



This is the list of companies I avoid because they are owned by Monsanto or affiliated with Monsanto:


So… now you have some information to get you started on guaranteeing your food supply in uncertain times. Get planting!


Shy Wolf said...

Good morning, Ellen- good post.
We're on about the same level for climate and I was wondering what you like to plant as 'staples'. Such as rhutabegas, spuds, cabbages, etc. Any particular variety that grows well for you? What time are you getting yours in? It's nearly time to get the tomatoes potted and on the window ledge.

ConfessionsOfAnOverworkedMom said...

Hi Shy - Thanks for your comment. I tried potatoes last year and the chipmunks at most of them. Not sure what I did wrong but it wasn't a success for me. I do want to try again at some point.

Nobody but me will eat rhutabagas or cabbage so I don't bother planting those LOL.

My favorites for what I do plant are Amish Paste tomato, King of the North peppers, Jacob's Cattle beans, Black Mountain watermelon, Long Island Improved brussel sprouts, Queen acorn squash and as many types of greens as I can get my hands on LOL. I do lots of lettuce, mustard greens, spinach, arugula, etc. I can plant greens in the early spring and then again for a fall crop. I want to try keeping some of them going on a greenhouse this year later into the fall. How about you? What do you plant? I'll be starting our seeds in about two weeks under grow lights. Just waiting for the mailman to bring me more seeds!

American Prepper said...

Good job overworked mom! You have admin access so you can customize your site

American Prepper said...

Good post over at DU

Bullseye said...

Wow, what a great first post. Great info and great links. A Big Welcome to the network, glad to have you on board.

ConfessionsOfAnOverworkedMom said...

Hi AP - Thanks very much for your trust! I am working on adding some things to make the Vermont Preppers Network page more useful to its members.

ConfessionsOfAnOverworkedMom said...

Hi Bullseye - Thanks very much for the welcome! Glad to be aboard!

Mayberry said...

Excellent post! God bless you for your hard work!

ConfessionsOfAnOverworkedMom said...

Thanks, Mayberry! I enjoy reading your blog!

jeffrey said...

What's an american Prepper?

ConfessionsOfAnOverworkedMom said...

Hi Jeffrey - An American Prepper is simply someone from the USA who believes in preparing for the future. Some of the ways we prepare include food storage, learning first aid, developing alternative heating and cooking methods, etc.

Read through some of the blogs listed on my home page and you'll see what some of us are up to.

Lamb said...

Good post about seeds! I buy from Baker Seeds ( www.rareseeds.com ), amazing folks and have the best variety of heirloom seeds I have ever seen.
I am subscribing to your blog because : 1) I am a prepper and 2) I am planning on moving to Vermont within two years :)
As far as growing potatoes, overworkedmom, try a potato tower...I have pics of said growing method and instructions on my blog.

ConfessionsOfAnOverworkedMom said...

Hi Lamb - Thanks for stopping by & thanks for the potato advice. I'll have to check that out. No sense feeding the chipmunks!

Vermont is a great place to live. Any idea what area you're aiming for?

Lamb said...

The darlin' man and I are looking in Orleans County. He is heading to Iraq shortly for a brief deployment (6 months) and then we are pretty sure we will be in South Korea for a year. The plan is for me to 1) Find a property while he is in Iraq 2) We buy the property when he gets back from Iraq 3) We move to South Korea for a year (his next assignment) 4) I come back from South Korea 3 months before him to start homestead build. 5) He shows up and shows me all I did wrong, lol! 6)We retire to homestead!
Not much can go wrong there....right? LMAO...

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