Johnny Panic-grass Seed
As New Zealand wrestles with the fate of very new crops, a seed bank in the U.S. Southwest is wrestling with the fate of very old ones. Based in Tucson, Ariz., Native Seeds/SEARCH preserves and passes on rare seeds planted by Native Americans. Although the growing conditions in much of the Southwest are harsh — think high elevations and even higher temperatures — Native American farmers have cultivated crops there for centuries. But in recent decades, cultural changes, the loss of land, and environmental destruction have dramatically reduced the number of farms and gardens in the region. And it’s not just the farms that are becoming scarcer; so too are the ancient traditions and good nutrition associated with them (not to mention the seeds themselves). To reverse that trend, Native Seeds/SEARCH has gathered 2,000 seed collections representing 99 species of crops from 17 tribal groups. At least one species that was once thought to be extinct — Sonoran panic grass — is now available at the seed bank. The bank also runs a “Conservation Farm” to demonstrate ecologically safe, sustainable agriculture.