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The Seed Underground: A Growing Revolution to Save Food Paperback – July 6, 2012


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 240 pages
  • Publisher: Chelsea Green Publishing; First Edition edition (July 6, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1603583068
  • ISBN-13: 978-1603583060
  • Product Dimensions: 9 x 6 x 0.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 13.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (51 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #30,924 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Review

"What a dream of a book-my favorite poet writing about my favorite topic (seeds) and the remarkable underground network of growers who are keeping diversity alive on the face of this earth while putting delicious food on our tables! If books can move you to love, this one does."--Gary Paul Nabhan, author of Chasing Chiles and Restoring America's Food Traditions



"Traveling about the country to introduce us to some of her devoted fellow seed savers, Janisse Ray teaches us more than we thought we needed to know about seeds: how remarkable they are, why they need saving, how to save them, and how many of them-each holding the future of some particular plant-have been lost and are being lost to our indifference. But in a world where everything we love-including seeds-seems to be under threat, Ray ultimately offers us hope. 'Everything the seed has needed to know is encoded within it,' she assures us, 'and as the world changes, so it will discover everything it yet needs to know.' A poetic, and always hopeful, book."--Joan Gussow, author of Growing, Older and This Organic Life



"This is an important book that should be required reading for everyone who eats. Big biotech companies are patenting and privatizing seeds, making it illegal for farmers to retain their own crops for replanting. In a series of engaging and lyrical profiles, Ray shows that by the simple and pleasurable act of saving seeds we can wrest our food system from corporate control."--Barry Estabrook author of Tomatoland: How Modern Industrial Agriculture Destroyed Our Most Alluring Fruit



"If I get to feeling a little blue about our prospects, I'm liable to reach down one of Janisse Ray's books just so I can hear her calm, wise, strong voice. This one's my new favorite; a world with her in it is going to do the right thing, I think."--Bill McKibben, founder of 350.org



"This is an unmatched treasure trove of information... The Seed Underground is an excellent choice for readers seeking a depiction of the current critical situation in farming all in one, easy-to-read book."--Gene Logsdon, author of A Sanctuary of Trees and Holy Shit



Booklist-
Nature writer and advocate Ray continues her thoughtful exploration of rural life with this timely look at heirloom seeds. After sharing some startling statistics (in the last 100 years, 94 percent of seed varieties available in America have been lost), she delves into why and how we have become so dependent upon such a small group of seeds and why this lack of diversity poses such a threat. Ray wisely buttresses facts with personal experiences, recounting the development of her own seed-saving habits, then introducing farmers and gardeners across the country who share their often generations-spanning histories of seed preservation. These personal perspectives of homespun habits stand in stark contrast to industrial agriculture, and support Ray’s argument that the American food system is broken and these are the sorts of people who can show us how to fix it. She succeeds beautifully on all counts, evincing a firm grip on science, history, politics, and culture as she addresses matters of great significance to all of us.



Kirkus Reviews-
A naturalist's rally for the preservation of heirloom seeds amid the agricultural industry's increasing monoculture.  Ray (Drifting into Darien: A Personal and Natural History of the Altamaha River, 2011, etc.) unabashedly proclaims that seeds are "miracles in tiny packages.” Through accounts of her own journey in saving them, as well as facts and anecdotes, she urges readers to consider the practice, in order to avoid genetic erosion, to improve health, to work against a system that determines and limits availability, and more. Without stridence, Ray forthrightly presents her case, advocating for small organic farmers and less corporate dependence. In her most persuasive chapters, she recounts her travels in Georgia, Vermont, Iowa and North Carolina to meet others involved in saving specific varieties. She emphasizes the importance of diversity and also the ways in which preservation becomes a cultural resource; each seed bears a singular history that is often not only regional, but familial. Readers new to the topic will find that Ray's impassioned descriptions skillfully combine discussions on plant genetics and the metaphorical potential of seeds. Alternating between science and personal stories of finding her own farm, attending a Seed Savers Exchange convention, and increasing activism, the author also includes a brief section on basic seed saving and concludes with chapters that confront the idea of the homegrown as merely idyllic. With a nod toward Wendell Berry, this work emphasizes the importance of individuals working as a community. Recommended for experienced gardeners—guerrilla or otherwise—and novices searching for alternatives to processed, corporatized food.



Publishers Weekly, Starred Review-
In this enchanting narrative—part memoir, part botany primer, part political manifesto—Ray, author of the acclaimed Ecology of a Cracker Childhood, and lately returning to her childhood obsession with farming, has a mission: to inspire us with her own life to “understand food at its most elemental... the most hopeful thing in the world. It is a seed. In the era of dying, it is all life.” Ray is inspired by the eccentric, impassioned, generous characters she visits and interviews, gardeners and farmers who populate the quietly radical world of seed savers, from Vermonter Sylvia Davatz, self-proclaimed ‘Imelda Marcos of seeds,’ to the more phlegmatic Bill Keener of Rabin Gap, Ga., who gives Ray two 20-inch cobs of Keener corn, grown by his family for generations, as well as Greasy Back beans and some rotten Box Car Willy tomatoes to save for seed. Despite the book’s occasional tendency toward polemic, avid gardeners will relish recognizing their idiosyncratic, revolutionary sides in its pages, and it’s likely to strike a spark in gardening novices. Even couch potatoes will be enthralled by Ray’s intimate, poetically conversational stories of her encounters with the "lovely, whimsical, and soulful things [that] happen in a garden, leaving a gardener giddy.



The Bookwatch-
The Seed Underground: A Growing Revolution to Save Food
offers stories of ordinary gardeners who try to save open-pollinated varieties of old-time seeds, and blends their stories with that of Janisse Ray, who watched her grandmother save squash seed and who herself cultivated a garden rich in heirloom varieties and local strengths. It's a story of not just gardening, but harvesting and preserving vintage varieties of food, and will appeal to gardening and culinary collections alike with its powerful account of saving seeds and old varieties on the verge of vanishing.



Midwest Book Review-
The Seed Underground: A Growing Revolution to Save Food offers stories of ordinary gardeners who try to save open-pollinated varieties of old-time seeds, and blends their stories with that of Janisse Ray, who watched her grandmother save squash seed and who herself cultivated a garden rich in heirloom varieties and local strengths. It's a story of not just gardening, but harvesting and preserving vintage varieties of food, and will appeal to gardening and culinary collections alike with its powerful account of saving seeds and old varieties on the verge of vanishing.



“Saving seeds isn’t just good science; it’s a subtler war against the loss of our stories, our history, our connections with each other: ‘Where we live and what we live with is who we are.’ Add to that, what we eat. And share. For readers eager to get started, several how-to chapters offer basic seed-saving tips and lessons on hand-pollinating and controlling the purity of certain seeds. The Seed Underground [is] not a seed-saving manual, but Ray recommends several reliable guides in the resource section at the end of the book. The effect she hopes to have on readers, Ray claims, is modest: ‘My goal is simply to plant a seed. In you.’  But a poet knows full well the power of words, and if a rally could be contained in the pages of a book, The Seed Underground is one, its language by turns incantatory, pleading, rabble-rousing, a challenge to rise to the occasion, to ‘man up or lie there and bleed.’  From the stirring call to reclaim our seeds — ‘developed by our ancestors, grown by them and by us, and collected for use by our citizenry’ — to their irresistible names, like Little White Lady pea, Speckled Cut Short Cornfield bean, Purple Blossom Brown-Striped Half-runner bean and Blue Java pea, Ray boldly seduces us into joining this critical and much-needed revolution.”--Atlanta Journal Constitution

About the Author

Writer, naturalist, and activist Janisse Ray is a seed-saver, seed-exchanger, and seed-banker, and has gardened for twenty-five years. She is the author of several books, including The Seed Underground, Pinhook and Ecology of a Cracker Childhood, a New York Times Notable Book. Ray is on the faculty of Chatham University's low-residency MFA program, and is a Woodrow Wilson Visiting Fellow. She has won a Southern Booksellers Award for Poetry, a Southeastern Booksellers Award for Nonfiction, an American Book Award, the Southern Environmental Law Center Award for Outstanding Writing, and a Southern Book Critics Circle Award. She attempts to live a simple, sustainable life on a farm in southern Georgia with her husband, Raven Waters.


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Customer Reviews

4.5 out of 5 stars
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The Seed Underground is a book that reminds me to avoid eating genetically engineered food.
Robert G Yokoyama
While so many green writers these days write gloomy and disheartening books, Ms. Ray makes doing the right thing to help Mother Earth seem like a great good time.
Dan C.
"The Seed Underground" by Janisse Ray is a surprisingly engaging and enlightening book about the little-known culture of seed saving.
Malvin

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

23 of 24 people found the following review helpful By S. Young VINE VOICE on July 27, 2012
Format: Paperback Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
In a day and age where many Americans don't care where their food comes from it's nice to see that there are those protecting something so key to our existence. I am an heirloom seed gardener and am always surprised to realize that in the area where I live I'm the ONLY one who knows what heirloom seeds are let alone use them.

That's probably why I finished this book in two days. Janisse Ray has an incredible way of getting you a front row seat on her discovery and exploration of the world of gardening and heirloom seeds that are becoming extinct, where we had thousands of varieties of plants a hundred plus years ago; they are dwindling to hundreds or less.

Ray also tells about something even more worrying - the big Agriculture companies that are genetically modifying our food for the `better' (my sarcasm) are trying to get the rights to own heirlooms so we're stuck with their frankenfoods and no way to grow any crops without their stuff. We all know about it, but I think she gives a good kick in the behind to remind us that we NEED to stand up to them and say NO! We don't want your junk anymore!

This isn't a book on how to actually save seeds from your garden, she touches on it and gives information on where to find it, these are stories about the people actually preserving these seeds and about how we need to stand up with these revolutionaries and do this ourselves.

Wonderful book, powerful message. If you like to garden, but don't know about heirlooms, read it. If you LOVE to garden and know about heirlooms or want to know more about those that save them, read it. If you don't care to garden... dear lord, start now, but do it right. This book is a good place to start.

5 Stars - excellent writing, informative
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9 of 10 people found the following review helpful By Lisa VINE VOICE on August 7, 2012
Format: Paperback Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
This book addresses a key element of a critial problem - our food supply in general and seeds in particular - this book has a lyrical, storytelling quality that is a pleasure to read. Her passion and concern and life experiences are woven in through the stories of some odd characters in seed-saving and some chilling information about what's happening. Her writing reminds me of Gene Logsdon.

I'm a gardener and seed-saver, and I have been watching as a carrot I like, Oxheart, is disappearing from the catalogs; it's been some years since I saw it offered. And it's now gone from the SSE member listings too. I've been trying to save this carrot, though I don't feel competent for the task. So, while I didn't really need convincing, still this book has been very inspiring. Since finishing the book, I've went out and collected lettuce seed, set some tomato seeds or a rare variety to fermenting, sown another round of the Oxheart carrot seed, and written/called the governor and the state dept of Ag about a local GMO seed issue.

Her discussion of the role of "hope" in activism is very though-provoking; it's hard to find hope sometimes! But love doesn't depend on hope, and love can motivate you when things seem to have no hope.
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Format: Paperback Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
Love this book for a variety of reasons. First off we started living an off the grid, be self sufficient as much as possible lifestyle back in 2001. And no, not because of 9/11. We simply wanted a more simple lifestyle here in the California Sierras. And then there was the fact we kept reading more and more about companies like Monsanto buying up seed companies, and Mennonite, Amish and heirloom seed friends told me that I needed to start growing heirloom, organic vegetables, grains and saving the seeds so that no matter what happened we could grow as much of our own food as possible.

Starting on page 35 the author shares some of the same major concerns we had back then, which have gotten even worse. Starting with 1) Our Food Is Going Extinct. She notes that in the last century 94% of vintage open pollinated fruit and vegetable varieties vanished. And that' we're hemorrhaging old varieties despite the productivity adaptation and delicious taste of many heirloom varieties'. 2) Our Food Supply Is Being Stolen From Us. She notes she believes this is because of big corporations for varies reasons, often (in my view) because of stock holders and the need to put profit over health.

3)Our Food Supply Is Being Bought Out From Under Us. This is where companies like Monsanto comes in. Have seen some excellent documentaries where sincere film makers have tried hard to get companies like Monsanto to share their side of the story, to no avail. Again profit over health. 4)Bad Food Has Been Forced Down Our Throat. Love this section because of the growing concern about HFCS (high fructose corn sugars) and GMO crops (genetically modified organism) which are no longer as nature created, but have been altered my humans.
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8 of 11 people found the following review helpful By Tomorryo VINE VOICE on February 27, 2013
Format: Paperback Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
Oops, I thought this was going to have a lot more information on the process of saving seeds. Instead it's more of a memoir on another terrifying way we're destroying our health and the planet. It was a little dry for me - this is not the book for you if you're wanting to learn about how to save seeds! If you already know how to save seeds or want to know WHY to save them, then this is the book for you. Hope this helps your decision!
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