Seed Consortium Launches New Campaign

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By Michelle Trauring

To be clear, the Long Island Regional Seed Consortium is not preparing for Doomsday with its most recent Kickstarter campaign.

Its organizers are more optimistic than that.

The not-for-profit — which has saved, developed and nurtured seeds since 2012 — is simply streamlining its operation by proposing an expansion that will organize and house its thousands of heirloom varieties, many of which are the last of their kind and facing extinction, explained co-founder Cheryl Frey Richards.

“Biodiversity itself is very, very important. We want to protect that,” she said. “Everyone loves diversity, everybody thinks it’s a wonderful thing. The easiest, simplest reason is choice. You like going into a grocery store and being able to choose between different fruits and vegetables. But the even bigger reason is, you never know what’s going to happen, especially with climate change. You really need adaptability. By keeping so many different seeds, that will keep the food system secure.”

Currently, the consortium’s seeds are split between several local homes and stored in jars and bags, as they would be traditionally. The proposed plan pitches a modest facility built from two shipping containers — one for seed storage, the other for seed processing — that would be temperature controlled and fit with enough shelving to house the entire collection in hermetically sealed containers.

For now, the facility would be located at the LIRSC’s farm on the North Fork, but both shipping containers could be potentially mobile.

“We want to make sure our seed bank is secure and safe and documented and all in one place,” Ms. Richards said. “These containers are very, very sturdy and if we have to move it, we can pick it up and put it someplace else. We’re not building it into the ground. The temperature control and heavy Mylar bags will protect the seeds from any kind of insects or invasive species, and elongate the shelf life of the seeds. We really want to make sure these last as long as they can.”

Recent news of melting permafrost breaching the Svalbard Global Seed Vault in Norway — raising questions of how the seed bank will survive global warming—only emphasized the need for the new storage facility on Long Island, Ms. Richards said.

“It shows that this has grounds, but at the same time, that seed vault is built in such a way that they knew something like this would happen, and that none of the seeds would get damaged. Nothing’s perfect,” she said. “But it just shows us why we need a lot of different varieties. We need things that are going to be susceptible to the cold or arid regions that weren’t cold or arid before.”

With less than two weeks to go, the Kickstarter still needs to raise more than $4,000 to reach its goal by Friday, June 16 — a total of $6,000, which should cover the entire cost of the new facility, Ms. Richards said. If they are successful, the projected completion date is the beginning of this winter, she said.

“We’re not expecting nuclear fallout,” she said. “It’s more for the security of the food that we have on Long Island, if something were to happen. We don’t want to play on people’s fears. That’s not what this is about. It’s about protecting.”

For more information about the Long Island Regional Seed Consortium’s proposal and Kickstarter campaign, visit kickstarter.com/projects/lirsc/the-mothership-protecting-a-regional-seed-bank.

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