Created by the organizers of the Jewish Seed Project
We recognize that just as we keep the seeds, they too keep us. Seeds grow with us, care for us, and sustain us with nourishment, stories, memories, and beauty. We approach the seeds with intention and the desire to share in their sustained life. In keeping seeds, we honor their history, passed down from generation to generation, connecting us to those who have kept seeds before us. In thinking of ourselves as future ancestors, we consider what these seeds will share in the future by observing and learning from what they share with us today. We are growing for future generations while enjoying the fruits of the present and seeking to understand the past.
How the JSP choose which seeds to engage with/grow
We are collectively selecting seeds to steward that have connections to Jewish communities, stories, spiritual practices, and with the people and places they have grown alongside. We choose seeds that have relationships with ancient Jewish texts, contemporary writings, recent memories, and are connected to the expansive historical context of Jewish peoplehood and relationship to land. The seeds we may select can be both known and unknown varieties, as we may encounter seed stories where the variety is not named. In the case that we don’t have access to a particular seed or know the exact variety, we aim to select the seed variety that is both accessible and most closely aligns with the descriptions found in whatever sources we are using. In selecting which seeds to grow, we make sure to factor in physical traits of the plant, geography, ecology, and personal stories and relationships. We are committed to building intentional relationships with the seeds and the memories they hold.
How the JSP distributes seeds
We distribute seeds to Jewish and allied growers who can nurture, regenerate, and co-create stories with these seeds, plants, and fruits. We decide who participates in seed keeping by first sharing about our project in our networks via JFN and seedkeeping listservs and more often with those in our community who express interest in seed keeping. We then use surveys and other forms of communication to find out more about people’s interest and capacity in caring for these seeds. In participating as a seed steward for the Jewish Seed Project trials, the expectation is that the steward learns from the experiences, creates relationships to the seeds, and shares back both stories and the seeds they save. Rather than owning or making seeds intellectual property, it is also important that we all learn how to relate to seeds in reciprocity and as life producing beings. At this moment, we are mainly distributing seeds for the purpose of our growing trials with hopes that this will expand in the future.
How the JSP cares for the seeds and plants
In caring for the plants, we use different growing practices to experiment and learn with the seeds. We look for and select specific traits to pass on to the next seed generation. At times we plant them at an appropriate distance from other plants to ensure isolation, at other times we intentionally plant them near others to encourage cross pollination and to create new hybrids. In these experiments, we seek to learn from the seeds and plants, and we are careful to still provide the things they need to thrive.
Just as we care for the seeds and the plants they grow into, we care for the world around them that provides the seeds with the things they need. We encourage care for the soil in which the plants grow, for biodiversity within the agroecological system,and for the water systems that support us and the plants. We share air with the plants, through exchanges of oxygen and carbon dioxide as well as and through songs and stories. So too do we keep each other.
How the JSP community relates to/ builds relationships with other people with relationships to the seeds that we grow
We feel lucky to be able to access necessary resources to do this work, including land, seed keeping knowledge and networks, and state-sponsored seed banks. We are committed to actively and continuously engaging with and examining our responsibility towards these seeds, their stories, and their past, present, and future stewards. We do not claim ownership or exclusive access to these seeds and understand that we are just one of many groups who have spiritually, historically, culturally, and geographically significant relationships with them. As such, we aspire to share these seeds with others who are connected to them in an effort to expand access to these seeds and to honor them in their entirety.
How the JSP tells stories about these seeds
We come from a rich tradition of storytelling. At our holiday dinner tables, through our sacred texts, and in our everyday lives, we revisit and reimagine the stories passed down to us through generations year after year. We tell these stories to understand our past, ground into our present and share a legacy with the future.
As a people of the land, these stories are often rooted in the land itself. However, through exiles, diaspora, and landlessness, for many our relationship with the land has been fractured and many have forgotten our origins as a land-based people. Stories are an act of repair: When we tell stories about the land, we are remembering and repairing our relationship with the land. When we tell stories about seeds, we are remembering and repairing our relationship with seeds.
Like us, these seeds have stories that brought them to and will bring them from this moment. We honor the stories held by the seeds – from when they were tended by our ancestors, other peoples, animals, and themselves. We dig deep to learn and share about each seed’s past and how it intersects with our own. We hope that in discovering the seeds, we will discover new parts of ourselves.