All posts by Paul

I've been part of the Southern Exposure Seed Exchange cooperative since 2005. I've done a little bit of almost everything and quite a lot of a few things. These days I'm a project manager, a business person, and a networker.

Garden Grants available in Charlottesville

Just a quick note to let our local readers know that our friends at C’ville Foodscapes, a worker owned cooperative that designs and installs food gardens in the Charlottesville area, are accepting applications for their 2011 Garden Grants program.

The C’ville Foodscapes’ Garden Grants Program, in partnership with Charlottesville’s Quality Community Council (QCC) will help low-income individuals and families have their own vegetable garden.

Tax deductible donations can be made to Quality Community Council (QCC), which will act as the fiscal sponsor for this program and manage the application process and criteria for awarding a grant. QCC, is a Charlottesville non-profit organization dedicated to improving the community by addressing the problems that detract from a higher quality of life for its citizens.

Can you help a deserving family receive the gift of their own food garden? Please contact us to contribute to the Garden Grants Program. Donations may be sent to:  QCC Garden Grants, 327 W. Main St, Ste 101, Charlottesville, VA  22903.  Thank you!

Check them out here.

Let the Buyer Beware but Informed

The Organic Consumers Association has started a campaign that could do some good in checking some of the egregious abuses of the public good coming from the GMO industry. They have drafted an open letter to Natural Food Stores and Coops calling upon them to label all food not certified organic or certified non-GMO as possibly containing GMOs and all meats not certified organic or humanely raised as likely coming from a CAFO (confined animal feeding operation, the worst of the factory farms).

The lack of adequate labeling of potentially dangerous, or in some cases demonstrably dangerous, GMO ingredients is criminal. GMOs have been proven time and again to carry a set of risks to consumer health, not to mention environmental health, that is not shared by conventionally bred plants and animals. If they are going to be allowed on the market then consumers should at the very least know whether or not they are buying and eating them. While it is estimated that 60% of the food on grocery stores shelves in America contain GMOs only 20% of American consumers believe they have eaten food containing GMOs. An informed citizenry is something we should all be able to get behind, regardless of our feelings about whether GMOs are something we personally want to eat or not.

Customer appeals to natural food stores and coops sounds like an easy way to start a market led effort to label GMO foods, raise awareness about their ubiquity in America, and raise awareness of what the certified organic label stands for. A recent New York Times poll suggests that nearly 90% of US consumers want GMO foods labeled. Hopefully the many groups fighting for a regulatory fix find success but in the meantime a little bit of market based pressure from below can only help.

If you want to send your local grocers a copy of the letter you can find it on the OCA site, here: OCA: Open Letter to Natural Food Stores and Coops

A New Home for SESE

For the past dozen years, ever since our cooperative took on stewardship of Southern Exposure Seed Exchange from Dr. Jeff McCormack, we’ve been operating the business out a repurposed living room in our large collective house.  “Don’t worry,” we were told, “it’s just temporary.  We’ll get the business its own building in a year.”  Thanks to all your support and the resulting twelve years of steady and dramatic growth we really can’t put it off any longer.  And so we are embarking on the exciting and challenging project of trying to build our dear SESE a brand new home.

To be a proper home, however, it needs to be more than just four walls and a roof (and a loading dock, and a seed storage room, and a germination lab, and and and…).  I feel that a proper home should reflect the personality of its occupant.  For us, Southern Exposure Seed Exchange has a strong personality reflected in its core values:
-A commitment to promoting organic and sustainable agriculture.  This world, this soil, this place is our home and we should treat it that way.  Better to work with the living systems that sustain us than against them.
-A strong cooperative and educational spirit.  We’re all in this together and we will all do best collectively if we open up, share, and cooperate.  As Ira likes to say, you can get a bigger slice of pie by stealing other people’s slices or you can get a bigger slice of pie by working with the other folks to make the pie you’re sharing bigger.  We prefer the latter.
-An interest in preserving and promoting our regional cultural heritage.  The work of generations in this particular beautiful place we call home has yielded a rich heritage not just of delightful vegetables but also song, art, craft, and architecture.  Diversity is real wealth and we should preserve and promote it for all to enjoy.

So, here is what we have set out to do.  We will build a headquarters for Southern Exposure Seed Exchange that is beautiful and functional and a joy to work in.  We will make it out of materials that do not contribute to the spread of toxic substances in our environment.  We will make it out of materials and using techniques particularly adapted to Central Virginia.  We will draw upon the heritage of historic and regional building trades to make a building anchored in the history of this place.  And we will use both the finished building and the process of building it as a way to reach out to our local community to cooperate on shared goals and to serve as an educational and advocacy platform for the techniques and technologies and philosophies that we employ.

My name is Paul Blundell.  I have been with Southern Exposure Seed Exchange for almost 6 years now and have been heading up the project in its nascent stages.  I have some experience in the historic preservation trades and am acting as our networker-in-chief for this project.