Once planted, seeds increase their value 100 times in 30 days. A subject I interviewed for Open Sesame – The Story of Seeds shared this observation. Of course this is an approximation and obviously varies from variety-to-variety. But I enjoyed thinking about seeds in this way. One tiny seed packet purchased for a few dollars can result in hundreds of dollars worth of vegetables. And if you composted the waste from the vegetables produced by those seeds, and then saved seed from the adult plants, you would enter into a perpetual, ongoing cycle of yummy value, year-after-year.
There is no stock, bond or savings account I know of that can offer a 100x return on investment. Considered that way, seeds are a bargain. Yes, there is some labor involved in planting your own seeds and raw start-up material such as soil and compost, but even taking that into consideration, seeds haven’t kept pace with inflation the way other ‘goods’ have. And in fact, the low relative cost of vegetable seeds can make it difficult for small seed companies to make a living. This may be partly due to the fact that we don’t value seeds the way that they deserve.
Free Seeds Anyone?
I was shooting at the Heritage Seed Celebration at the Old Stone Barn in Brooklyn last year and I had an interesting conversation with one of the organizers. She told me that it was often difficult to give seeds away during their seed swap event. New Yorkers seemed to have a tough time wrapping their heads around the idea. Free seeds weren’t appealing. But take those same seeds, put them in a package and charge money, and people were interested again. The above two examples may seem to be contrary, but they are actually linked.
On the one hand, consumers aren’t willing to pay the amount that seeds are actually worth. On the other, if seeds are completely free, they appear valueless and consumers aren’t interested. By needing to assign a monetary value to everything (and equating value with price and vice versa) we become trapped. Luckily, there is at least a partial escape. It is found in the quiet corners of secret growing patches, backyard greenhouses and community gardens around the world. To stop. To listen. To plant. To grow. Then value is experienced on a timescale outside of the limitations of money and the ROI is infinite.