“Spotlight on Earth Stewardship” with Founder of Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds, Jere Gettle

Reader Contribution by Crystal Stevens
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For years, my husband and I have been ordering seeds from Baker Creek Heirloom Seed Company. They have an amazing variety of heirloom seeds that produce some of the most unique, vibrant and gorgeous fruits and vegetables that we have ever seen. Our personal all-time favorites, ones which we have not gone a year without growing, include; Marketmore Cucumber, Green Zebra Tomato, Cherokee Purple Tomato, Purple Beauty Peppers, Red Meat Radish, Chioggia Beets, and Golden Beets. On several occasions, we were Artisan Vendors at Baker Creek Heritage Festivals. In order to be a vendor, you are required to dress in “Old Timey Attire”, which we happily did and enjoyed every second of it. Being in Bakersville Pioneer Village is literally like stepping back in time. It has a wide array of attractions, such as a Mercantile Store, an Apothecary Shoppe, an enormous chicken coup with beautiful heritage breeds, a plethora of stunning gardens, a metal smith exhibit, and even the Bakersville Opry, complete with straw bale seating. It is truly a homesteader’s paradise. Like so many other patrons of Baker Creek, Jere and his wife Emilee have inspired my husband and I as farmers, as parents, as dreamers, as artists, and as stewards of the earth. They are a beautiful example of how one can manifest their own reality by transforming an idea into a dream, a dream into a vision, and that vision into veracity through hard work and perseverance, as well as unconditional support and encouragement from loved ones. Keep dreaming!

Spotlight on Earth Stewardship: is a monthly feature which pays homage to Eco-conscious individuals by sharing their stories of hope, inspiration, challenges and insight into making the earth a better place for generations to come.

Spotlight on Earth Stewardship: Jere Gettle, founder of Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds

Jere Gettle always had a passion for growing things, and at age 3 he planted his first garden. Ever since that day, he wanted to be involved in the seed industry. So at the age of 17, he printed the first small Baker Creek Heirloom Seed catalog in 1998. The company has grown to offer 1450 varieties of vegetables, flowers and herbs–the largest selection of heirloom varieties in the U.S.A. The New York Times Magazine calls Jere, “the Indiana Jones of seeds.”

Check out this great video about Jere and his seed company.

What inspired you to be a steward of the Earth?

Being in the garden as a child with parents and grandparents. Planting a tiny seed and watching it transform into the amazing diversity of fruits and vegetables. Being at eye-level with insects and seeing the part they play in our larger world. Watching the genetics of plants unfold right in front of my eyes.

What major obstacles have gotten in your way? 

Lots and lots of smaller hassles have worked together to create obstacles. Shortage of time is always a factor–there never seems to be enough time. Insect pests are always obstacles to anyone trying to grow things organically. Genetic engineering and cross contamination mean that we have to spend time and money testing our seeds. We lose not only the immediate crops that have been contaminated, but are in danger of losing whole varieties themselves. Regulations on the movement of seeds create obstacles.

To you, what are the 5 most pressing environmental issues?

1) Genetic engineering because it threatens the whole history of farming and the future of food we eat. Genetic engineering even has the ability to threaten nature itself.

2) Increased application of pesticides, which is due in part to genetic engineering

3) Big Box Stores

4) Factory farms, due to their impact on local communities and the massive run-off from them that pollutes our water systems.

5) Mass transportation of food over long distances. Not only the carbon footprint created by the fuels themselves being used to transport food, but the added chemicals, waxes, gasses, etc. that are used to make food travel well.

What would be your 5 solutions to those issues?

1) Label GMO’s so people would have a choice to know what they are eating. Better yet, ban GMO’s.

2) A decrease in genetically engineered crops would naturally lead to a decrease in pesticides. I would also increase education and make people aware of the dangers of GMO’s so more people would be less likely to use pesticides if they knew the dangers.

3) The first step would be to educate people to the advantages of shopping locally. Have them get to know and trust the producers of their food. Another solution would be to take away the tax incentives and monetary advantages that Big Box Stores and corporations are given over local businesses.

4) Take away the massive government subsidies given to factory farms, make them adhere to human practices, limit the use of chemicals and antibiotics, as well as regulate runoff.

5) Encourage people to eat locally and grow their own. Educate people about the advantages of eating foods that have been grown locally.

What steps are you taking personally to contribute to a brighter future for the planet?  On a local level, national level, and on a global level?

I founded Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds to help preserve heritage seeds. I try to buy local and support local endeavors. I educate people about our historic food systems. I feel it is important that we all work towards establishing and supporting more localized food systems, localized markets, and localized governments.

What are your current projects? 

Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds, Petaluma Seed Bank We are always constantly searching for new varieties of seeds to trial. We have a major restoration project underway at Comstock, Ferre & Co. that we purchased a few years ago in Wethersfield, Connecticut. We are in the process of creating a food-related nonprofit organization. We are currently planning our third annual National Heirloom Exposition, a huge pure food event in northern California.

Read more about their current projects online at www.rareseeds.com.

Baker Creek is looking for heirloom growers to buy seeds from. Visit www.comstockferre.com for more info.

Read my full interview with Jere Gettle in my blog, Grow Create Inspire

I recently had the pleasure of attending a Seed Saving Workshop led by Art Davidson of Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds. Read more about seed saving in my blog, Grow Create Inspire.