How do you build landrace community locally?

To piggyback on @UnicornEmily 's post about the importance of community and @Joseph_Lofthouse 's oft-stated observations about the importance of community to landrace, I’d like to hear how you all introduce landrace into your local communities? What sorts of ideas work to interest people, what is offputting? Where and how do you bring up the topics? How did you hear about it initially?

We have a couple clusters of folks from Utah and California. I’m super envious and want a cluster of landrace folks near me, I know I’ll have to create it but people are not my strong suit: plants are. Share your stories so I can learn!

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I’ve been talking about landracing for years as something I’d like to do, and getting mostly blank stares. But this year, now that I’ve started actually doing it in a serious way, my local gardening friends seem more interested. One of them contributed some seeds to my cucumber landrace project, and I’ll give him some seeds that I saved to grow out next year. And if I eventually produce lots of healthy plants with delicious fruit, I think I’ll get even more interest. In other words, I think the reality is more interesting to most people than the theory. (I tend to get more excited about theories, but I seem to be in the minority.)

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Joseph mentioned leading with produce in the call today-- asking people to return seeds when they ate his food intrigued them.

@Skot mentioned that leading with the economics (not having to buy seed, but also having plants that actually grew in his environment) was what interested him.

I think I experience more people who are “seed collectors” than “production gardeners” (they say seed collecting and gardening are totally different hobbies, and I think I can see that) and maybe those are the wrong people to be trying to sell on the growing qualities of landraces.

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I talk to people initially about my projects. For most I only introduce the new word after they’re hooked. :upside_down_face: I also tend to bring in concepts they’re familiar with (yesterday it was a barnyard mix) and compare landracing to that.

I get a lot of nods when I talk about a variety that actually thrives here, or the necessity to breed varieties that don’t need a lot of water.

It’s normally a matter of comparing to something they already understand and accept, then I just have to explain the differences.

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That’s brilliant! Barnyard mix and rez dogs are going into my conceptual vocabulary for this, thank you!

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I’m intrigued. I am a new member to the community, and have only recently begun work on my first grexes (c maxima, c moschata, and c pepo winter squashes), but have already been “preaching the gospel of sustainability through landrace gardening” to my family members and friends- basically anyone who will listen. Anyone can have my seeds, provided they grow organic, practice promiscuous pollination, and return some of the seeds from their harvest.
Is there any way to catch the Sunday call if I missed it live?

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I like to talk, and I’m not shy, so I often start up conversations with strangers. If gardening comes up, I mention landracing. If they seem interested, I ask if they’d like some seeds.

I’ve taken to carrying around some spare seeds in little paper packets in my purse all the time, just in case I meet someone who’d like them.

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I love your point about explaining it through the lens of something they already understand.

I usually talk about mutts versus purebreds, because most people know the difference with dogs. I say that I grew up with two purebred show dogs, who had terrible health problems and died at eight and ten years old, respectively. Meanwhile, my husband grew up with two mutts, who lived about twenty to twenty-five years each and had no real health problems until extreme old age.

I ask what kind of plants they want to have in their gardens.

Most people look thoughtful after that.

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I do something similar with tress, re: the difference between seed grown and cloned.

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Like @UnicornEmily, I bring up landrace gardening a lot in conversation and try to do so skillfully according to the apparent interest level of my fellow interlocutor.

I don’t go so far as to carry around seeds though. That’s commitment :slightly_smiling_face:. It’s a good idea

Landrace gardening is pretty different. So far most folks I bring it up to don’t seem too interested beyond curiosity, though Juan Carlos at Sobremesa farm seemed like he might look into it and I’m convinced Sarah McGee has been growing this way for years without calling it that.

Not everybody is going to get aboard the landrace train and ride it to the end of the line. If they get on as a gardener who buys all their seed from a big company and get off at saving their own seed, that’s movement in a good direction. If they get on growing isolated heirlooms and get off being okay with crosses, that’s good. Even if they get on thinking they might like to have a go at growing food and get off growing some zucchini every season, that’s good too.

I think it’s a lot like sales. Some of the most likable and successful salespeople are able to hold both the relationship and the sale in their minds and give the same attention to the relationship and benefit of the other person that they give to the sale. The other person mentions they need a vacuum, you mention you sell Hoovers. They fall silent. Who knows why, but you’re a considerate conversationalist so you ask them instead about a subject you think they might be interested in. You have a lovely chat. Two weeks later they refer you somebody who also needs a vacuum cleaner.

Contrived? Yes. Relevant? Yes.

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Commitment, obsession . . . it’s all the same when you’re me! :stuck_out_tongue_winking_eye:

In all seriousness, though, I have a tiny purse that barely fits my wallet and keys. I did that on purpose because I was tired of lugging around a hippopotamus on my shoulder. Despite that, I decided that a few tiny packets of seeds deserved the space in there. They’re very lightweight, don’t take up much space, and having them on hand is a way to be kind to a stranger and perhaps change their life.

I like your train analogy! I completely agree. If I can excite or encourage someone to do something even a teensy bit better than what they were doing before, it’s fantastic. I hold that attitude as a general principle.

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Hi Ken, You can watch most of the calls in the monthly zoom calls category here

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My local library is going to open a seed library this year. I am hoping that this might provide an opportunity to meet similar minded people in the area.

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Hi,
I started monthly events one year ago with a local friend, called “café agricole” (i.e. agricultural… café!) : during about 2 hours we explore themes alternatively, or watch documentaries… Themes like soil fertility keys, regenerative agriculture(s), water management, cover crops, etc.
Our public is new gardeners (many people in our place just left cities), old gardeners, some market gardeners and few farmers.
It is free: nothing to pay, we do it on a voluntary basis. And the idea is to let everyone willing to expose a subject do it: we want different experts, different voices, different experiences…

Our “café agricoles” are based on 2 common feelings:

  • more and more the media tend to present farmers as bad people… A pseudo-nature (without humans) is opposed to farming in people’s mind: so either you pay for expensive organic food (upper middle class living mostly in the cities) or you are a bad person. There is no middle ground, no overview, no memory, no intelligence of agriculture, dynamically speaking… It is a dangerous situation. Whereas french peasant’s history is overwhelming. It is particularly unpleasant being conscious of that and being in social circles of newcomers (from cities) all thi king farmers are bad, dirty, polluting all they can… As if they wanted to pollute.
  • for decades there has been books and books and books about new techniques: from ten kinds of different composting techniques to “straw is all you need”, or “it’s all about the moon”, or “you should amend with that”, do “square gardens”, potatoes have to be grown in tyres, compost teas, synthropic, till-till, no till, etc. It’s crazy. And the thing is that people coming from the cities are always up to date with the last trend… (I would have put myself in this bag 20 years ago)… So they don’t know basics. They get radicalised in the last (ridicule) revolutionary technique… Whereas their old neighbours, retired farmers or not, all do gardens, the usual ones, and them get food… Not the newcomers: they keep on failing.
    So that is why we try to concentrate on the basics: what to do when you start a garden, why, … it is rather educational, but kept simple.

And we are between 25 and 80each time.

But, to help creating the local “landrace community”, in november we did an event dedicated to plant breeding:
-1st part Kathy talked about her experience of “dehybridizing” a tomato
-2nd : Camille talked about genetics basics applied to plant breeding
-3rd: I talked about the interest of creating genetically diverse populations (“as we lost all from here over the past century”). And to do that, after introducing its difference with conventionnal plant breeding:

  • first we heard Joseph talking landrace gardening (the first YT video of Going to Seed)
  • second talk about Salvatore Ceccarelli’s similar approach with grains
  • eventually I talked about my populations started in 2021.

That was a bit too dense for a 2 hour program but great anyway.

Also I try to participate to or help with the very few seed and plant swaps around.

Also I start getting involved in a french network (Réseau Semences Paysannes), where I talk of Joseph and his approach every time I can, thinking it is a great way to involve gardeners, and that it helps quitting the conservative mindset associated with the old varieties “cult”.

I hope that Joseph’s book translation will help spreading the message.

Overall I always talk to other gardeners in practical terms of what I am doing and what I enjoy mostly at this early stage of my populations (by populations I mean modern landraces): diversity of shapes, colours, textures… Surprises, surprises… Also I talk about our community, notably our Serendipity Seed Swap… People really love hearing about that: exchanging seeds with people from Mallorca to Sweden… They love it.

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