“The Seed Underground – A Revolution to Save Food” by Janisse Ray is an amazing book that belongs in everyone’s library and needs to be read at least once a year, whether you are a gardener, seed saver, foodie or not. I am not usually one to make such statements, as I realize that everyone’s literary preferences are diverse. This book is an exception, and does deserve this attention.
The Seed Underground was introduced to us by one of our book suppliers – Chelsea Green who is the publisher for Janisse. We were familiar with her writing from reading Orion magazine over a number of years, but had not heard of her newest book. On our rep’s recommendation, we ordered a copy with our regular gardening book order.
I fell in love with this book within the first couple of pages of the introduction. Her writing and words moved me so much that I wrote an article based on a short couple of paragraphs that she wrote in the introduction. She has a way of writing that brings out deeply held feelings and unspoken beliefs that have circulated deep underground, not really ever having been named or recognized in a physical way, only glimpsed as they moved past my mind’s eye, shadows behind other thoughts.
Reading this book, I immediately felt as though I knew the writer or that she knew me; the words spoke directly to me, seemingly written for my mind and way of thinking. What she said and the concepts she talked about just made sense on a gut-instinct level. She knows and writes about several of the same people I know, admire and have a tremendous respect for. One of them I am fortunate enough to call my mentor – John F. Swenson. Another we met on our travels to Slow Food Terra Madre – Holli Cederholm of Proud Peasant Farm. I hadn’t read quite that far in the book at that point, but read about her just after we returned. Others that she writes about I want to get to know and build relationships with.
This is a book about hope, love, patience, endurance, excitement, revolution and a newly rediscovered, sustainable way of living that is all embodied and contained in seed. Not just any seed, either. Those seeds of home gardeners, seed savers, small heirloom seed companies that work and strive to preserve heirlooms, those diverse multitude of seeds that have fed our ancestors for long years and have become cherished in so many ways; their stories, adaptability, flavors, productivity and history of keeping us alive for so long.
What is amazing is that Janisse wraps a story about such a sprawling subject as heirloom seeds, seed saving and the importance of both. She not only makes sense of it all, but makes it entertaining and educational at the same time; a testament to her writing and researching skills. The story comes to the reader in an intriguing way, not shying away from difficulties but not overplaying the importance to each of us in our daily life. A thoroughly enjoyable, enlightening and educational book that deserves more than just one read.