Open-Pollinated, Heirloom, Non-GMO
Hand Me Down Farms sells only open-pollinated, heirloom, and non- GMO seeds. This has been and will continue to be our guiding principle. We do offer a small number of F-1 seeds because they have proven to us to be great producers of a unique crop that aren’t available as an open pollinated or heirloom variety. The generation description is listed on each item's information page.
What does all this mumbo jumbo mean?
GMO- First off it is important to note that GMO seeds are not typically sold to the public. Any commercial farmers that grow GMO crops are required to sign a contract that they will not save any of the seed that their harvest produces. The seed must be purchased separately for every season from the lawful owner of the trademark and copyright. Those with gardens near someone growing GMO seeds aren’t even allowed to save their seeds because of the potential of their gardens being pollinated with the GMO plants pollen.
This is important to the seed companies because they have put a lot of time and money into developing the seed and its genetic makeup. The most common reason for a farmer to use GMO seed is that the crop they are growing can withstand harsh herbicides that are dropped or sprayed on the entire field. In our opinion it's not the seed that is the problem. It is far more harmful to grow GMO seeds and then broadcast concentrated poison that is then held in the soil, water and, by default, the crop to be harvested. While GMO seeds can usually reproduce, they will not likely grow true to type, and the genetic material is patented, which makes saving the seed illegal. As a result, farmers have faced devastating legal battles -and worse- for saving seed contaminated by GMOs.
Hybrid- A cross between any two varieties is considered hybrid whether it happens in nature by wind or insects or intentionally by hand pollination. Hybrids sometimes get an unjust bad rap. The first generation after a new cross is called an F-1. Most of the seed that you see sold in big box stores fall into this category. The downside of hybrids is that if you save the seeds from them, you don't know what traits you are going to end up with. Hybrid seeds have lots of upsides though. One of the best qualities in our opinion is a phenomenon called “hybrid vigor”. Hybrid vigor occurs because the hybrid offspring’s traits are enhanced due to the mixing of genetic contributions of its parents. When the same genetics have been carried for generations, they can get stale over time. When you introduce new genetics both lines come together, and the offspring show a dramatic jump in productivity and viability.
Open Pollinated- Now, if you took an F-1 seed and grew out several plants and only saved seeds from the plants that have the traits that you wanted year over year you would eventually stabilize that variety. From then on it would be considered Open Pollinated. This typically takes 5-10 generations if done properly. This method has been in practice since the beginning of humans cultivating crops. Always choosing the best plants year over year has many benefits as you can imagine. When agriculture first began, around 12,000 years ago, farmers started choosing the qualities of a plant that they liked the best, such as fruit size, fruit flavor, heat and cold tolerance, growth habits, and uniformity.
Heirloom- The only difference between an heirloom and open pollinated variety is time. Heirlooms are generally considered to be unchanged for 50+ years. These are desirable because they have proven themselves over a long period of time in all types of conditions and locations. This may include unique flavor, disease resistance, or storability. All heirlooms are open pollinated, but not all open pollinated plants are heirlooms. Only a small fraction of the plant world is considered heirloom.