In earlier times, seed swaps were a yearly occurrence in any farming community. Farmers grew plants, saved seeds from those that performed best that season—or tasted sweeter, or produced more beautiful flowers— then replanted them the following year as the cycle of life repeated. These seeds were open pollinated, meaning they were “true-to-type” and would produce plants just like their “parents” the following year. Over time each successive generation adapted to its geography’s unique climate, temperature, soil, pests, and even plant viruses. Open-pollinated seeds were a cultural record. They stored vital information about a community, passing it from one generation to the next. Civilizations rose or fell—and even went to war — depending on the success of these seeds.

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