The ability to grow food depends not just on nutrients in the soil, adequate water, and ample daylight, but on the suitability of the seed for the environment in which it to be grown. In additions, seeds adapt to the bioregion they are bred in. Most open-pollinated seeds that were acclimatized to more peripheral bioregions, such as Alaska, were eliminated during the 20th century.
The Alaskan gardener market is a relatively small one. The varieties we need are unfortunately in low demand for most of the U.S., and likely to be replaced by more popular ones that may not meet the same needs. If the seeds are open-pollinated, they can be propagated on a grassroots level. If they are hybrids, and a company chooses not to breed them anymore, they are lost to us.
When it comes to impacting climate change, not all farming practices are created equal. Where modern industrial agriculture produces large amounts of food by using vast swathes of land, market gardening focuses on human scale production and high efficiency to reduce inputs, both monetary and material, required to grow each crop. This model is especially relevant to Southeast Alaska where arable land is at a premium.
As opposed to needing increasing more chemical fertilizers, herbicides, and pesticides, market gardening reduces inputs over time, builds strong soil structure, maintains the local ecology, and sequesters carbon rather than releasing it.
The Foundroot model of intensive market gardening in conjunction with open-pollinated seeds could serve as a blueprint for a regenerative closed-loop agricultural systems throughout Alaska and in isolated regions around the world.
Foundroot's core values of accessibility, sovereignty, community, resiliency, integrity, and quality guide every aspect of our work.
Accessibility: Foundroot believes in the basic human right to healthy, nutritious food.
Gardening is a legitimate and critical part of food production. Everyone is capable of growing food and it all has inherent value, no matter the scale of production. If it is not affordable, it is not sustainable. Seeds are easily transportable to remote communities and learning to grow from seed-to-seed can create free systems of self-reliance. Gardening does not have to be expensive and locally grown food can be available to everyone.
Sovereignty: Foundroot believes that seeds are food security at its source.
Many Alaskans live in remote areas with limited resources. Shipping is cost prohibitive, at times unreliable, with access to the nearest town sometimes infrequent. We speak to the conditions of remote Alaskans and do not assume our customers have running water, road access, or the ability to receive large supplies like bags of fertilizer.
By having localized seed stock and encouraging sustainable growing practices, use of local resources is extended into food production. A closed loop of growing from seed, producing food, and saving seeds holds the potential for communities to become truly sovereign. Our choice to only sell open-pollinated seeds means that every seed we send out into the world has infinite potential for future food production.
Community: Foundroot believes that food brings people together.
Everybody needs to eat. Our greatest celebrations and most important holidays are centered around the dining table. The act of growing food is historically collaborative. Planting, harvest, and daily farm work was done as a group and with enjoyment of the food as the fruit of that labor. This shared experience of breaking bread together, and all the steps that lead to it, strengthens community.
We partner with likeminded businesses to develop networks that support mutual gain. We support community based models of seed stewardship by hosting seed swaps and offering free workshops. We have solved many issues, personally and professionally, by sitting down together over a meal.
Resiliency: Foundroot believes that local food production is our safeguard for the future.
Using gardening as a tool to disseminate our food supply encourages individuals to take part in our food system. Local seeds and produce are key components in reducing our reliance on long distance transportation, industrial farming, and agricultural contribution to greenhouse gas emissions. Introducing sustainable ways of growing food and localizing consumption serves as a model for future generations to continue to feed themselves and their families well.
We donate to community groups, school gardens, seed banking and food security projects. We provide free informational support for our customers to understand the type of seeds they are purchasing and support their efforts to grow food, save seeds, and increase their self-reliance. We grow using an intensive market gardening model, creating a carbon sink and preserving the local ecology and encourage others to do the same.
Integrity: Foundroot believes that feeding people is a serious responsibility.
Alaska has a long history of homesteading and subsistence is an integral part of our way of life. Due to our short season, limited plantings, and variable conditions, every crop is precious. Poor germination could result in a massive setback and even crop failure. As we lose access to ancestral foods due to a changing climate, it is of deep cultural importance to create more systems of self-determination. Every seed we send and vegetable we grow holds this profound responsibility.
Quality: Foundroot believes quality of life is improved with high quality food.
Alaska is far from its suppliers. The majority of produce is coming from thousands of miles away. It is common to purchase produce at the grocery store that is already wilted, has mold and rot, or was harvested so under-ripe it is inedible. The diversity of products available can be extremely limited and many fresh products are exorbitantly priced. Alaskans have become accustomed to simply doing without.
By being a reliable source of produce, we show our neighbors that we are making sure our town is fed and safe, even if hard times hit Alaska. We aggressively rotate our seed stock and do rigorous germination tests annually. We strive to make all our products accessible to our customers by price matching, participating in government assistance programs, and empowering their own gardening efforts.
If our seeds don’t work, our customers don’t eat, and we have failed at our job.