A seed movement sprouts within the food movement

Celebrated New York chef Ban Barber is launching a seed company that unites the interests of chefs with the capabilities of plant breeders, reports the Washington Post in a story produced in partnership with FERN. Row 7 Seed Co “hopes to develop new varieties driven by flavor and nutrition that have a chance to make it in the wider marketplace.”

“Breeders will use traditional techniques to marry the flavor of heirlooms with the vigor of modern plant varieties,” writes Sam Fromartz. Row 7 describes it as “seed to table.” Its seeds also will be bred to perform well on organic farms. “In this age of widely privatized seed, these selections will be available for others to improve upon as farmers have done since the dawn of agriculture.”

Plant breeders often follow the goals of seed that will produce uniformly sized crops with maximum yields and long shelf life, says Barber. “Without chefs at the table, you’re not asking for flavor, which is ironic because chefs curate for flavor every day.” Barber says he has enlisted more than 50 top chefs, from the United States and abroad, for his initiative.

“Michael Mazourek, an associate professor and breeder at Cornell University and another co-founder in Row 7, said that researchers have long had a laser focus on disease- and pest-resistance, but as for taste, no one ever asked him about it until he met Barber. The company will now merge flavor and vigor not by using genetic engineering (these are non-GMO seeds), but rather by mating one plant variety with another as breeders and farmers have done for millennia so the offspring have a suite of attributes,” says the story.