29
May

Seedy Partner Profile: Amkha Seed

Herein lies the second post in our Seedy Partner Profile series! If you missed the first one on the BC Eco Seed Coop in BC, Canada be sure to catch up here.

To review, the Seed Partner Profile series profiles all of the seed companies that sell OSSI-pledged varieties – our seed company partners.Many of our OSSI-pledged varieties have been bred by independent breeders that sometimes don’t have direct access to means of large-scale seed production. Therefore, these seed company folks are a crucial part of the grassroots OSSI model – we can’t access and proliferate this seed without people to get it from in the first place.

These seeds are often unique, have a great story, and some are bred and adapted in organic systems and for specific regional climates. Sounds like a good place from which to start your own seed story, doesn’t it?

Without further ado, read on to learn more about the folks behind Amkha Seed out of Westminster, CO.


AM·KHA

[AWM-KAH] ; /ÄM, KƏ /

noun: Amkha

1. Translated from Quechua (an ancient Andean language); a reference to wild or semi-wild potato species, predating cultivated potatoes.
synonyms: wild potato, papa

2. A sustainable agricultural model based on principles and methods focused on preserving genetic diversity, illuminating the dangers posed by industrial agriculture, and providing sustainable solutions.
synonyms: agro-independence, bio-revolution (not really, but it will soon)

Amkha Seed is an independently owned and operated seed company located in Westminster, Colorado. We’re breeders and growers intent on creating awareness and promoting a different way to think about agriculture and sustainability. We like to think of ourselves as renegades. We respect and diligently abide by all the laws, regulations, and proven methods, yet distance ourselves from many of the industries dated and limiting norms. We specialize in underutilized and under-appreciated food and utility crops originating from all over the world, or forgotten domestically. We also offer a wide range of open-pollinated and heirloom varieties specifically selected for their value in terms of adaptability, pest resistance, overall utility, yield, as well as various other desirable traits. 

 

How did you decide to get into the seed business/growing seeds?

Several factors contributed to our decision to form Amkha Seed. We started as hobby breeders working with several crops, dedicated to developing sustainable varieties and preserving genetic diversity. As we became more aware of industry practices and norms, we also became more concerned and frustrated with what seemed like a growing number of patent protected varieties being marketed. This sparked further research into plant patents and intellectual property rights. It soon became clear that some restrictive licensing practices could create serious issues for breeders like us, and even more significant issues for future generations of breeders. Though there’s a growing number of people out there aware of the problem and working toward a solution, we felt obligated to do what we could. Our aim is to encourage people to take an active role in their own food production, and to cultivate awareness of the dangers posed by our dependence on an industrialized food system. In the process creating a platform for small breeders to market new their new varieties. We currently offer over 1200 open-pollinated varieties, specializing in adaptable and sustainable varieties best suited for breeding and/or seed saving.

To summarize, it was discontent with the current system and confidence that we could help to change it that started Amkha Seed.

 

How did you learn about seed growing and plant breeding? Who were inspirational figures/mentors in your learning? Any favorite books or other writings?

As a child I helped my mother in the garden where I learned the basics. From a young age I was drawn to plants and nature, but instead pursued a career in marketing. It wasn’t until my wife and I had children of our own that we took a serious interest in sustainable organic agriculture and plant genetics. It started with potatoes, but quickly grew to include several crops. I read countless books and articles on the subject and followed likeminded industry experts. The rest I learned in the fields, sometimes at 2:00 AM wearing a headlamp. Research provided me with principles and methods, but it’s the cultivating, hand pollinating, observing, and selecting that’s given me a better understanding.

There are so many individuals/breeders for whom I have great respect and have learned so much. I can’t mention them all here. Joseph Lofthouse remains one of the most notable and influential figures for me. When I first heard about the work he was doing in Utah, I was inspired to start developing several sustainable landrace varieties myself. This ultimately helped solidify the focus of our breeding program into selecting primarily for low-input and sustainable traits. I’ve come to truly appreciate the work he’s done to help so many people, and his dedication to open source plant genetics.

Many books on the subject have been influential over the years, but text books and scientific journals have made up the bulk of my reading. Principles of Plant Breeding (Allard, 1960) is a classic and provided me the foundation I’ve built from.

 

Why is open source seed important to you?

Open source seed should be important to everyone, and as a society we have an obligation to protect and preserve plant genetics for future generations. It’s important that we take responsibility for ensuring a sustainable future.

 

What’s your favorite variety that you grow/sell? 

I honestly can’t pick a favorite(s), but here are a few I recommend often:

Orach ‘Aurora’ – (Atriplex hortensis) – OSSI

Amaranth ‘White Leaf’ – (Amaranthus mangostanus)

Bean (pole) ‘Red Noodle’ – (Vigna unguiculata)

Pepper (sweet) ‘Big Red’ – (Capsicum annuum)

Tomato ‘Azoychka’ – (Solanum lycopersicum)

 

Learn more about Amkha, get in touch or peruse their selections of unique seeds by visiting their website.

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