More than a dozen gardeners take part in program at NTU

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CROWNPOINT — Anita Roastingear emptied a bean shell she picked on Friday from the garden at Navajo Technical University.

She examined the quality of the bean before turning her attention to learning about how to save the seed.

Roastingear and her husband, Johnny Roastingear, have a garden at their campus apartment, and they were among 15 gardeners participating in a workshop about seed saving.

Hallie Casey, horticultural specialist for the Land Grant Office at the university, said the workshop, which is part of a program under the office, was developed in response to a growing interest among community members about saving seeds.

International interest about seed saving has increased due to discussion about food sovereignty and action taken to preserve seeds that have adapted to regions or that carry cultural ties, particularly those found in Indigenous communities, Casey said.

An example of the latter is Indian corn seeds, which have been used for dryland farming in the Southwest because the plant has adapted to using less water, making it sustainable to the desert climate, she said.

In a presentation, Casey talked about methods to keep seeds viable. She advised leaving squash, pumpkins and melons on the vine until they have aged, then collecting the seeds from the produce.

"You want it to be fully, fully mature, if not overmature," Casey said.

Such seeds need to be hard and dry before storage or the possibility of the embryo developing increases.

"Storing seed correctly is vital," Casey said.

Other elements in successful seed storage include avoiding dormancy, and maintaining temperature and humidity.

"We want it to be cool and dry," she said, then asked the class, "What do we want?"

"Cool and dry," participants responded.

If proper steps are taken to store seeds, they can last up to 10 years, Casey said.

Roastingear, who teaches at the university, attended the class because she wants to save seeds from the plants in her garden and from the fruits she purchases.

"We have beans and cherry tomatoes, so we're going to try the techniques we learned," Roastingear said after the workshop.

Nadine Sharp attended each session because she wanted to learn more about methods she can use on the garden at her residence in Coolidge, a community located east of Gallup. The retired manufacturing engineer became serious about gardening this year.

"This class on seed saving has been interesting to me because I want to be able to save my own seeds, so that I can get away from buying my seeds from stores," she said.

By disconnecting from store-bought seeds, Sharp wants to see the difference in how the plant develops.

"It’s about getting more involved with the food that I am eating. …I want to see the food grow," Sharp said.

The class about seed saving was one of five sessions about gardening that started in July through the Land Grant Office. Casey said another set of workshops is being planned for the fall.

Noel Lyn Smith covers the Navajo Nation for The Daily Times. She can be reached at 505-564-4636 or by email at nsmith@daily-times.com.

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