Contribution to the Gardening-Conference 2000: "Perspectives of Small-Scale Farming in urban and rural areas
- about the social and ecological necessity of gardens and informal agriculture" from 21. - 25. July 2000 in Berlin
Infos: Work group "Small-scale farming and Gardens in urban and rural Areas", C/O Free University of Berlin, Institute of Sociology, Elisabeth Meyer-Renschhausen, Bülowstr. 74, D-10783 Berlin, Tel.:+49 (0)30 - 261 22 87, ,


Andrea Heistinger
Bozen / Wien

Plant and seed production by peasant women in south Tirol: the genes are not the issue

The production of plants and the treatment of seed which I found by peasant women in southern Tirol during my master's research is different from what I know from my scientific-technical studies.

It builds on variety and constance, on taste (the good eating) and on the own sense of the peasant women. The own sense - which embodies the experience of the women and their preferences) - determines which species will be planted, which seed will be selected, wether the field will be red or colored. What good tastes will be planted. If the new seed which the neighbour woman brought from Switzerland is sweeter, this will be planted from now on, its species will be saved and kept in the garden. But in trying the new, in the competition between new and old, the old may show not only better known but also as better tasting, as better growing, as more pleasing. The caulflower seed which mother has planted gives tastier salads, the radices of grandmother are not so tough as those one buy nowadays.

One plants was is constant, what has proven itself and what will also remain in future: sorts with firm seed. Constant means that a kind will not be its own endproduct, but it transforms itself constantly by being constantly planted. It is open for new uses and users, it is constantly further "raised". For "raising" as the women call their activity also means planting. Who grows plants and conversely. The selection will not be left to unknown hands of unknown experts in unknown places: you can not rely on them, the grow beans which will not ripen in one's garden, garlic which wont ripen but rots away, caulflower which only grows thick stumps and they sell expensive seed which will not rise. The experts refuse the women their own selecting: the seed they sell are hybrids and wont reproduce and one cannot even rely on them not being gene manipulated. The women refuse the endproducts of modern selection or they return to the kinds of their mothers and neighbours: they save again a caulflower and the seed in the cellar to make the own selection. As a woman told me: " self raising, so one knows what one has !"

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Stand: 20.9.2002