121911_Native_Seeds_617_347

Photo: AZPM

Deputy Director Belle Starr and Executive Director Bill McDorman both from the Native Seeds/SEARCH organization show us various seeds collected from tribes and tell us about their developments such as their Native Seed Library that will launch January 15th, 2012.

An increasing number of Americans are paying closer attention to the source of the food they eat, and experts say it's a trend that's growing globally.

Native Seeds/SEARCH, a non-profit in Southern Arizona that encourages the use and protection of local, organic seeds versus industrially produced hybrid seeds and genetically modified seeds.

Native Seeds Executive Director Bill McDorman says he's noticing a growing interest from consumers who are taking the time to connect the dots between food, health and environment.

"I think they say overall since 1903 we've lost maybe up to 96 percent of the genetic diversity that forms the foundation for our agriculture," McDorman says. "That means 96 percent of the varieties that were around for farmers to grow aren't around any more."

Native Seeds, founded nearly 30 years ago, is inaugurating a new program in January, launching the first seed library in Arizona. Deputy Director Belle Starr says it's an opportunity for people to learn more about growing local food, its history and nature.

Participants are encouraged to write and share information about which plants do best in their areas and bring seeds to the library so that others can try them out. It's a way of propagating knowledge and harvesting the benefits.

"And this really, really supports and enhances the local genetic diversity, especially neighborhood by neighborhood," Starr says.

The seed library will be at the Native Seeds retail story at 3061 N. Campbell Ave. in Tucson. Native Seeds/SEARCH's offices are at 3584 E. River Road in Tucson and its farm is in Patagonia.