The story behind Livingseeds goes back over 30 years. As a young boy I always remember collecting seeds, if I came across a tree that was shedding seed pods or wild flower in seed, I’d collect the seeds and store them in a small wooden box. This wooden box (which I still have) amassed a surprisingly large collection of assorted and unknown seeds over many years. None were catalogued or named and I could only identify a handful of the really distinctive ones, the rest were indiscriminate and held my dream of germinating them.... one day.
I kept them just for the idea that they could literally grow into trees or plants that I could one day use in my garden. It was the romance of ‘growing a garden from scratch’ that kept me collecting the seed. I think it's also the idea that there exists the potential of life and the ability of giving sustenance in every single seed.
The older I grew, the more my tastes in seed and plants changed, I went through various phases in gardening and seed collecting, some examples are; Indigenous trees, Aloes, Cycads, Bulbs, orchids and finally veggies.
Growing veggies started in 1998 when we had our first child and naturally we wanted to feed her only healthy, natural food. Our gardening interests changed to food gardening specifically to meet this goal. That was really the beginning of concentrating on collecting veggie seed specifically. From there it started with just a few varieties, and every season I would slowly swap and trade seed with other food gardeners who had also been saving seed for many years. These gardeners would share knowledge and techniques with me, both in gardening and in seed saving, techniques that I still use to this day to help keep seed pure and viable from year to year.
The idea for an online website was purely an accident (We believe a God ordained accident). Steve Venter from www.texo.co.za got in touch with me and was asking for some heirloom seeds. Up to that point I had been collecting and sharing with like-minded gardeners, basically by word of mouth. Steve and I hit it off from word go, and I offered to supply Steve heirloom vegetable seed at no charge, for a new venture of his. Being the person he is, he insisted on payment. So, In true barter style, his payment was as follows.
First the idea of South Africa’s first online Heirloom Seed Store, and second the hosting of Livingseeds.co.za at no charge for the first year. The credit therefore for Livingseeds.co.za being available to you guys is actually Steve’s, as I would never have thought that the response would have been so great.
Due to Steve, we had the honour of being South Africa's first online heirloom vegetable seed store. Today we are the largest in terms of variety offered, and unique in the fact that we personally grow over 90% of the varieties sold, on our own property. It's notable that very few seed companies in the world can claim this destinction. There is a careful balancing act in terms of planning, sowing, and harvesting schedules. There are also various isolation techniques that need to be followed, to ensure that the next generation of seed is pure. I would probably still be stuck in a job that I was clearly not enjoying if it was not for Steve and his generosity.
Livingseeds started off in 2009 with only 34 varieties on our website (but we had only 17 in stock), we now list over 400 varieties! We grow well over 600 varieties on our own property every year. Many of the varieties we receive are given to us as 1 or 2 seeds and we need to grow-out the varieties over a number of years. Occasionally we get given seed that has not been properly isolated. It takes us 4-6 years to ‘clean-up’ the variety and bring it back to its original glory. Only then can we offer these varieties to you to enjoy and hopefully share with your family and friends.
Livingseeds also has a small, specialised network of dedicated growers that share our love of heirloom and open pollinated vegetable seed. This unique network assists us in increasing our seed production of varieties that we are unable to grow out on our own property.
Imagine getting up in the morning to "live your dream", that's exactly where we are at, living out our passion for selfsustainability and leading others to a more independent future in their food. We homeschool our 5 children, who all have a very clear idea of where their food comes from. They are all involved in the processes required to produce food from veggies to beef. They realise that food requires effort, and yes, it does grow in dirt!