Wednesday, June 26, 2013


The Rev. Dana Prom Smith, S.T.D., Ph.D. (2/23/2013)


          Her cherry pies were delicious; however, she baked them with pits.  This meant that they could only felicitously be eaten in her backyard, allowing the diner to spit the pits as projectiles onto the back lawn.  Small boys were particularly fond of her cherry pies.  She said that she didn’t want to take the trouble to pit the fresh cherries from her backyard cherry tree.  Besides, she added, “The pits add to the flavor of the pie.”  Her lawn was a nursery for cherry tree seedlings.


          I’ve forgotten her name by now.  It was about sixty years ago when I ate her cherry pies.  She was a bit daft.  When I asked her about the highlights of her trip to Europe, she replied that it was “having tea with the Pope’s wife.”  She went on to say, “She was such a delightful woman.”  A widow when I knew her, she had her late husband’s dress coat of tails cut to fit her which she regularly wore in town when shopping.


          She was a dowager in the small town on the Ohio River where I was a pastor.  Small towns seem to tolerate odd personalities far better than large cities.  There is more room psychologically as well as spatially.  The only places odder are university faculties, and they’re tightly compacted.  As a consequence, my second parish was filled with unique people, but that isn’t the point.  My recollections of her delicious cherry pies with pits set me to thinking about seed saving.


          Years ago, when I first heard of seed saving, the first word that came to my mind was “quaint” and then “luddite,” a kind of primitive return to simpler times.  So many of the seed savers I knew were horticultural fundamentalists, anti-modernist in their tendencies, fervently chanting, “Gimme that old time religion.  It’s good enough for me.”  I thought, “Why save seeds when it’s so convenient to buy them?”  Besides, thumbing through seed catalogues is lots of fun.


          Now, Fundamentalists are basically reactionary, reacting to the emptiness of a fast track society, wanting to save the heirloom beliefs of the past.  The trouble is that they save the chaff of the past mistakenly thinking that they’ve kept the wheat.


An industrial, commercial, and electronically digitalized society reduces and eliminates differences and idiosyncrasies.  A reductionist society doesn’t tolerate either the odd and the daft or the seeds of a wide variety of plants.  It cultivates only those types of seeds that easily produce the most abundant crops and are, thus, the most profitable commercially. 


In the Great Irish Potato Famine in the middle of the 19th century over a million people died relying on one type of potato.  When the potato blight, originating in the Toluca Valley in central Mexico, infected the potatoes in Ireland almost all the potato crops failed.  Since potatoes were the mainstay of the Irish diet, especially amongst the poor, there was mass starvation and, hence, the Irish migration to America.  Ireland suffered about a 25% loss of population.


Commercial and industrial agriculture is setting us up for the same catastrophe, reducing the varieties of food we eat to those that are the most commercially profitable, laying our food supply open to a new blight.  If there are many varieties, then if one variety collapses because of blight, there are other varieties free of disease.  In corporate sociopathy, greed prevails over safety and well-being.


          Many times throughout my life, I have come to believe that which I originally disparaged, certainly politically and theologically, and now horticulturally.  As I learned in college, I don’t have to be a Fundamentalist to be a Christian.  Unless a person is a politician, it’s all right to change one’s mind.  As a matter of fact, it’s often regarded as a sign of intelligence.


          Seed saving is a simple, down-home way of preserving our food supply.  If the big boys won’t do it, then the backyard gardeners will have to do it.  Three sources on seed saving are:,, and Jeff Schalau, the Yavapai County Extension Director.  To find him: type “Jeff Schalau Saving Seeds” on your search engine.

Copyright © Dana Prom Smith 2013

Dana Prom Smith and Freddi Steele edit GARDENING ETCETERA for the Arizona Daily Sun where this article was published 6/29/2013.  Smith emails at and blogs at

No comments: