Monday, April 29, 2019

Baker Creek Seeds Supports Racism


As many of you know, I teach seed saving and seed starting classes at The Natural Gardener and elsewhere.  One of the sources of heirloom seeds I used to recommend is Baker Creek Seeds.  I won't be doing that any more because they have decided to host Cliven Bundy as a speaker at their spring planting festival this year. [UPDATE: They have since uninvited him and taken down their entire speaker list. At right is a screenshot of what it did look like earlier today.)

If you don't know who Cliven Bundy is, Google him.  He is a racist thug who has said black people were "better off" when they were slaves.  He and his family and friends destroyed Native American sacred spaces and artifacts when they decided they didn't want to pay the grazing lease fees they owed "because they had ancestral rights" to the land, so they took over a wildlife sanctuary and bulldozed Pauite burial grounds that were there.

Saying Cliven Bundy is a "land rights activist" is like saying there were "good people on both sides" in Charlottesville.

So unless Baker Creek Seeds de-invites him and puts out a sincere apology to people of color and Native Americans, I will never again recommend them.  Quite the opposite, I will tell people NOT to buy from them, and will also tell them why.

Other good sources of heirloom seeds:
Try to buy from these two sellers. I've purposely linked to pages other than their homepages so you can see why: 
True Love Seeds
(Thanks to Bird from the comments for this source!)

If you can't find what you want from them,
here are some other decent sources:





UPDATE:


I sent an email to Baker Creek about this issue.  Below is the email I just got in reply.  Note no apology to any kind of people of color.  No apology at all actually.  Just words about how they were "naively unaware of the controversy surrounding him".  I find that hard to believe since they posted this story on their website about an ancient Native American watermelon that Mr. Bundy also grew, including how they visited him in prison to interview him, and even writing about why he was in prison.  And look - here's a video of the story even, with some of it shot right outside the prison.

So yeah, I ain't buyin' their story.


Hello Linda,

So sorry for the slow reply. I have just been given this information by our management team.
Cliven Bundy will not be appearing at our Spring Planting Festival next week. After a long discussion, both Bundy and Baker Creek staff agree that his presence could cause a safety issue and other concerns for all participants.

We thank everyone for sharing concerns and thoughts about our speaker lineup. We recognize that many of you have passionate concerns on many sides of issues that have come forth. We appreciate the information and many points of view that people have shared about the situation. A few Baker Creek staff members became acquainted with Bundy while researching an heirloom seed variety, and we were unaware of many of the controversies surrounding him. We are committed to thoroughly researching the issues raised by our friends and customers during this discussion.

Baker Creek is a supporter of diversity. The company was founded on the idea of saving the diversity of seeds. We believe just as strongly in the diversity and equality of all people. We would never consciously do anything that could be construed negatively toward any culture, color, religion, etc. The Gettle family itself is a multicultural American family, with Hispanic, Chinese, German, and Jewish heritage. We celebrate diversity in both our family and our business. We strive to include many cultures in our speaker lineup, our catalogs, and other publications, because we believe a diversity of cultures and ideas is what makes this nation great. In recent years, we have substantially supported humanitarian work in many nations with out regard to people's religion, culture, or color.

A staff writer met Bundy while visiting farmers in Nevada. Several told her that she needed to talk with him because he was the longest-running organic farmer in the area. He had been commercially growing heirloom melons for over 40 years. That was our only connection to this farmer, who told our writer many stories of his past seed saving and plant breeding practices, and about his work in the valley to preserve the local seeds of the area. He volunteered to speak about his seeds and dry farming practices at one of our events.

Our staff thought these sounded like great topics, and we invited him to participate in our Spring Planting Festival. As is the case with all of our speakers, he volunteered participation without receiving a stipend or honorarium. Although we had seen a few news clippings over the years, we were naively unaware of the controversy surrounding him. We do believe in rights of free speech and letting people be heard, even if we disagree with their ideals. But at this time, due to security and other issues raised by many of you, all parties think it would be better to research the situation, read the information that has been sent to us by customers. We apologize for any ill feelings this has caused, this certainly was not our intention.

As the festival date approaches, we will be updating our speaker schedule with other changes.

The Baker Creek Staff

Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds
2278 Baker Creek Rd
Mansfield, MO 65704
(417)924-8917




SECOND UPDATE:

So Baker Creek said they uninvited Bundy because a group of protesters were "threatening their vendors"?!  I saw that post on Facebook - a woman said she and some friends were planning on bringing some signs to protest outside their planting festival if Bundy was allowed to speak.  How in the WORLD is that "threatening their vendors"?!  I'm so done with Baker Creek.  SO. DONE.


THIRD UPDATE - July 28, 2020:
Apparently they haven't changed.  Got a comment below about how some of their customers asked them to make a statement about black lives matter and they dodged it.  I'm looking for source material on that right now and not finding it (if you have a link, please let me know), but I'm also not finding them saying anything in support of black lives either.  How hard is it to just say black lives matter?  Really - how hard is it?



20 comments:

  1. I am done with Baker Creek, too. I just read this post (Sept 12, 2019), but they aren't what they are cracked up to be. I've had very poor outcomes with seeds from them lately.

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  2. What the actual fuck.
    Thank you for writing this up and including this letter. This is the same gross whiteness I saw when customers asked them to make a statement in defense of Black lives recently and they again pointed to their multicultural family (while refusing to make a statement, refusing to say the work Black, and then tokenizing their adopted Chinese kids, so disturbing!!!). They cannot believe they could be racist, just like Cliven Bundy and Trump, yet they clearly are.

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    1. Oh, wow. I hadn't heard the latest, but I'm not surprised. How freaking hard is it to just say, "We believe Black Lives Matter."?!?! Now I'm off to read up on that. Man. Makes me really glad I know how to save my own seeds so I don't have to buy from them ever again.

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    2. Hey, Y Editor: Can you point me to where the customers asked them and they dodged? I'd like to get a screenshot so I can put it here.

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  3. Not directly related to this but I heard that Baker Creek has stolen from indigenous peoples, now I can find no information about it at all! Are you aware of this?

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    Replies
    1. Unfortunately a lot of seed savers do that - white people obtaining indigenous seeds and calling them their own with little or no credit to the original native breeders of the variety itself. It's disgusting. Saving seeds of a variety to ensure it doesn't die out is only half of the responsibility we have. Saving the history is the other half. It is a terrible thing to not do both, but too *TOO* many people, mostly white people, do it.

      That ties right in to what this post is about: a white racist man being lauded for a seed he had nothing to do with the origination of. I'd bet money had he been allowed to speak, he wouldn't have mentioned who is responsible for the variety in the first place. Further example of what I'm talking about: glance through this story of the handled watermelon Bundy was known for and was invited to speak about (how he dryland farms them), and you'll know a LOT about him, Art Coombe, and other white growers of the melon, but you'll also find out extremely little about the native peoples who bred the melon in the first place. That is stealing the history from the Native People. And it's a travesty. https://www.rareseeds.com/blog/post/art-combes-amazing-ancient-watermelon

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  4. Also, have you seen their dreadlock amaranth seed photo? No thanks! https://www.rareseeds.com/store/vegetables/amaranth/dreadlocks-amaranth

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    1. *sigh* I'm sitting here thinking "WTF, white people?!" and I AM a white people. *sigh* again.

      And who named that flower that? The blooms don't even look like dreadlocks. They look like strings of berries. Jeez, man. Really ... WTF?!

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  5. Thank you for this informative post. I learned recently that baker creek does not carry any seeds labeled from Africa. They claim 66 countries and none of these seeds came from Africa? I find this heartbreaking to learn, after advocating and being a consumer for as long as I have been gardening. I am joining a black seed exchange to help black farmers flourish again. It also blows my mind that we went from 1 million black farmers to 45,000 in less than the past 100 years. The promises of 40 acres and a mule, all of it, it is a crime on humanity from my perspective. I sincerely appreciate you spreading awareness! Thank you!

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    Replies
    1. Absolutely, One Love! The best way to fight racism is to shine a light on it. I've gotten so many comments on this post! Of course I've gotten racist spam that I just dumped in the spam bucket, but I'm heartened to see so many real comments, too.

      But in the interest of truth, I have to point out that Baker Creek does carry quite a few seeds from Africa. They carry some flowers, a couple herbs (one basil which name means "Chicken Dance". LOL!), a squash, and some other veggies. You can find them by using their search bar. "Africa" brings back about a dozen and "African" brings back 18 or so, and not many overlap. You do have to look through all the results as some aren't FROM Africa, but have just become popular there. If you're like me and see something you like but don't want to buy from Baker Creek, there are other sellers just a Google away for sure. And I bet some of the sellers I listed above would have them, too.

      I'm off to find that basil and giant snake bean now... *giggle*

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  6. I just found out about this controversy. I emailed Baker Creek because when I tried to register to be notified when certain seeds would be available, Google shut down the process because it said Baker Creek was attempting to gain access to sensitive information. They responded by going into detail about the seeds and their projected unavailability until next year. They completely sidestepped and ignored the central issue, never addressing what they were doing to cause Google to intervene. I can't consider them to be ethical. As for not knowing about Bundy, I'm from a U.S territory thousands of miles away and I know all about racist, scofflaw Cliven Bundy.

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    Replies
    1. That's strange, Kid Pro Quo. Huh. I wonder if it was some sort of auto-generated thing like I get every so often saying something like "This site's certificate isn't up to date. Click HERE to proceed anyway and click HERE to be taken to safety!" If not, it sounds like some sort of data mining thing, which isn't cool unless they let you opt in. Regardless, it's good to know.

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  7. Wow. I am so disappointed in this company. We have used them nearly exclusively for heirloom seeds for years now. I’ll be sharing this info with my fellow plant nerds too. Shame on Baker.

    P.S. thank you for sharing conscientious alternatives.

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    1. You're very welcome, 314beheld. I just added another one from a comment below. Check them out. https://www.allianceofnativeseedkeepers.com/

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  8. If you’re looking for an alternative to Baker Creek, another one to consider is the Alliance of Native Seedkeepers: https://www.allianceofnativeseedkeepers.com/

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    1. Nice. I'll add it to the list of alternatives above.

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  9. I find all this disheartening! Thank you Linda Wall, One Love, Kid P Q and ALL for the enlighten information and SHAME on you Baker Creek Seeds. I almost purchased from them this year but, something kept getting in the way; even with the offer of free shipping...

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    1. You're welcome! I was pretty disheartened when I first heard about it, too. I'm glad there are plenty of other sources for seeds.

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  10. I was surprised to read about Baker Creek inviting Cliven Bundy to speak at their event. I just now became aware of this by reading your blog. Wow. How can people be so naïve?
    His stupid comments about African Americans is way beyond ignorance.
    He's even said yes he meant what he said and stands by it. Repulsive racist scumbag.
    I've purchased a lot of seeds from Baker Creek in the past. No more.
    Thanks for informing me!

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  11. Wow! Glad I happened upon this post. I've used them in the past and even recommended them to others. Won't be doing that anymore. Thanks for posting alternatives! I'm off to purchase some seeds for my pollinator garden!

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