Saturday, March 5, 2011

"Survival" Seeds or Scams?

A reader recently emailed me about a promotion they received for a "survival" pack of medicinal herbs. This reader was asking if I thought this was a "good buy". I visited the link and I believe that these are the same people who pushed a "survival vegetable seed bank" last year.  You can read my review on that here.

Here are my thoughts on their new This "survival" pack includes 20 different herbs. Here is the list of herbs included in the purchase: arnica, black cohosh, boneset, calendula, catnip, cayenne pepper, chamomile, chicory root, comfrey, purple coneflower, evening primrose, fennel, feverfew, hyssop, lavender, lemon balm, marshmallow, valerian, yarrow and rosemary.

These are all wonderful herbs with tremendous healing powers and I would encourage you to grow any or all of them.  Almost all of these herbs are either growing wild on my farm or in my garden. However, they are not necessarily the 20 I would recommend you to pick if you were just starting a medicinal garden.

It also takes much more than dropping a seed in the dirt and voila you have a medicinal power house. Some of these are very hard to start from seed - rosemary and lavender for instance.  You will have a much easier time if you get a cutting from a friend. They make things sound much simpler than they really are for a new gardener.

I also have a problem with the presentation...and the price.  I agree with their premise but for the most part I felt like there was exaggeration, some misleading claims and a wee bit of fear-mongering... such as their claim "Get Ready for Shortages of ALL Medical Services!" as a paragraph header in a large, bold type.

Do I think learning to create your own medicine from the herbs you grow is important? Yes. I teach classes on it, wrote a small book on it and speak and teach all over our state and at our local community college on the importance of herbal medicine and how to do it easily and simply in your own home!  Do I believe that there might come a time that this knowledge and ability will become a necessity. Yes. They talk about socialized medicine and the quality of care that means.  I agree. I think this is one more reason to gain the knowledge and skills now.

Difficult times are here and I don't see any quick solutions in our immediate future.  I strongly believe you should be growing at least some of your own food and herbs. It tastes better, saves money and gives you very valuable life skills. I agree that you need to choose heirloom seeds so that you can save your seed year after year. If you are diligent in this, you won't need to purchase seeds again unless you want to try something new.

However, they blew it when they began to talk about hybrids and GMOs. I can't recall, off-hand, any hybrid medicinal herbs.  There just isn't any money in it so no one has bothered with it - thank goodness!  It irritates me that there is an implication that if you aren't careful (or..perhaps if you buy elsewhere?) you might get those nasty hybrid seeds.  If I've missed a hybrid herb possibility on their list- please let me know!

Their talk about their seed being a "special type that is GMO free" really burned my toast!  To my knowledge, there are no GMO plants at this point in time in the herb kingdom. Misleading? In my opinion, YES!

Then they started with terminator seeds.  They said "Many herb seed companies are now selling only "terminator" seeds which have been genetically modified and will not reproduce themselves". I don't know if "many" seed companies are doing this but some are.  What has that got to do with the seed bank they are selling?  It is a "general truth" not specific to this situation, that insinuated that if you weren't careful you might end up with terminator seeds.  Again, to my knowledge there are no terminator plants that are herbs. In my opinion, it was sneaky and fear-mongering.  Sort of a "my seeds are safer and better than anyone else". Not true in my opinion.

They completely lost me with the talk about global vegetable seed shortages and that "current herb seed supplies are tight". This is the type of sales pitch that plays on fear and aims it at people who don't have a clue about gardening.  If you have any experience in gardening or purchasing seed you wouldn't fall for this "deal".  Just think about the plethora of gardening catalogs that start arriving in November and don't stop until late spring!  Most contain at least some heirloom seeds, many contain only heirloom seeds!  For goodness sakes, you can purchase heirloom seeds at all the big box stores each spring. In fact, at least 12 out of their list of 20 were in my local Walmart store!

They pack their seeds in a "costly bank" that is water tight and insinuate that plastic or paper containers are inferior and those seeds will have a poor germination rate. Which leads you to believe that anything you buy anywhere else will be inferior because who else uses a "special bank"? I've been buying seeds for 12 years and almost all come in paper seed envelopes.  They generally have good germination rates - if they don't, I don't purchase from that company again.  At the end of the season, they go into a zip lock and into the freezer! Germination will drop from year to year but just sow a little thicker.  There is a "how-to" on testing germination rates in my Perpetual Garden Calendar and I am sure you can find it easily online or in a good gardening book.

They throw in an ebook on growing and using medicinal herbs - normal cost $39.00! Who knows what quality and depth of instruction you will get in that book? As an alternative, come take my class here on the farm.  You get my book, 5 hours of intensive training AND consume in class or go home with what you make.  We have fun, eat yummy herbal snacks and a little bit of chocolate and learn a lot - all for $1 more than the value of their ebook!

Hold onto your hats now...the price on this package...for the "general public" will be a whopping $220.00. For "special customers", if you purchase now, it is $99.97 (plus $15.00 shipping and handling) "until supplies run out". Wow! Did the phrase "highway robbery" come to your mind as quickly as it came to mine? There was never even a mention as to the amount of seed you received in this promotion - that is important information.  Are you getting 50 seeds in each packet or 5?

As I said in my other review...keep on walking...take a look at a Fedco catalog, Seed Savers Exchange, or Richters Herbs to name a few. You can get most of these seeds at your local garden centers. In fact, I think you could get each and every one of these packets for less than $25.00 total. Many packets of heirloom herb seed start at 90 cents each at Fedco. I always encourage you to buy a wee bit more than you need so that if there was a shortage in something next year or if you didn't save seed, you would still be able to plant.

If you need help picking tried and true heirloom varieties of herbs and veggies, let me recommend my Perpetual Garden Calendar.  It is filled with gardening advice for every month of the year and you keep and use it every year - no need to purchase it ever again!  I still diligently use mine from many years ago. Both the printed copy and the downloadable pdf are on sale right now!

Here's what a customer had to say after receiving her Perpetual Garden Calendar in the mail:
Cheri...I LOVE the garden calendar.  I was sooo overwhelmed by what to plant, when to plant, if to plant seeds or buy sets.  The calendar is a life-saver! I'm sure there will be lots of questions as I go along, but, at least, I'll know WHAT to ask the nursery people and my friends who garden.  Thanks sooo much for passing along your wealth of knowledge.  Your calendar will bless our table, our canned goods shelf, our budget, and our family!  The best $20 ever spent on "food."  Christy D.

If you grow herbs but don't know how to use them medicinally, may I recommend my course Herbal Medicine Made Simple? This course walks you through the simple steps to make every form of herbal medicine at home.  I've placed it on sale for a short time. It contains the 10 herbs I would recommend a new gardener start with because they are easy to grow, harvest and use for many common ailments.

If you are local, or even if you aren't, think about taking the class with me here on my farm! I hope to be out of the wheelchair and back to teaching in May and I'd love to welcome you into my kitchen for a day of learning and fun!

Happy Herb Gardening!

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