by Tanya Henry
Matthew and Astrid Hoffman, founders of The Living Seed Company, are dismayed by the fact that as much as 94 percent of different vegetable and flower varieties have been lost due to hybridization. They want to bring back the genetic diversity that used to exist before conventional agriculture began impacting growing methods by developing ways to produce food that could travel far, have a long shelf life and look good—sometimes at the risk of losing a perfectly delicious fruit or vegetable.
“We have a desire to bring back heirlooms because it puts the beauty and mystery of gardening back into the hands of the gardener,” Matthew explains. It is the impetus behind the Wisconsin native’s time-consuming seed selection process where he focuses on how his crops taste and is not worried about the commercial viability of an ingredient.
The Hoffmans started The Living Seed Company more than four years ago and claim to be “planting the seeds of world peace.” On less than an acre, the couple has planted trial gardens overlooking the Nicasio Reservoir. In addition, Table Top Farm—comprising small organic farm plots on the Point Reyes Mesa and Black Mountain Ranch in West Marin—serve as breeding grounds for cultivating the company’s seeds of change. The majority of their seeds are certified organic and all are open-pollinated (no mechanical pollinating).
Looking for vegetable varietals that will thrive in the Bay Area also tops the list of objectives for the Hoffmans. They hope to bring back seeds that can respond well to organic gardening methods and not rely on pesticides and other non-organic inputs. This thoughtful process is time-consuming, and while the company is growing, it is still quite small.
Along with several seed collections that include up to 22 different varieties, the company also sells plenty of individual seed packets of everything from arugula to fresh herbs and flowers.
The budding entrepreneurs also offer Seed to Table dinners in Point Reyes for up to 20 people at a time. Matthew prepares the dinners with ingredients grown mere footsteps away, and diners not only get to enjoy the fresh-grown bounty, but they also leave with a greater understanding of the seed company’s mission. “Our dinners are a way to bring what we do full-circle,” says Matthew, who wants to show others how food can be grown differently—and better.
The Living Seed Company’s seed packets can be found at Fairfax Lumber and Healdsburg’s SHED, among other local retailers. They ship their packets via their website, and folks can reserve a seat at a Seed to Table dinner—the next one is coming up on November 7.
The Living Seed Company; 415/663-8002; livingseedcompany.com.