Jeremiah “Jere” Gettle is saving food from extinction. Hyperbole? Yes. But every time a rare heirloom vegetable cedes its patch of dirt to a generic variety, bred for efficiency rather than flavor, that piece of food becomes extinct. When Gettle was 17, he started Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds in his bedroom, which then became a successful store in his hometown in Missouri, and in 2009 he converted an old bank into a seed bank in Petaluma, California. In this video he defines what heirlooms seeds are, explains why genetically modified crops are bad, and gives some good tips on how to save seeds yourself.

This is a regular series called Obsessives, in which CHOW explores the worlds of singularly focused food-industry figures. These are the people with the dirty hands, answering detailed questions about the work they do. Images courtesy of Library of Congress (public domain), Flickr member juliejordanscott, Flickr member kaibara87, Flickr member OliBac, Flickr member rick, Flickr member rvacapinta, Flickr member TushyD, Flickr member IRRI Images, Flickr member goingslo, Flickr member James Jordan, and Flickr member wallenpaupackagent.

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