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Kerry Trueman

Kerry Trueman

Posted: March 12, 2010 11:45 AM

Are the teabaggers ready to stop throwing tomatoes and start growing tomatoes? Glenn Beck's latest sponsor, The Survival Seed Bank, is banking on Tea Party paranoia to sell a product it calls the "Full Acre Crisis Garden." As Stephen Colbert noted on Wednesday, "nothing moves product like the hot stink of fear."

For $164, you get a vacuum-sealed tube of PVC pipe filled with enough seed "to feed friends and family forever," because, "in an economic meltdown, non-hybrid seeds could become more valuable than even silver and gold!"

But hang on to your credit card! It turns out that the folks flogging the Full Acre Crisis Garden are nothing but horticultural hucksters, as Daily Kos founder Markos Moulitsas revealed on Tuesday.

The Survival Seed Bank claims to offer "the peace of mind knowing that if things were to get scary, that you and your family could still eat." But those vacuum-packed seeds "will be dead within the first year," according to Seed Bank Scams, because "seeds need an airtight, but not airless environment...if you take away all the air, you will kill the seeds."

Glenn Beck has made a fortune by stoking his viewers' sense of persecution and their fear that shadowy, corrupt forces are hard at work conspiring to rip them off.

And he's right, of course; there's no shortage of greedy, dishonest individuals and companies eager to profit by preying on people's worst instincts. Take Bill Heid, the guy behind the Survival Seed Bank. The Federal Trade Commission fined him $400,000 "in consumer redress" back in 2005 for making "false and unsubstantiated claims for the "Himalayan Diet Breakthrough."

Heid made $4.9 million in sales off The Himalayan Diet Breakthrough, a dietary supplement containing "a paste-like material" called Nepalese Mineral Pitch that "oozes out of the cliff face cracks in the summer season" in the Himalayas. Heid promised buyers that this miraculous product would enable them to achieve rapid and substantial weight loss without dieting or exercise, while still consuming unlimited amounts of food.

Who could possibly buy the notion that you could sit on your ass all day eating crap and still lose weight by ingesting some mysterious substance harvested in the Himalayas?

Maybe the same folks who think that slashing taxes and shredding regulations is a dandy way to shore up our crumbling bridges and highways, boost our children's flagging academic performance, clean up our environment, guarantee affordable health care, protect consumers from makers of defective products (like, say, cars that accelerate unexpectedly, or a diabetes drug that's known to cause heart attacks); and prevent financial institutions from ripping people off through fraudulent, predatory practices.

If you buy into all that, I've got a seed-filled PVC tube to sell you.

The Full Acre Crisis Garden is a twisted variation on a victory garden, tailored to folks who fear a laundry list of perceived threats: a "world wide government agenda;" "a belligerent lower class demanding handouts"; "a rapidly diminishing middle class crippled by police state bureaucracy"; "an aloof, ruling elite that has introduced us to an emerging totalitarianism which seeks control over every aspect of our lives;" and the ever popular "Big Government."

It would be bad enough if the folks who wrote this stuff actually believed it, but Heid's history proves that he's just a cynical con artist looking for suckers to help him make a quick buck. And he's found them in Beckistan.

The Survival Seed Bank gets one thing right: seeds are "more valuable than silver or gold in a real meltdown..." After all, they're the source of all life.

To us sustainable ag advocates, seeds are sacred. Ken Greene, co-founder of the Hudson Valley Seed Library--note that it's a library, as opposed to a bank--said it best:

Seeds are, by nature, about sharing. They are community resources. Saving seeds is about survival, both of the plants and people who depend on them, but this is survival through cooperation, not competition. Through the Seed Library we are trying to change the way people think about and treat seeds. We are trying to move seeds from being seen as commodities to be traded or profited from, to cultural and nutritive resources to be protected, shared, and celebrated.

As opposed to, you know, making them the foundation for your get-rich-quick scheme to pick the pockets of tinfoil hat-wearing teabaggers.

By embracing the Survival Seed Bank as a sponsor, Glenn Beck is treading on peak oil prophet James Howard Kunstler's turf. Kunstler, author of The Long Emergency: Surviving the End of Oil, Climate Change, and Other Converging Catastrophes of the Twenty-First Century, has been warning us to start growing our own food for years.

But Kunstler's message is anathema to the defenders of American Excess-tionalism. In his forecast for 2010, Kunstler predicts that we'll have to learn to live without "all the trappings of comfort and convenience now taken as entitlements":

...we must return to some traditional American life-ways that we abandoned for the cheap oil life of convenience, comfort, obesity, and social atomization...


...The successful people in America moving forward will be those who attach themselves to cohesive local communities, places with integral local economies and sturdy social networks, especially places that can produce a significant amount of their own food.

Note that for Kunstler, growing your own food is just one component of a revitalized local economy, a renewed civic spirit, and a renouncement of our car-based, consumption-crazed culture.

And he's right. We do urgently need to relocalize our far-flung, fossil fueled food chain. We need to reclaim our farmland, empower a new generation of gardeners and farmers, and invest the capital required to "accelerate the transition from an economy based on extraction and consumption to an economy based on preservation and restoration," in the words of eco-preneur Woody Tasch, founder of the Slow Money Alliance.

But you won't find the answers to these challenges in a sealed plastic pipe from a Beck-sanctioned scam artist.

Look for them instead at Change.org's Ideas for Change in America contest, where you have the opportunity to voice your support right now for several visionary proposals to transform the way we grow our food. Time is of the essence, because voting ends in just a few hours.

Change.org will mount grassroots campaigns to promote the 10 ideas that win, and the three that I'm asking you to please support only need a few hundred votes to get (or remain) in the top 10:

1. Slow Money: invest in local food systems to save the economy and the planet

2. Good Food For All Kids: A Garden at Every School

3. No Farms No Food: Save the Land that Sustains Us

If you're wondering whether these kinds of campaigns ever generate any real change, consider the White House Kitchen Garden, which got its biggest boost from Roger Doiron's Eat The View campaign. Millions of folks have been inspired to start growing food in their own yards as a result. So go vote!

 

Follow Kerry Trueman on Twitter: www.twitter.com/kerrytrueman