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March 13, 2020


Our SEED-O-MATIC vending machine is at Colby Museum of Art, Maine, USA, September 2nd 2019 – May 8th 2020.

The world’s slowest vending machine dispenses unique seeds with cultural, ecological or culinary significance. The future is slow, biodiverse and open-source. The future of great food is good seeds.

Simply put in your change, turn a crank, and you are ready to get your hands dirty.  Each SEED-O-MATIC packet contains enough seeds to grow a small row of vegetables, encouraging healthy food choices and agricultural biodiversity

The seeds inside each SEED-O-MATIC packet are provided by Fedco seed suppliers and are the result of many years of dedicated breeding work by Fedco’s seed breeders. See some videos with the breeders here.

“Adaptive breeding cannot occur under a system of restrictive ownership.”

—Frank Morton, a founder of the Open Source Seed Initiative

As a cooperative, Fedco does not have an individual owner or beneficiary, profit is not their primary goal. Consumers own 60% of the cooperative and worker members 40%. Through their product lines and cultural hints, Fedco encourages sustainable growing methods and offer a large selection of certified-organic cultivars and regional heirloom varieties. 

Fedco’s inventory manager and grower Roberta Bailey has added her ‘Matchbox Hot Pepper’ seed to the open-source seed initiative. “A group dedicated to offering up their genetic plant material and varieties to the public domain so that anybody can use them in any way.” By doing so these growers protect the breeding lines from ownership and patenting by large multinational seed companies, establishing a protected commons for non-patented seeds and pushing back against the hegemony of “Big Food.” 

The ‘Matchbox Hot Pepper’ seed can be found amongst the following in the dispensed SEED-O-MATIC packets:

Be My Baby Cherry Tomato

(65 days) Open-pollinated. Indeterminate. This productive cherry is the ongoing result of a cross of three famous tomatoes: an heirloom potato-leaf beefsteak and two cherries, one orange and one red. The grape tomato in its background lends a rich sweet flavor somewhat akin to that of Sweet Baby Girl, which it replaced. Bred by relentless. 2007 Fedco introduction. Breeder Royalties. OSSI. 

Flashback Calendula

Calendula officinalis. (55 days) A mix of orange, apricot and peachy doubled petals, all with red backing to create a distinctive contrast. Colors fade to bicolor yellows or yellow-peach, adding interest as the plants mature. Blooms withstand light fall frosts; still look good in October. Annual. OSSI. Seed purchased directly from the independent breeder. Especially attractive to pollinators.

Freedom Lettuce

This gene pool was created by Frank Morton in his so-called “Hell’s Half-Acre lettuce trial,” in which he crossed his most disease-resistant cultivars with his best-tasting varieties to select and recombine for excellent traits. Morton invites growers and breeders to work with this mix to create new varieties for their farms or for the general public while stipulating that nothing derived from it may be patented or protected from others’ use in any way. This strategy, originated by software developers, is now known as copyleft (as opposed to traditional copyright). Morton has adopted it to keep his varieties and their derivatives in the public domain as a protected commons. OSSI. Seeds as nature’s software! Copyleft has the potential to return to free use such shared resources as our plant heritage that rightfully belong to all of us. Seed purchased directly from the independent breeder. 

Matchbox Hot Pepper

(75 days) Open-pollinated. A product of our inventory manager Roberta Bailey. She has created an open-pollinated selection of the hybrid Super Chili, whose parents include Hungarian Hot Wax and Hot Banana. The squat plants bear prolific upright fruit, averaging 2″ long, 1⁄3″ across and ripening from pale green to deep scarlet. Like Super Chili, they bear well in cold damp weather, hot dry weather, sandy soils and heavy clay. They have plenty of heat and the characteristic finely cut lightweight leaves of many hot peppers. OSSI. 2000 Fedco introduction. 

Sweet Basil

(70 days) Open-pollinated. The heaviest-yielding variety, recommended for drying, all-around great eating, and large-scale pesto production. We sold more than 4,000 packets last year of these two strains of Sweet Basil. Tested for fusarium.

As simple as it is to operate, SEED-O-MATIC provides a point of entry into complex issues of food justice.

Today, SEED-O-MATIC’S vision is more important than ever. Large agrochemical companies are buying out seed suppliers and patenting the genetic information of the seeds they sell, posing serious threats to agricultural biodiversity and food sovereignty worldwide. In stocking seeds that are organic, locally saved, and/or open-source, SEED-O-MATIC makes supporting an agricultural system based on access and equitability as convenient as using a vending machine.

For more on seeds, see our newest issue of Food Phreaking:


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