Big Changes at the Methow Valley Seed Collective

Big Changes at the Methow Valley Seed Collective

We are announcing the closing of the retail chapter of the Methow Valley Seed Collective, and offering an invitation to join us in a new chapter.  We will no longer be selling seeds on our website or in stores, as we lean into a new paradigm where we step outside the market economy and offer the seeds freely as a gift to our community. ~ Anaka 


Dear Community who has supported the Methow Valley Seed Collective (MVSC),

It is with humility and gratitude for your support that I share with you:  MVSC will no longer have seed available in stores or on the website for sale; no orders will be filled and no seeds will be shipped. Henceforth, seed will be offered as a gift freely given. A new time is dawning for this collective, and this is an invitation to explore with us as we follow this call down a path toward the gift economy…

Currently, MVSC does not bring in enough money to pay the bills and support its staff. The only thing that would change this is significant growth of the business, for which I have neither will nor desire. 

In our world today, a business that loses money has no “value” economically. Yet what we have in our basement office at Twispworks are bins full of seeds from 150 different crop varieties, along with a deep knowledge of how to tend these crops.

Can you think of anything more valuable to a community?  

  • Enough seed to grow much of the food, herbs and flowers we need for years to come;
  • A sense of food security in case access to the larger supply chains of seeds is disrupted;
  • Knowledge of how to maintain these seeds and keep them viable and bountiful and selected for our climate into the future.

The system of market capitalism that I (and most of us) have been indoctrinated into has taught me to value myself based on the level of “success” I achieve, my ability to “make money,” and my ability to be “efficient and productive.” These, along with the need for constant growth, are also the things that make a small business successful.  

What if instead, we looked to plants as our teachers and models?  The plants give of their gifts freely, wax and wane with the seasons and the weather, flourish and spread beauty and also senesce and die with grace.  Unlike market economies,  plants do not expect infinite growth and gracefully and patiently live, gifting the energy of the sun (through the magic of photosynthesis) to all the beings—human and non-human—that they interact with.  

As I move into my middle age and study the terrible state of the world, I am seeing more clearly the unjust and deeply destructive systems that we live under. I can feel my ego’s attachment to success and recognition fading. Instead, I feel a deepening need to align my actions with my values and step gracefully, humbly away from the system I see as destroying the living, breathing world we depend on. I am searching for ways to put these feelings into practice in my life. 

I am pondering the unraveling of the dream of the Methow Valley Seed Collective as a market-driven business that brings the gift of regionally adapted seed to my local community and region. I write to you, the community that has supported this business and this idea, to share the process I have gone through as I release the retail seed business. The journey I am on calls into question the underlying assumptions and structures of business in our times. I invite you to read on and, if you feel called by any of these explorations, to join me.

Swimming in the Water of Capitalism

Growing and selling organic seed is a relatively benign undertaking, and brings a positive contribution to the community. But in my efforts to have a successful retail business in this time, I’ve realized that capitalism seeps into everything in harmful ways, even the grooviest of businesses. 

For example, the transactional nature of selling a product in our modern context has required that I bombard people with frequent reminders of how much they “need” my product and sexy pictures of bright red fruits and succulent roots. This happens on social media, which I find abhorrent and deleterious to my own mental health. Yet this is how one must reach an audience of “consumers” in this time—the only way to make ends meet in an economic system that requires continual growth.

I want to make clear that sharing these feelings is not meant to be an indictment of others who sell seeds or participate in any way in social media and capitalism. I recognize that this is the water we swim in, and we all participate as best we can to make our lives livable. Tending seeds is work, valuable work, and farmers need money to live in our current societal structures. 

The Gift of the Seed

“We are showered every day with gifts, but they are not meant for us to keep. Their life is in their movement, the inhale and the exhale of our shared breath. Our work and our joy is to pass along the gift and to trust that what we put out into the universe will always come back.”

Robin Wall Kimmerer, Braiding Sweetgrass

Seeds are a gift from the earth, a gift from the countless generations of farmers the world over who have tended and selected these special crops for millennia. What if we asked these seeds to be our teachers? A plant gives its seeds freely, with no need to charge $4 for a packet. It gives with a deep knowing that the earth and the ecological community surrounding it will hold and care for it through life and death. Selling these gifts never sat quite right in my heart.

Instead, how can I live into the gift that Robin Wall Kimmerer speaks of in the quote above? Can I have the courage to start taking small steps outside this rushing, ravaging torrent of capitalism? This torrent is not only ripping our one and only Earth to shreds, but also uprooting human communities, alienating us, and bringing a deep sense of grief and loss into our lives. Our deep hunger for a living, breathing village we can trust and lean into is unfed even while we scroll incessantly, alone, looking to fill that unmet need.

The Call to the Gift Economy

There is another way to move our gifts through community and it is as old as humanity. This is the concept of the gift economy.

As I look to the future of the Methow Valley Seed Collective, I imagine a metamorphosis into an open collaboration to provide a gift and a service to the community that is not based on the model of merchandising a product with a specific and direct monetary return. I envision instead a dance, an experiment with the concept of the circular gift economy. This is an economy of faith in the power of community and the power of the unique gifts that individuals bring into community. It’s an opportunity to continue to engage in the work of plant breeding, seed tending, and soil growing, while offering the product of my efforts as a gift freely to my community, with no monetary exchange. This comes not with the intent of each person making a specific “donation” for each packet of seed that they take home, but with the trust and faith that the spirit of the gift will return in a circle of reciprocity. 

All of our ancestors worked within the gift economy at some point in history, and some humans still do. I am inspired by the work of several authors and thinkers exploring these ideas, such as Robin Wall Kimmerer, Lewis Hyde, and Adam Wilson. In my own community, I know I am not alone in this inquiry, and I already feel encouraged and emboldened by mentors and peers who have lived lives that spread gifts into the world.

The capitalist economy (and even the “barter” economy) is based on the principle of assigning monetary “value” to goods and services and then making an exchange. One packet of seed is “worth” $4.00. You give $4.00, I give you a packet of seed. The idea of the gift is not in that spirit. It is in a spirit of trust that when anyone is willing to receive a gift with gratitude in their heart, then that gratitude will open their heart to give their own gifts back into the community. If I give freely the gift of the seed that the earth and the ancestors (and my labors) have given, the gift returns, not specifically to me, but to the community that holds me in a net. The stronger that net of community becomes, the better I am held. 

In this new economy we are not just called to give, but to receive. Our conditioning has made it so difficult to receive with grace: We feel fear, humiliation, or indebtedness in the face of a gift freely given. How can we grow into this discomfort? Part of this work is the uncoupling of giving and receiving. Can we live into the challenge, posed by my friend Petra Page-Mann of Fruition Seeds, also exploring gift economy, “As you receive these seeds, all we ask is that you receive them trusting that you are worthy, no matter what you’ve done or haven’t done, no matter what you’ll do or won’t do.”

It's true, this is idealistic. Isn't idealism what’s going to drive the changes that allow another world, the one that many of us dream of, yet find ourselves constantly undermining simply by trying to survive within existing social and economic systems? 

The acknowledgment of positionality

It is a deep privilege to undertake this exploration. Not everyone is in a position, for so many reasons, to give up a business in an effort to move into the gift economy. I am in a position to consider it despite so much fear of the unknown, fear of my own reactions and resentments, fear of not being able to pay my bills. 

 In addition, the seed is grown on stolen, unceded land, seized by settlers pushing west who forced the long-time residents off to more marginal locations. The fact that I “own” this land that I work is an affront to the humans that tended and engaged relationally with this land but never claimed ownership. I hope that exploring this type of structural change can be a part of healing relationships with land and people.

 The request

The end of the retail arm of the Methow Valley Seed Collective is also a beginning. I invite you to explore with me this path that is scary to tread, but is based on a profound trust in the goodness and generosity of the community. It only works when we allow ourselves to trust the abundance of the land and of each other. Can we listen to the plants and learn more about serving the community of beings around us with faith and love in the spirit of reciprocity? It’s a big and overwhelming shift, and requires effort and love and courage to be in the discomfort of something new and different. 

Please reach out if you are interested in learning more. Email me at or sign up for our newsletter here 

 Let the seeds be our teachers: One tomato seed will become 5,000 more in just one generation.  That is a gift.


Black Krim Tomatoes


“Who else has the capacity to transform light, air, and water into food and medicine—and then share it? Who cares for the people as generously as plants? Creative, wise, and powerful, plants are imbued with spirit in a way that the western worldview reserves only for humans.”

Robin Wall Kimmerer


I want to acknowledge the collaboration and encouragement of Laura Gunnip, Cailyn Brierly, Kyle McKnelly, Darcy Gray, Frank Morton, Matthew Goldfarb and Petra Page-Mann for helping make it possible for me to get the courage and practical skills to grow seeds and share them with the community.  And also for the deep care and conversation around new ways of living in community and reciprocity.

~ Anaka Mines /


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