What is Heirloom?
Heirloom seeds come from open-pollinated plants that pass on similar characteristics and traits from the parent plant to the child plant. There is no concrete definition that every gardener uses to define heirloom plants. Some people state that heirloom plants are those that were introduced before 1951, while others state that heirloom varieties are those introduced before the 1920s. In general, you should consider heirlooms to be seeds that are possible to regrow and pass on from one generation to the next.
One important thing to note for heirloom plants is whether they are organic or non-organic. In most cases, heirloom plants are organic because they are generally only used by small-scale gardeners who do not use pesticide or other harmful chemicals. However, there may be minor cases when chemicals do get involved since heirloom plants do not always have a similar level of innate protection that hybrid and GMO plants provide against diseases and pests. Remember, heirloom refers to the heritage of a plant, while organic refers to a growing practice. They are two different things.
Heirloom vs. Hybrid vs. GMO
There are some distinct differences that one should be aware of when it comes to heirloom, hybrid and GMO plants. First, heirloom plants are the only ones that breed true. As mentioned earlier, this means the same characteristics are passed on from generation to generation. The same cannot be said for hybrid and GMO. Hybrid plants are produced when different varieties of plants are cross-pollinated, which can happen with or without human intervention. Because there are different varieties of plants involved, it can’t be guaranteed that the offspring of hybrid plants produces identical traits as the parent plant.
Both heirloom and hybrid plants can be viewed as natural occurrences. GMO plants, on the other hand, can only be produced using unnatural methods such as gene splicing. Scientists essentially modify a seed’s DNA to ensure the resulting plant produces the desired traits and characteristics. A common example of a GMO plant is Bt-Corn.
Why Grow Heirloom Seeds
If hybrid and GMO seeds grow plants with useful traits, why should you grow heirloom plants instead? First, heirlooms are generally known to produce better taste and flavor. Heirloom fruits and vegetables are also known to be more nutritious. Last but not least, they are less expensive over the long haul. Heirloom plants may require a bit more care than their counterparts but the effort you put in will be worth it! Don’t forget that you would also be playing an important part in preserving the genetic diversity of plants by growing heirloom seeds. After all, how can hybrid seeds be produced without the existence of the original seeds?
Where to Find Heirloom Seeds
With the demand for heirloom seeds increasing, you will find that it isn’t as difficult as before to obtain them. There are certain places you might want to check out to get seeds locally. These places include: local farms, seed exchanges, and botanical gardens. How can you be sure that the seeds you are getting definitely came from heirloom plants? One thing you might want to look out for is the Safe Seed Pledge. Although it isn’t regulated, the Safe Seed Pledge is still a good sign that the company is only providing non-GMO products. Most of the well-known seed companies have already signed up for this pledge so look out for it on the seed company websites.
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On Jan. 24 the White House welcomed two new residents: Champ and Major, the newly minted first dogs of the United States. The first dogs are poised to offer special benefits to workers in the White House.
Promoting Well-Being<img lazy-loadable="true" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yNTUzNjM4OS9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTY3NDQxNTg1MX0.3wAaMwHIdVaRh9cIyfTesDpQMK0Pwg9nyUNCtfuTuCU/img.jpg?width=980" id="443d8" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="4cb3d440ff15ab78cd8309e1ca58050f" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" data-width="1120" data-height="746" />
Presidential pup Major Biden stretches his legs on the White House lawn. Adam Schultz / Official White House photo<p>These benefits explain why many workplaces – from <a href="https://thebark.com/content/barks-directory-best-dog-friendly-companies" target="_blank">Amazon to Zygna</a> – have begun welcoming dogs into their offices. Recent research suggests that dogs in the workplace can lead to <a href="http://doi.org/10.3389/fvets.2019.00138" target="_blank">increased worker engagement, lower employee turnover</a>, <a href="https://doi.org/10.1177/0021943605277399" target="_blank">greater work satisfaction</a> and even enhanced employee <a href="https://doi.org/10.3390/ani11010089" target="_blank">cohesion and communication</a>.</p><p><span></span>The Oval Office, the site of momentous decisions, enormous stress and complex social dynamics, may benefit from dogs even more than typical workplaces. After all, stress can compromise <a href="https://doi.org/10.1016/j.neubiorev.2012.02.003" target="_blank">decision-making</a> and <a href="https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2005/11/051117174336.htm" target="_blank">problem-solving abilities</a>. Pets can alleviate stress, however, dampening these effects and leading to <a href="https://doi.org/10.1161/hyp.38.4.815" target="_blank">improved performance on difficult tasks</a>.</p><p>Not only do people <a href="https://doi.org/10.1080/08927936.2019.1550280" target="_blank">report feeling less workplace stress around dogs</a>, but their very bodies tend to support this claim. A growing area of research suggests human <a href="https://doi.org/10.1007/s10865-013-9546-1" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">heart rates slow, levels of the stress hormone cortisol shrink</a> and <a href="https://doi.org/10.5694/j.1326-5377.1992.tb137178.x" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">blood pressure decreases</a> when people hang out with dogs. Interestingly, the positive effects of pups on stress levels exceed that of <a href="https://doi.org/10.1097/01.psy.0000024236.11538.41" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">even a close friend or family member</a>: A dog will reduce your stress more than your spouse or best friend will. After all, dogs are <a href="https://theconversation.com/your-dogs-nose-knows-no-bounds-and-neither-does-its-love-for-you-148484" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">naturally inclined to love you unconditionally</a> and will never find fault with the way you slurp your soup.</p><p>Dogs may reduce stress because they <a href="https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/the-right-balance/201804/how-dogs-drive-emotional-well-being" target="_blank">provide social support</a>. You may feel supported by your pooch, in part, because of the <a href="https://doi.org/10.1126/science.1261022" target="_blank">oxytocin feedback loop between humans and dogs</a>. Oxytocin, a hormone involved in <a href="https://doi.org/10.1016/S0079-6123(08)00427-5" target="_blank">promoting social bonds</a>, is released in both dogs and humans when <a href="https://www.smithsonianmag.com/science-nature/dog-gazes-hijack-brains-maternal-bonding-system-180955019" target="_blank">gazing into each other's eyes</a>.</p><p>People report <a href="https://doi.org/10.2752/089279306785593928" target="_blank">improved mood</a>, <a href="https://news.ubc.ca/2018/03/12/sit-stay-heal-study-finds-therapy-dogs-help-stressed-university-students/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">increased happiness and greater energy levels</a> around dogs. And, on the flip side, they enjoy reduced feelings of <a href="https://www.nami.org/Blogs/NAMI-Blog/February-2018/How-Dogs-Can-Help-with-Depression" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">depression</a>, <a href="https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jamda.2007.11.007" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">loneliness</a> and <a href="https://doi.org/10.1037/a0024506" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">negativity</a> when dogs are present.</p>
Creating Connection<p>Given dogs' skill at providing these supports and boosting mood, it may not surprise you to learn they work their magic not only one on one, but also in group settings. In the presence of a dog, people in groups have <a href="https://doi.org/10.2752/089279304785643203" target="_blank">better social interactions, engage in more conversations</a> and are more likely to form <a href="http://doi.org/10.1163/156853007X169333" target="_blank">long-term friendships</a> with one another.</p>
President Clinton and President Chirac of France showing Buddy some love in 1999. National Archives and Records Administration<p>The effects of dogs as social lubricants can go further: Dogs even foster development of <a href="https://doi.org/10.1348/000712600161673" target="_blank">social support networks</a> among their humans, leading to a sense of community, and more social interactions between people in their vicinity. These engagements offer opportunities for even more social support in high-stress environments. And perhaps most importantly, <a href="https://doi.org/10.2752/175303708X371564" target="_blank">people are more likely to offer help</a> when a dog is present.</p><p>Having Champ and Major in the White House may help President Biden and his staff navigate the stresses and tensions of the current political landscape. Beyond "indogurations," tweets and cute photo ops, Champ and Major will offer physical, psychological and social benefits in the Oval Office.</p><p>In short, pets (<a href="https://www.healthline.com/health/benefits-of-being-cat-lover" target="_blank">yes, cats too!</a>) improve the quality of life in almost every context – including presidential ones. Perhaps they can, even in a small way, play a role in uniting a divided country. After all, personal politics aside, isn't it comforting to know there will be paws pattering around the White House again?</p><p><em><a href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/ellen-furlong-1165354" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Ellen Furlong</a> is an associate professor of Psychology at Illinois Wesleyan University.</em></p><p><em>Disclosure statement: Ellen Furlong has written for Audible / The Great Courses. She has received funding from The National Institute of Health. She is a member of The Animal Behavior Society, The Comparative Cognition Society, The American Psychological Association, and The Society for Teaching of Psychology.</em></p><p><em>Reposted with permission from <a href="https://theconversation.com/how-bidens-dogs-could-make-the-oval-office-a-workplace-with-less-stress-and-better-decision-making-153406" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">The Conversation</a>.</em></p>
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