THE GOODS : ECONOTES : Cultivating Organic Gardeners

Kenny Ausubel wants to revolutionize the way we think about food, and he's starting with the country's 100 million back-yard gardeners. He wants them to plant organic seeds and suggests green Hubbard squash, red Wethersfield onions, Osaka purple mustard greens and early moonbeam watermelons.

In 1989, the writer, filmmaker and environmental entrepreneur founded Seeds of Change, the first company to sell organic seeds nationally. Its mail-order catalogue offers more than 500 fruits, vegetables and herbs.

Not only can organic gardeners grow food without toxic chemicals, Ausubel says, they can reintroduce biodiversity to our diets and focus on nutrition as a primary criterion for food selection.

Ausubel's new book, "Seeds of Change," (HarperSan Francisco), explains that because of hybridization, many of the food plants available to our grandparents are no longer grown.

Trying to reverse the trend, Seeds of Change has 80 farmers in 27 states growing organic seeds collected worldwide, including heirloom varieties that have been tucked away for years.

Anybody can be an organic gardener, Ausubel says. "You can start with lemon basil or a chocolate daisy in a little window pot. Or Luther Hill sweet corn in your back yard--it's totally fantastic. We have 65 kinds of tomatoes."

The seeds are $1.50 a packet at health food stores and garden centers. For a free catalogue, call (800) 95-SEEDS.


Waste Not: If spring housecleaning has left you with a bunch of clothes, books and maybe an exercise bike or rowing machine to dispose of, you can turn to the City of Los Angeles, which has updated last year's hit publication: "Put It To Good Re-Use," a directory of donation opportunities. The brochure has been enlarged to 78 pages of names, telephone numbers and short profiles of organizations that will take items off your hands to benefit others.

"We have so many more listings this year," says Joan Satt of the Integrated Solid Waste Management Office, which published the brochure. Free copies are available by phone, (213) 237-1444; fax, (213) 847-3054, or by writing to 200 N. Main St., Room 580, Los Angeles, Calif. 90012.


Roundup: Architects, planners, designers and developers who care about environmentally responsible buildings are invited to the May 25 Sustainable Building Conference at the Pasadena Center. Alex Wilson, editor of Environmental Building News, is the keynote speaker. The program ranges from the "Aesthetics of Sustainability" to "Recycling Northridge Earthquake Debris." Information: (213) 660-2191.

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