<i>Editor’s Note: The Quackers are three awesome ducks from the canals of Venice who are on a mission to educate the community about the dangers of global warming and the importance of practicing sustainability, all while surfing the most gnarly waves possible.</i>

Santa Monica Bay? It was more like Santa Monica Pond. With half-foot swells there was no need to paddle out. Rusty, never one to give up, walked his board out, jumped on and immediately scraped sand. Sighing with disappointment, we accepted our sad fate and headed home.

As we sauntered down the street, I reminded Rusty it was his day to cook. Technically, he doesn’t cook. He is highly skilled at package and can opening and is an excellent “warmer upper.” He keeps it simple with frozen fish, taquitos or pizza. If my calculations are correct, tonight, taquitos. Rusty’s attempts at cooking have given us a deep appreciation for his mastery at opening and warming.

Back home, Richard spent the rest of the day meticulously sorting and packaging seeds from his last harvest. He saved hundreds this time. Seed sorting must be thirsty work. He practically wore a path in the floor going back and forth to the kitchen.

I admire Rusty. He gives his best effort to everything he does, even if he is not the best at doing it. On his night, he ties on an apron, dons his chef toque and is transformed from plain, Rusty Quacker into “Chef Rus-tay.” He loves telling us that the hundred folds in the chef’s toque symbolize the 100 different ways a chef knows how to cook an egg. We would be overjoyed if he knew how to cook an egg just one way.

With his toque at a rakish angle, Chef Rus-tay rolled up his sleeves and with a flourish flung open the freezer. Hundreds of small packages came tumbling out and slid to the floor forming a small mountain. Rusty grabbed for some as they drifted to the floor. They looked like the seed packets Richard had worked on. Why were they in the freezer? “Richard!,” Rusty said with his best Ricky Ricardo imitation, “You’ve got some s’plaining to do!”

Staring sheepishly at the mountain of seeds, Richard said, “Did I forget to mention me starting the Westside Seed Vault in our freezer?”

Rusty was exasperated. “What am I supposed to do for dinner, warm up some seeds,” he asked.

Richard looked horrified, “Absolutely not! Those seeds could save the agricultural diversity of the whole Westside!” We just looked at Richard. What agriculture on the Westside? There are pots and kitchen gardens, but agriculture? I felt Richard’s forehead to see if he was OK.

Richard explained. He had recently been to a lecture on the Svalbard Global Seed Vault, an enormous man-made, seed freezer. It is located on a remote island in a place called Spitsbergen, Norway, in the Arctic Circle. At this location, a design was implemented by digging deep into the frozen rock of an arctic mountain. It was perfect for saving hundreds of millions of seeds for centuries or even longer. The stored seeds represent every important crop variety available in the world today. When loss of a seed sample could mean the extinction of a variety of plant, it is reassuring to have this “insurance policy” protecting crop diversity and our worldwide food supply.

The speaker told Richard that saving the world’s crops is equally as important as saving endangered species and the rainforest. He went on to say that crop diversity could be the most valuable resource for addressing climate change and water and energy supply challenges. He felt it was the key to meeting the food needs of our growing population.

Unfortunately, much diversity has already been lost over the years. For example, in 1903 U.S. farmers used 578 varieties of beans. Just 80 years later only 32 were still existing. Richard added that the Arctic Circle location was great for security. If one wasn’t deterred by four months of total darkness a year and extreme, severe weather, it was also inhabited by polar bears.  Rusty laughed at the thought of polar bears on sentry duty roaring a challenge of, “Stop! Who goes there?”

We understood the concept of what Richard was doing but did not agree with the necessity of having a seed vault in our freezer. We reasoned and cajoled, finally convincing him that there already were regional seed banks close by and as he told us, the Svalbard was there for anyone who really needed it.

The aroma of warming taquitos tantalized us. We were all starved. Wanting to make amends, Richard whipped up a tasty guacamole and an amazing salad. They were so good we agreed to help him this weekend pass out his extra seeds at the Farmer’s Market.

Phyllis and the Quackers can be reached at phyllis@phyllischavez.com

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