Despite the snow and cold, about 40 gardeners gathered at the Four Fathers Memorial Library in Amherst last Saturday to celebrate seed. The event featured a vermi composting demo, information on accessing local farm and local seed suppliers, and of course a seed swap table, where folks were able to exchange their seeds for those grown by others. All kinds of interesting seeds and stories were shared!
A seed saving workshop was also part of the festivities. Local seed expert Silvana Castillo of La Finquita, the only commercial seed company in Cumberland County, offered participants advice on isolation distances for various seed crops and what variey of seed to order if you want to save your own seed.
Silvana noted that in order to save your own seed, you need to start with open-pollinated varieties, not hybrids. Hybrid seeds are genetic dead ends and will not produce true to type in the next generation, meaning you will not end up with a plant that has the same traits and characteristics as the prior generation.
She also suggested that you keep it simple and start with plants that are self-pollinating. The “selfers” require little to no isolation distances, so you do not need to worry about cross-pollination either by insects or the wind. The selfers includes things like beans, peas, lettuces, peppers and tomatoes.
So why Save Seed…
Just as we have become dependent on food that travels long distances, the same is true for seed. It wasn’t long ago that it was common practice for gardeners to save their own seed and to exchange seed with their neighbours. Farmers also often reserved a portion of each year’s crop for replanting the following year. However, most commercial seeds now are produced internationally. Canadians no longer have knowledge about seed saving, nor understand why sustaining our food system depends on locally-adapted seed. All of this has contributed to a decline in Canada’s food self-sufficiency. According to Seeds of Diversity Canada, a whopping 75% of food biodiversity has become extinct in the past 100 years, providing us with ever-narrowing choices to feed ourselves.
We can help preserve seed saving knowledge and genetic diversity by supporting seed saving organizations, local seed growers, and the development of regional and community seed resources, such as seed libraries and seed saving gardens, and most importantly by saving seeds for our own use and the use of our fellow gardeners.
Where to order open-pollinated seeds in NS:
Annapolis Seeds www.annapolisseeds.com
Hope Seeds www.hopeseed.com
Incredible Seed Company www.incredibleseeds.ca
La Finquita firstname.lastname@example.org
Pumpkin Moon Farm www.pumpkinmoonfarm.com
Halifax Seed Company Inc. www.halifaxseed.ca
Howard Dill Enterprises www.howarddill.com
For more information on seed saving and for a list of open-pollinated seed companies in Canada see: Seeds of Diversity Canada www.seeds.ca
Blog written by Su Morin, The Ecology Action Centre’s Community Food Coordinator for Cumberland County, NS.
Featured picture: (The hands of) Teresa Knott, showing off some of the beautiful Orca Beans that she collected from her seed saving plot at the Parrsboro Community Garden. Picture courtesy of Su Morin.