This past Sunday my two girls each received a package of seeds from the Easter Bunny. My eldest (E1) grew a small container of carrots last year and has a new pack of seeds to do it again. Now my youngest(E2) has her own pack of sunflower seeds. At 8 months its not likely she’ll get much out of them, but even the Easter Bunny has to try and keep it fair, right?
Mostly I wanted to use Easter as a chance to introduce one of the most important parts of a real food system; seeds. The cooking half of food is an established one here, but we are just starting to dip our toes into gardening. A few weeks ago I raided the seed section at a big box store and set up our own seedling nursery. I took over half of our dinning room table and awkwardly placed two sunlamps at the best angle I could manage.
We happily filled our little pots with soil and divided up the seeds. E1 was as excited as I was when little green sprouts started to appear. She will happily list off the types of plants we are hoping to grow to any victim she can find.
Initially I was happy to have even attempted growing my plants from seeds. Over the past few weeks I’ve started to realize that not all seeds are created equal.
I sat down to talk to the volunteer coordinator of Loving Spoonful at Coffee Way the other week and during our conversation she mentioned KASSI. I hadn’t heard about them before and she explained that the Kingston Area Seed System Initiative is a local organization dedicated to growing the community’s seed heritage.
Commercial seeds are usually the product of large corporations (67% of global proprietary seed are controlled by just 3 corporations). With a concentration on profit the last few decades have resulted in a loss of variety in seeds. There has also been increasing reliance on the use of genetically modified strains (GMOs) and plants that produce seeds that are non viable. KASSI is working with the heirloom seed bank held at the Heirloom Seed Sanctuary to build a greater seed saving culture in Kingston.
They are also working with other groups in Kingston; including the Ontario Public Interest Research Group (OPIRG), Sustainable Kingston, and Loving Spoonful. They have two Seed Gardens started this year specifically to grow plants for the harvesting of seeds. Farmers have added their efforts, dedicating plots of their land to grow more plants for seed collection. They are also working on building a free, seed-lending library for next year to engage backyard gardeners.
Just as I was starting to learn about this initiative another topic caught my eye.
Warnings about Bill C-18 have come across my facebook and twitter feeds from a few different sources. It is aimed at farmer’s abilities to save and store seeds. There was an interview with Cate Henderson of the Heirloom Seed Sanctuary featured in an article in The Whig. She is concerned that Bill C-18 will remove focus on developing plants with local adaptability. The local National Farmers Union (NFU) 316 chapter’s president, Dianne Dowling, has deemed Bill C-18 ‘a step forward for corporations, but a step backward for farmers’.
The NFU has a whole list of resources for those interested in learning more about the topic. I’ve got some reading to do.
Heirloom Seed Sanctuary
I’ve known for some time that the Heirloom Seed Sanctuary, run by the Sisters of Providence of St. Vincent de Paul, offered workshops on seed saving. The first date this year happened on May 21st and covered transplanting. I was out of town at the time but I’ve got the next workshop, July 16th marked down on my calendar. I can use all the help I can get in the garden, especially when it comes to something as specific as seed saving.
I have yet to attend a Seedy Saturday, which includes a table for swapping (or leaving a cash donation) of locally harvest seeds and happens annually on the second Saturday in March. As a culinary student I volunteered to cater the first Seedy Saturday held on Wolfe Island in 2008, not really grasping what it was, but excited to have a chance to work with local food. The next Seedy Saturday will find me finally starting my own seed collection.
I also intend to keep a close watch on the lending-library KASSI is working on. I’m particularly excited about this, I really think it has the potential to generate a lot of attention and energy around heritage foods.
Next year I will do one better than the seed packs from the local box store. The Easter Bunny is going to be bringing a different kind of seed. Hopefully it will spark a few conversations with my girls about how important it is to look beyond convenient little packages and really think how much further we can delve into something.