Last week Dan Jason of Salt Spring Island Seeds visited Terra Nova Farm in Richmond to talk about seed saving as a community. The room was packed with people from all over the Lower Mainland interested in what Dan had to say about starting Community Seed Collectives.
Recently urban agriculture, food security, and food sovereignty have become increasingly “hot topics” around the world as communities start to address the issues of our current industrial food system. Even in our own community there’s more activity then ever before. The Mayor of North Vancouver is pushing for front lawns to transform into gardens, north shore high school students are taking agriculture classes, and the Table Matters event was packed with more then 100 people and organizations working in our community on food issues.
Dan’s talk was heart felt and inspiring, but also linked the importance of these community based initiatives to addressing the big picture issues.
“A key point that I would like to make however, one which is perhaps not as obvious as the importance of food, is this: You need good seed to grow good food and to keep growing good food. Seed becomes food becomes seed becomes food. Just as it doesn’t make sense to rely on food being brought in from thousands of miles away, neither is it wise to depend on seeds from somewhere else. You need reliable seeds that are adapting to where you are and which can provide a sustainable diet.” – Dan Jason
As the Canada-EU Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA) is being negotiated behind closed doors there have been reports that a clause under the International Convention for the Protection of New Varieties of Plants ( UPOV), UPOV 19, would essentially extinguish farmers rights to save seeds of any kind. It looks like this clause (UPOV 19) has been dropped from the agreement as of October, however there are other clauses in the draft agreement that jeopardize local food system development.
“CETA would disallow governments, schools, hospitals, universities, and public utilities from favouring local suppliers or businesses for contracts over relatively small thresholds. This would seriously jeopardize local food systems and any other initiative that would maintain local businesses.” –National Farmers Union
What do we do? Can Community Seed Saving Make a Difference?
The idea of a seed collective is to have many community members each saving one type of seed, and contributing them to a pool of seeds the community can use. People new to seed saving would be connected to a mentor, and each person would specialize in a type of seed (i.e. beans, tomatoes, grain, etc). The mentor for a seed type (i.e. the Bean Leader) could teach you how to save and troubleshoot throughout the season. Over the years the network and seed bank would grow to reach a scale that could contribute significantly, and relationships with other communities saving seeds would strengthen the resilience of the system.
If you want to read more about this idea, please check out the Seed Sanctuary‘ s article on Community Seeds Saving.
How Do We Start Saving Seeds?
On March 5th, we’ll be hosting a Seedy Saturday in North Vancouver. The focus will be on learning how to save seeds (workshops and demonstrations!), meeting other interested people, and finding the right seeds and resources to get you started. This will be a great starting place, so join us! Click here for information on this event.