Sending grounding thoughts from the seed farm

Posted on Monday, 6 April 2020 under Stories

During this very challenging time, people are working really hard to keep a semblance of normality, connecting with loved ones in safe ways from a distance and trying to figure out what activities should still be done and which ones should be put on hold.  One activity that is great for mental and physical health, and timely, is gardening.

Our BC Seeds team offers a range of collaborative and celebratory programs centred around food and community.  We have field days and tasting events, workshops and seed gatherings. Having a resilient local food system is more important than ever and this work must continue.  We are devising strategies to be able to deliver programming virtually, but there is one part of our program that will never be virtual because it is too rooted in the earth.  Literally.

Our Research and Education Seed Farm is a crucial part of our Seed Security programming.  Not only are we actively adding to the supply of locally adapted, organic seed, we are able to use the space for virtual training to help farmers include seed production in their business plans.

The farm is an active place this time of year.  It had been sunny and not raining for a while so it was time to check to see if the soil was dry enough to till.  Tilling soil that is too wet will destroy its structure and can cause more damage than good. Luckily it had dried out nicely so we set to work.

This is a great time of year to look at overwintering seed crops, like kale. The winter had done a great job of selecting the survivors for us.  Out of five or six 100’ beds, there were just enough plants that survived to fill out one bed. We moved the best survivors to a new tilled bed, and that’s where they will stay until they make seed for us in August.

Potatoes aren’t planted by true seed, they are cloned from the previous season’s tubers, so why would we be planting these on a seed farm?  Well, these are not your ordinary potatoes. In fact, we aren’t really sure what they are yet. Some potatoes make tiny little tomato-like fruit that when collected and the seed planted, will make new never before seen potato varieties.  These particular potatoes were grown from true seed in 2018 at Glorious Organics Co-op. There were about 60 plants. We chose the best producing 20 plants in 2019 and collected those tubers. This year we are planting ten feet of each variety and by the end of the season we will be able to harvest, taste, and assess each new variety.  I hope by then we will all be able to meet in the field and taste them together!

David Catzel, Seed Security Program Director reflects, In the end, the farming activities bring me back to what is truly important and necessary: good food and healthy soil. I feel truly grateful for the opportunity to support BC farmers with seed production. We will maintain this research and education farm to the best of our ability, and hope by the year-end we can invite you all there to celebrate the bounty of seed and food harvests.  Until then, I hope each and every one of you have at least a small piece of ground or even a pot of soil that you can sink your hands into. We all walk on this earth together and can connect through the very ecosystem crucial to our survival. That of the soil.”