2020: The Year of the Seed 

Posted on Tuesday, 8 December 2020 under The Bauta Family Initiative on Canadian Seed Security

2020 has seen an explosion of home gardeners ready to improve their food security. The global pandemic has dominated our consciousness, prompting interest and urgency for seeds like never before. Sellers and distributors have struggled to fulfill an increase in orders upwards of 300%, particularly with physical distancing requirements. In an attempt to cope, many companies have imposed daily limits, delays, and restrictions, with at least one American seed company halting shipments to Canada.

The simultaneous demand for seeds and difficulty obtaining them highlights the important work of the BC Seed Security Program, and provides new opportunities for us to connect with seed growers and sowers. We have been working since 2005 to help foster a thriving ecological seed sector in the province through the production of high-quality seed crops at commercial scale. We deliver training, mentorship, and infrastructure to new seed growers, and conduct collaborative and participatory agricultural research. We engage our network of farmers and growers across the province to help expand and improve local seed production in ways that support agricultural economic viability, safeguard seed biodiversity, and increase the resiliency of our food system.

group of people standing in a field on a farm

This year has been busy for us. In collaboration with the Bauta Family Initiative on Canadian Seed Security, we have launched a podcast showcasing Canadian seed heroes. Our Citizen Seed Trail has once again equipped local gardeners with seeds to participate in a variety trial of watermelon, kale, and tomato. Along with participating in and supporting the 2020 CANOVI trials, our Research and Education Seed Farm in Abbotsford launched a new Seed to Food program in partnership with the FoodStash Foundation. Over 1,500 pounds of delicious vegetable by-products have been shared to date through the program. We brought our mobile seed cleaner on tour to eight different farms across British Columbia, cleaning well over 100 varieties of vegetable, grain, and flower seed. As always, we have continued to promote Seedy Saturdays and facilitate capacity building with event organizers for the 2021 season.

The Covid-19 crisis has exposed risks to Canada’s food system already threatened by climate change, an increasing concentration of the global seed industry, and an alarming loss of agricultural biodiversity. British Columbia’s vegetable production is particularly vulnerable as we heavily rely on imported seed, dependent on international supply chains. Seeds purchased for BC backyard and community gardens account for over half of annual sales. These gardeners overwhelmingly rely on imported seed not bred for provincial growing conditions.

Bundles of lettuce in a box

To realize a thriving and secure local food system, we must support regionally-adapted, BC-grown seeds. Get to know your seed seller. Attend a Seedy Saturday. Learn how to save seeds yourself. Plan your garden with seed saving in mind. If you are not able to grow your own food, ask vendors at your community farmers market where they get their seeds, and let them know seed security matters to you. Together we can come out of this deeply uncertain period with a more robust, resilient, and sustainable seed system.