The First Year at Our Vancouver Island Seed Farm: A Season Review

Posted on Wednesday, 15 November 2023 under Stories

As we harvest and process our final seed crops, it’s time to reflect on the inaugural year of our Research and Education Seed Farm site in North Saanich.

With a quarter acre of bare ground that had seen better days, this spring our Vancouver Island Seed Security Program Coordinator, Lisa Willott, embarked upon setting up a small plot to grow out several variety trials. Starting off with a plan for approximately five beds, the plot somehow expanded into 13 beds. Erika Hathaway joined the team to provide some crucial part-time help as a farm assistant. With a lot of rock-picking and amendment adding, we crossed our fingers and sent good thoughts to the seeds buried in the soil. Our hopes were met as the seeds flourished beautifully!

In addition to Citizen Seed Trial crops, and CANOVI trials for lettuce and carrots, we also grew a few crops based on suggestions from Iyé Creative. We were delighted to learn from chickpeas, cow peas and amaranth – read more about those crops in this story.

With guidance from Scott Harris at Lohbrunner Farm, we grew some potatoes from True Potato Seed. What a delight it was to unleash new varieties of potatoes by growing them from seed!

Along the way we did encounter some failures – It turns out heat-tolerant lettuce can only tolerate so much heat when the watering timer doesn’t kick in when expected! We also had many accomplishments: beautiful new potato varieties, psychedelic kale, happy chickpeas, tasty carrots, abundant butternuts. Overall, it proved to be a tremendous success.

One of the joys of working at the Sandown Centre for Regenerative Agriculture was working alongside other farmers. From problem-solving water pressure, to borrowing a bin, to enjoying a snack in the fields, working with the farmers in the Sandown community has been very enriching.

Most of the vegetables that we grew were intended as part of a variety trial or for a seed crop. This meant that once data had been logged, or seeds had been harvested, a byproduct was food! Over the course of the year, we grew over 1200lbs of food in the plot and donated the majority of that to the Victoria Native Friendship Centre for their community meals and hamper programs. It was a lovely way to get to know them better and we hope to continue to collaborate in the future.

Throughout the season we had the help of many volunteers and students. Big thanks to Mohammad, Teale, Hannah, Iris, Sasha and Ivy and to all the staff and farmers of Sandown Centre for Regenerative Agriculture. It is truly amazing and inspiring to see the transformative powers of growing food and saving seeds together in community.