Mobile Seed Cleaning Tours Recap 2023

Posted on Friday, 8 December 2023 under Stories

Each fall, the trailer tours provide an opportunity to connect with seed growers across the province and share tools and knowledge with experienced and first-time seed savers. Meeting seed growers, sharing seed stories, and cleaning seeds together is a joy our seed team looks forward to every year.

The feedback that we receive from growers demonstrates the value of shared equipment that makes on-farm seed cleaning more accessible and efficient. One of the farmers who cleaned seeds with the trailer this year shared, “To say it saved me time is not quite right…I simply could not do the task that the office clipper does on my own, no matter how much time I took.”

The tours are a fantastic way to support seed security in BC by helping increase the quality and quantity of locally-adapted and ecologically grown seed, and building a network of people who are engaged in this work.

This year, we took the seed cleaning trailers on three different tours and cleaned seeds at 18 stops around BC.

Interior Tour

Adapting our plan due to an unfortunately-timed sickness, our Seed Program Coordinator, Finlay, dove in head first to fill in, making it an exciting first Mobile Seed Cleaning Trailer Tour.

After picking up the trailer from its winter home, the Interior tour started with a wonderful morning at the Salmon Arm Farmers Market. We had great conversations, and several people came with boxes of seeds. Using hand screens, we cleaned a variety of vegetable and flower seeds while farmers market guests watched and chatted.

The next day, Jordan Marr at Unearthed Organics in Kelowna made use of the winnow wizard and clipper 224 to clean close to 20 varieties of dry beans, totalling about 650 pounds.

Following our stop at Unearthed Organics, we made our way up to Green Croft Gardens in Grindrod. We received a warm welcome from Wolf and their dog, the friendly giant named Summit. Alicia and family from Belle Meadow Farm arrived with 450 pounds of rye, which the clipper made light work of cleaning.

Returning to Green Croft Gardens the next day for a public stop, Finlay was joined by Steve Van Hassel from Ikigai Vegetables. Having participated in our Seed Mentorship Program in 2022, Steve was keen to learn more about the equipment and was a fantastic help. Despite the drizzle of rain, people turned out for a great day of seed cleaning. Fueled by delicious treats and coffee from our gracious hosts, Wolf and Gabriele, we cleaned an array of flower and vegetable seeds, grain, and beans.

Northern Tour

The Northern tour was a one-way trip for the seed cleaner this year, which is exciting news for current and prospective seed growers in the North. David and Tallulah packed up one of the seed trailers and met with the new Northern Seed Security Coordinator, Jolene, for a journey through central and northern BC. The first stop was the William’s Lake Farmers’ Market where Stephanie from Slow Train Farm joined us to clean seeds as small as yarrow, to threshing and screening beans and grains. Other members from the community joined to clean grain and flax seeds. The next stop was at Queensway community garden, where members of Farm to School BC, Three Seeds Farm and the Prince George Community Seed Library came out to clean seeds, sample peppers, and eat delicious heirloom corn that was discovered on the farm and stewarded by the hosts Ed and Lynn.

With bellies full of corn, the trailer made its way to True North Acres in Telkwa for a beautiful farm tour and pop ins from the neighbours to scope out the seed cleaning trailer. This marked the end of the journey for David and Tallulah, and Jolene kept the trailer moving, first to Tea Creek, an Indigenous-led, culturally-safe, land-based food sovereignty and trades training initiative, then to Sik-e-Dahk farm school, to clean some experimental bok choy seed and check out the many experimental varieties being grown on the farm. The next stop was KSAN Society in Terrace, with an appearance from local farmer Vicky of Thimbleberry Farm, who brought garlic seed bulbil development stages to demonstrate. Finally, the trailer made it to WoodGrain Farm for a public stop and some on request seed saving days with community members and visitors from as far as McBride, keeping the air separator, bicycle thresher and winnow wizard busy.

The trailer is still settling in the North with hopes that its availability will inspire more seed savers and aspiring seed savers to grow more seed, knowing some tools and support are a bit closer. We’re looking forward to the 2024 Northern seed crop season already.

Vancouver Island Tour

After some seed cleaning in North Saanich, Lisa hit the road with the Vancouver Island Mobile Seed Cleaning Trailer at the beginning of October. In Black Creek, we were joined by Amara Farm and, despite heavy rain, made our way through cleaning loads of vegetable seeds at Good Earth Farms. Our Metro Vancouver Seed Coordinator, Siri, joined us on the Northern leg of the Island tour. Together with Lisa they made their way to Royston for a great day of seed saving with the Comox Seed Savers out at Stellar Raven Ecological Farm. We started off with a morning rush cleaning lots of small lots of lettuce seed and flower seeds. The hand screens really came in handy for this mighty group of home growers.

The next day Siri continued on to Errington to join Michalina Hunter at her beautifully diverse seed farm. With limited time we focused on her high-priority crops. Yarrow was a big seller for her last year and we cleaned a huge lot together. This year’s purchase of the carrot de-bearder came in handy for threshing small seeds like yarrow. We also got lots of use out of our air column separator to help separate out the lighter-weight seeds and plant debris. Other crops we cleaned included potato onion, dill, and radish. You can purchase seeds from Michalina at Cicada Seed Shop.

Afterwards, we continued on to take part in the Denman Island Nut and Apple Fest. We kept busy all day helping farmers and gardeners clean a wide diversity of seeds. From grains including wheat, oats, flax and amaranth to vegetable crops, we saw it all. The winnow wizard was in full action, successfully separating grain and seed from chaff. Throughout the day we had a couple seed saving workshops and a thresher demonstration. Folks came to check out the equipment and play our Seed Matching game (you can purchase the game here).

The seed trailer then made its way to Salt Spring Island in the caring and capable hands of the folks at the Root. Farmers and gardeners booked the trailer steadily through the week before we jettisoned off for the next island.

Lisa and Finlay headed to Galiano Island for a busy seed cleaning day at the island’s stock-up market with folks from the Seed Library of Galiano. Luckily the rain held off and dozens of homesteaders and gardeners showed up with seeds and connected with each other. We delighted in learning about and cleaning Callaloo, a slender type of amaranth grown in Jamaica. Our next stop was for a couple of days on Pender Island, and though we weren’t as lucky with clear skies, we kept the thresher, air column separator going with beans, peas, cilantro, flax and dozens of flowers, medicinal plants and herbs.

Finally, in mid-November, we re-scheduled our Duncan workshop to take place at Cowichan Green Community’s Beverly St. Farm. After a couple of steadily rainy weeks, we were energized with a great turnout on a sunny clear day, and cleaned many seeds from their native plants garden.

On these seed cleaning tours, we feel so lucky to meet seed growers all over Vancouver Island, the Gulf Islands and the whole province. Sharing seed stories and connecting over the plants that nourish us reinvigorates us for the year and the seed work we do. We are very grateful to all the folks who showed up and the funding through the Vancouver Foundation that allowed us to do these tours.

To see a full list of the stops on our trailer tours this year and to learn more about the equipment, visit our Mobile Seed Cleaning Trailer page.