Seed Farm Hub Sites Update

Posted on Wednesday, 12 June 2024 under Stories Featured

Vancouver Island and Lower Mainland Seed Farm Hub Sites

In North Saanich, at the Sandown Centre for Regenerative Agriculture, the cool and wet weather has delayed some of our planting, but a few signs of life are starting in the fields.

Over the winter, we had to ensure that the beautiful potato varieties created from the True Potato Seed Project also tasted good! One of the genes that can be expressed when growing out TPS is glycoalkaloids. These are bitter-tasting and are not good for humans, and some of the beautiful new types of potatoes were indeed very bitter!

We planted the tastiest and are happy to see them coming up and even showing early displays of their beauty (note: purple veins will yield a purple potato).

Mulching is always a great tool for weed suppression. This year, again, because we wanted to reduce our plastic footprint, we decided to use kraft paper as mulch in some of the beds. When turned into the soil in the fall, before cover cropping, the paper completely breaks down over winter so that the soil is ready for crops in the spring. 

These freshly paper-mulched beds are now ready for planting our squash and melons.

We have a small demonstration site in the Lower Mainland at Fraser Common Farm Co-op in the second year of production. The site is transitioning to no-till management with wood-chipped and straw-mulched pathways (picture below). The hope is this will increase water retention in our sandy soils and reduce watering needs. As with other sites, we will be replicating variety of trials, growing out seeds for collaborative breeding projects, and producing seeds for sale through the BC Eco Seed Co-op. At this site in 2024, one of our themes will be isolation. We will be growing multiple crops of the same species, isolating them by both timing and caging systems. These hub sites are a great way for us to experiment with various techniques and systems, both in seed production as well as sustainable farming practices, and to share our results with other farmers and gardeners. There is nothing quite like learning from living plants in the ground. Food harvested from this site gets donated primarily to Langley Meals on Wheels.

Field at Fraser Common Farm Co-op

Northern Seed Farm Hub Site

We are excited to introduce the newest and northernmost (hardiness zone 4) Seed Hub located at the WoodGrain Farmer Co-op on Gitxsan territory in the Kispiox Valley, North of Smithers and a 16-hour drive from the Lower Mainland. The seed crops, variety trials and breeding projects are in good company, growing alongside the Rooting For You market garden, bulk vegetable production, fields of red fife wheat, Short Season Seed company, and many woolly, feathered and furry friends. All seed, crop and animal practices are certified organic, and the remote location of the farm allows for great isolation and low pest and disease pressure.

Amidst the variety trials and seed grow-outs, we’re excited to be dedicating some space to a Seeds of Diversity grow-out of the Andy Buckflat’s Wonder Tomato, also known as the Andy Pollock tomato, a variety developed in Zone 2 just a few hours away in Houston, BC. The cool and wet weather in May has made for a slow start, but the moisture is much appreciated by the early-seeded crops (the slugs and weeds are pretty pleased as well). Despite the fickle spring, crops are hitting the fields. The crop of red fife wheat is lush, seed carrots are close to flowering, and medicinal plants and breeding projects are testing out the northern lifestyle.

Hazel and her calf Robin guard the Northern Seed Trailer

These Seed Hub Sites are part of a national network made possible by the work of the Bauta Family Initiative on Seed Security, the Canadian field program of Seedchange. Bauta recently published a report that highlights some of the important climate-related seed work being accomplished at these sites: Building Climate-Resilient Seed Systems in Canada