Seedy Saturday at VanDusen

by Suzette Meyers Curtain
photo by Stan Shebs


“It all started here, in the Floral Hall, over 20 years ago. That was 1990 and the very first Seedy Saturday in Canada took place in this very room.”

That’s one of the many interesting things Master Gardeners learned about the history of seed saving in Canada from uber-seed-saver Dan Jason during his talk at the annual GM of the BC Council of Master Gardeners at VanDusen Garden. Jason started one of Canada’s first completely organic seed companies, Salt Spring Seeds, 28 years ago.

Turns out British Columbian Master Gardeners have been instrumental in kick-starting the seed saving movement in this country (and beyond). Now there are over 100 individual Seedy Saturdays annually across Canada alone. But history was not a key aspect of Jason’s speech. Instead, he made MGs aware of the crucial work being done now to save heritage, non-GMO contaminated seeds before it’s too late.

“Due to industrial agriculture and the corporatization of seed companies around the world, there already is heavy contamination of corn, canola and other seeds; you just can’t find those seeds without genetic modification anymore because of how easily crops get tainted,” said Jason.

Genetically modified crops are a problem both for the farmer and the environment, as “they require higher and higher inputs of the pesticides and herbicides that companies like Monsanto produce. Soon the soil is depleted and the farmer’s ability to raise anything without genetic modification is gone.”

Not to mention the major concerns consumers have about ingesting genetically modified foods; we know it’s in many, if not most, of our pre-packaged foods. A massive push is underway to force food producers to label GM foods on packaging, but Monsanto and others are pushing back just as hard to avoid that.

Meantime, who is preserving the untainted, healthy seeds? According to Dan Jason, it’s a core group of about 1,000 dedicated souls around the globe who volunteer their time and expertise in creating seed banks and growing out non-GMO, heritage seeds. But they need help – lots of it.

“It’s not enough really; it’s a fragile system, especially for the more rare varieties – very few people are growing them out, which is the crucial part. It’s not going to help in the long run to only save the seeds in a bank somewhere. The plants must be grown out so they can adapt to the changing climate. Otherwise, you’ll just have seeds that won’t be viable down the track.”

That’s where individuals with experience, such as MGs, can come in. “Master Gardeners know about soil issues and propagation; it’s all about the health of the land. Growing things that support the bees, for example. There is a huge upsurge of people saying we have to protect this planet for our kids.”

For those who want to get involved in preserving this precious resource, a good starting place is at Seedy Saturday, an event held in many communities across the province.

Or what about starting your own Seed Library? Jason says it the newest concept in seed saving circles at the moment.

“Basically, you go to your local library and ask for some shelf space. It’s dry there and very public of course – plus no one is making money from this. It’s a way of keeping seeds in the public domain in a very low-key way.”

February 28: Seedy Saturday, 10AM-4PM, VanDusen Botanical Garden, 5251 Oak St. @ W. 37th Ave., Vancouver.

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