By Alicia Baddorf
9/10 of the bites we take start with seed. The range of seed diversity that exists is breathtaking, but consider this: over the past 80 years, we have lost 93% of variety in our food seeds. At the BCSeed Gathering in Richmond this November, a group of seed activists, farmers and concerned citizens from the province came together for a weekend of workshops, skills sharing and dialogue around seeds.
Going into the gathering, I was aware of a number of environmental and social issues surrounding seed sovereignty, but the breadth of knowledge and passion exuded by these seed growers brought my awareness to a whole new level. In “Seed Growing 101,” Patrick Steiner of Stellar Seeds and Mel Sylvestre from UBC Farm discussed the importance of seed saving. Disturbingly, 6 companies now control 98% of the world’s seeds sales. By saving seeds, we can adapt them to our local conditions and enhance the biodiversity of the soil, among other things.
One of the other highlights of the weekend was sitting in on the “Elder Sharing” session with Dan Jason of Salt Spring Seeds and Mojave Kaplan, a community educator and seed saving advocate. These individuals have expansive knowledge and years of valuable experience that they are eager to share with younger generations. What struck me most was the urgency with which they presented the issue. We need more seed growers, and we need to start actively taking control of the seed supply now.
At the conclusion of the second day, Dan stood in front of the attentive audience and shared the stories behind certain seeds he grows and saves, and then distributed them to the crowd. I myself inherited a packet of Painted Mountain Corn seeds. As I opened the package and poured the seeds into my hand, I instantly felt a responsibility to Dan, to my community and to the seeds, to continue the seed saving legacy.
Alicia Baddorf is a young agrarian, local food advocate and contributing board member to the Vancouver Urban Farming Society.