Quantities and qualities of seeds

By David Parkinson

Caroline Stoddart and Christine Dudgeon working to save the seeds out of a profusion of pea plants

To see things in the seed, that is genius.
(Attributed to Lao Tzu)

Last Wednesday evening, as part of the monthly Kale Force potluck and conversation, we spent time learning about the importance of seed-saving and then got some hands-on experience with cleaning and packaging seeds for the fifth annual Seedy Saturday, coming up (as always) on the second Saturday in March. This year the event will be on March 13. And because we were getting too big for the Community Living Place, this year’s event will be held at the Recreation Complex in Powell River. Doors open at 10:00 AM and we’ll be going until 3:00 PM, exchanging seeds, swapping information, and generally having a wonderful day to kick off the growing season.

This year, because we will have more space at the Recreation Complex, we will be holding two series of workshops: one series of four workshops will consist of practical workshops on garden planning, seed-starting, seed-saving, and growing berries; the other series will focus on presentations from four projects in the community which aim to increase community resilience in the area of food and beyond. All workshops are included in the cost of admission to the day’s festivities, which is free for children 12 or younger, and $2 for everyone else. What a deal!

Watch this space for more information, or contact the Powell River Food Security Project to be kept abreast of news about Seedy Saturday and all kinds of other food- and growing-related community initiatives.

One of the wonderful projects going on in the background of the very public Seedy Saturday event is the local Seed-Saving Project, which started up as a way of increasing both the quantity and the quality of locally saved seed. With some funding from the Powell River Farmers’ Institute, this project purchased a number of different varieties of seeds: peas, beans, squash, beets, and chard. Experienced growers signed up to grow some of these varieties for seed, taking into consideration the danger of cross-pollination and doing their best to ensure that the plants being grown for seed were given every chance of producing the highest-quality seed.

Except for the biennial beets and chard, these seeds are now coming back into the project and will be available for swapping and purchasing at Seedy Saturday. And these seeds that are coming back will go back out into the community, and from them some more seeds will come back again, and so on. It’s a pretty amazing thing to consider that most of the produce we eat has this kind of lineage: seeds grow into plants, plants produce seeds, and as long as we hold enough of the harvest back for seeds for future needs, we eat the surplus. And the surplus is huge! Nature tends to produce vastly more seed from one plant than could possibly be grown. Wendy showed us a beet plant gone to seed, and it was enormous and probably held several thousand seeds. One plant’s seed is probably enough to supply the entire region with more than enough beets for a whole year.

In a similar way, each one of these community projects sends out hundreds of seeds out into the world; only these seeds are in the form of inspiration and imagination. Every person who attends an event like Seedy Saturday learns something, meets someone, finds out something new, or makes a connection that wasn’t there before. And the sum total of all of that new energy and inspiration comes back the following year in the form of greater participation, new ideas, and more connectedness into the general life of the regional community. Not to mention more seeds.

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