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Back to December 2016 Newsletter

Seeds of Diversity’s Seed Festival and AGM 2016

Nick Wees and Bob Wildfong

This year’s Annual General Meeting took place in Truro, Nova Scotia, on Saturday, November 5th. Our AGMs move every year, to reflect our country-wide membership base. We chose Truro as the spot for our gathering this year because it is strategically located in central Nova Scotia, and is also relatively accessible from both P.E.I. and New Brunswick.

The Truro farmer’s market was a wonderful venue for our meeting. It featured a wonderful display of local crafts, including quilting, knitted goods, photography, turned and carved wood products such as bowls, cutting boards, boxes and walking sticks, and local honey and distilled alcoholic beverages. Market-goers stocked up on a range of delicious homemade foodstuffs, from beautiful breads and other baked goods to free-range eggs, meats and a variety of sweets, and the wonderful array of late-harvest local produce for sale. Although Truro has a population of just over twelve thousand, the size and scope of their farmer’s market is truly impressive.

As the market wrapped up in the early afternoon, local Seeds of Diversity members gathered in an adjacent room for the 2016 Annual General Meeting. Executive Director Bob Wildfong reviewed the organization’s progress of the past year.

Member seed savers helped grow out over a hundred varieties of seeds for our Seed Library collection this year, and germination tests were completed for all new accessions to help us determine which samples to grow out next year. The Seed Library collection now contains 2,954 varieties, mostly back-up samples of the seeds that members offer through the Member Seed Directory. As well, we have updated our Canadian Seed Catalogue Index with the varieties currently offered by 91 Canadian garden seed companies. The full list is available on our web site.

Seedy Saturdays and Seedy Sundays continue to be our most effective means of promotion, which is made easy because there were well over 140 of those events last year. Thank you to the many volunteers who coordinate these fun events, and particularly to those who promote Seeds of Diversity there!

Bob outlined the accomplishments of the Bauta Family Initiative on Canadian Seed Security and its related program, the Vegetable Seed Producers Network. By combining the farmer training and market development capacity of the Bauta Initiative with a grant from Growing Forward 2, we are accelerating the growth of bulk organic vegetable seed production in Canada.

The Vegetable Seed Producers Network is currently working with 53 seed growers to bulk up quantities of 17 vegetable varieties that are considered to be in high demand by Canadian organic farmers, but in short supply. We interviewed several farmers, market gardeners and other growers about their best performing vegetables, and narrowed their 200 favourites by choosing those that were preferred by multiple growers, are only available in small quantities such as garden packets, that are adapted for Canadian growing conditions and that exhibit unique qualities such as disease resistance or fast maturity.

Pollination Canada helped launch Bee City Canada, a program dedicated to encouraging municipalities to adopt pollinator-friendly practices on city land. In an early success, the city of Toronto officially adopted a policy for pollinator protection on its municipally-controlled lands, earning it the title of Canada's first Bee City. Seeds of Diversity is committed to raising public awareness of the critical importance of pollinating insects for food security and ecological health. By opening Canadians' eyes to the pollinator ecosystem in their backyards, we are exposing an underappreciated but crucial link between nature and food.

This year, two long-serving directors completed their terms of six years. Outgoing chair Suzanne Hanna has been a strong voice on the board; she is, and continues to be, heavily involved in a range of gardening, horticultural, and seed-related activities in her home province of Ontario. Also leaving the board was former secretary Michelle Smith, a Cape Breton farmer and tireless advocate for Seeds of Diversity in particular and, more generally, efforts to increase the availability of open-pollinated seeds at a commercial level for farmers. The board welcomed new director Steph Warr, a commercial seed and vegetable farmer who farmed in the interior of B.C. for over ten years. Steph moved with her family to Nova Scotia’s Annapolis Valley several years ago, where she has expanded her seed and farming activities.

All-in-all, this year’s AGM was a wonderful and inspiring event, and visitors were treated to the warm friendliness for which Maritimers are deservedly known. We look forward to the coming year, and as always, the board and staff of Seeds of Diversity welcome and encourage questions and comments from all members. Toward this end, keep an eye out for the SoDC online forum and blog, to be up and running in the new year!

 

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Nick Wees is a member of Seeds of Diversity's board of directors. Bob Wildfong is Seeds of Diversity's executive director.

Photo: Outgoing chair Suzanne Hanna at the Seed Swap table.

 

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