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Planting the seeds for change

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Seedy Saturday set for Feb. 26

Saving seeds is nothing new. Farmers have been saving seeds for the last 11,000 years, the problem over the last 50 years has been the commercialisation of seeds, industrial agriculture, and in the last decade, the domination of the commercial seed market by a handful of transnational companies.

There are the obvious reasons why large companies prefer one seed over another, but for the average farmer/gardener in Canada the reason for saving seeds is cost and quality. Many save seeds as they are no longer available or they are heritage varieties. Many seed varieties are facing extinction due to the lack of genetic diversity.

Seedy Saturday is a day set aside, usually in February when people get together to buy, trade and talk seeds. In Sooke, Seedy Saturday is on February 26.

The first Seedy Saturday was held in Vancouver on February 14, 1989, St. Valentine’s Day, because seed is at the heart of food security in every community.

Mary Alice Johnson is at the forefront of seed saving in Sooke. She runs Full Circle Seeds and is an avid seed collector. They have a collection of over 50 varieties of tomatoes plus lettuces and salad greens.

“Seedy Saturdays have allowed us to flourish,” said Johnson. “Having it here in Sooke mans a lot of small companies can come here as it is affordable.”

Last year Seedy Saturday was held along the corridors at SEAPARC and it was well attended and a very full day for everyone involved. This year, the event is being held at the Sooke Community Hall.

There will be a seed exchange happening throughout the day as long as they have seeds to swap.

Many of the seeds have interesting stories. Johnson said one tomato variety she has was given to her by a Kemp Lake resident. It’s a hardy variety coming from Northern Italy and well suited for the Sooke climate.

“Many are organic, open-pollinated, perhaps something Uncle Joe brought from Italy,” she said. “It’s neat how they get passed along.”

“The focus,” said Jessica Boquist of the day, “is on seeds but also on gardening.”

She mentioned the Compost Education Centre from Victoria as being one of the participants. The District of Sooke and Communities in Bloom will be giving away free tree seedlings and there will be other seedlings for sale.

As with most things there is usually one thing that is sought after and this year it happens to be stinging nettle.

Johnson said it is like spinach, and is used as a spring tonic which is often fed to chickens in the winter to increase their egg production. Another plant, Pilgrim’s cabbage (brassica oleracea), similar to collard greens, is used in many Portugese and Spanish soups. The seeds were gifted to Johnson in 2009 by Linda Dowling, who received them from a friend who obtained it during a pilgrimage from France to Spain.

The day will also feature workshops on such topics as seed saving basics and seed propagation, demonstrations, music, a historical farming display by Elida Peers, and food. There is still room for a few more tables. Entrance is by donation with all proceeds after costs going to the fruit tree project. Members from the Sooke Fall Fair will be holding a flea market downstairs.

For more information, contact Jessica Boquist at 250-589-2577.

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