Campaign aims to help people diversify away from imported seeds

A Sudbury area farmer says a seed shortage during the pandemic underscores the importance of growing local seed crops in the north.

Growing seeds that are available locally lessens people's dependence on imported seeds, advocate says

A northern farmer is part of a national campaign to help shore-up Canada's food supply post-COVID-19. The SeedChange campaign is about promoting better food security through the use of resilient, locally adapted seeds. It is also about promoting seed diversity, and decreasing our dependency on imports. (Yvon Therialt/CBC)

A Sudbury area farmer says a seed shortage during the pandemic underscores the importance of growing local seed crops in the north.

Peggy Baillie, the co-owner of Three Forks Farm in Warren, said they grow their own seed crops and work toward creating diverse varieties, and are now taking part in a national campaign called SeedChange. It helps educate people on the importance of having local seeds available for backyard gardeners.

It is also about promoting seed diversity and growing seeds that are available locally, lessening people's dependence on imports.

"One thing that most Canadians don't realise is that 97 per cent of the seeds we are planting in Canada — even the seeds you are buying from the average seed company — are actually being imported from another country," she said.

"If we are working on genetic diversity and saving seeds of varieties that actually meet those needs, then we can have carrots that taste better than anything else you are going to get in the grocery store, or those tomatoes that just burst with flavour when you eat them."
Seed production needs to be scaled up in Canada to meet the demand for local seeds, says local farmer Peggy Baillie. (Jean-Loup Doudard/Radio-Canada)

The SeedChange campaign aims to save seeds at risk of extinction, and breed new seed varieties best suited for local climate and soil conditions. Baillie noted that, this summer, more than 200 farmers across the country will grow sustainable local vegetable seed crops.

"Over the last 100 years, more seeds have come to be more controlled by fewer hands," she said.

"Fewer crops are actually bred or made available to market, which means that there's less actual genetic diversity of seeds that are available and planted in the world."

'Build more resilience'

When there is a larger variety of genetic diversity, that diversity can withstand greater diverse conditions.

"So, for example, when we're having climate change challenges, we build more resilience because we have more genetic diversity and we're able to have crops that can withstand different climate climatic conditions," Baillie said.

The COVID-19 pandemic has pushed people to start growing their own gardens, as they aim to create a source of food in their own backyards.

"We need to be scaling up seed production in Canada to meet that demand, and also to educate people how to grow their own seed, so that they can have more seed security themselves."

Baillie said the SeedChange web site "has a really great seed-finder [where] you can actually look up how to source regionally adapted seeds from all across Canada, in all sorts of different kinds of varieties."

A national campaign was launched to encourage farmers to grow their own seeds. It's about improving food security. We spoke about the initiative with Peggy Baillie who co-owns Three Forks Farm in Warren. 7:53


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