While gardening season may have wound down by this time of year for most, BC Eco Seed Co-op works all year long in an effort to secure enough seed for farmers, gardeners, and even consumers.
The cooperative is made up of 17 farmers who provide BC grown, certified organic and ecological seeds grown on farms across the province.
David Catzel serves on the board of directors of Glorious Organics, a seed variety sector of Fraser Common Farm in Aldergrove.
He is also the BC Seed Program director with FarmFolk CityFolk, which leases land for seed education at Maple Lanes Farm on the Aldergrove/Abbotsford border.
He says his initiatives are all meant to generate production interest and availability in the local seed market.
“Every year, B.C. organic [and] ecological farmers spend $7.79 million on vegetable seeds, the highest of any region in Canada – but there is no large-scale vegetable seed production in BC,” Catzel explained.
For instance, Catzel noted that most farmers in the prairies are already growing seeds because of the types of crops there, but in B.C., because of the fruits and vegetables and specialty crops grown, he has to do more convincing to get people to also grow crops for seed use.
“B.C. is great for growing a lot of different varieties – it has a great climate and a lot of micro-climates for diversity,” he explained.
A reliance on imported seeds to meet demand, however, means that the seeds many people are using to plant their own crops and gardens are not local and perhaps not fit for the specific adaptations needed to grow in this area.
“We’re growing an average of 150 varieties which keeps seed varieties alive and thriving,” he said. “Having growers consistently grow and select seeds is also building climate resilience and crop adaptability.”
Catzel said the demand for local organic products is increasing, but the supply of local organic seeds is not keeping up – this is where the BC Eco Seed Co-op was created bringing together many small seed producers to produce seed and utilizing the co-op to take care of packaging, marketing, selling and shipping.
READ MORE: Aldergrove goes green on Wednesday, Nov. 4
That’s not all Catzel’s initiatives do either; training field days (currently hosted virtually due to COVID-19), plant breeding webinars, fundraisers, and even resource sharing that includes a mobile seed cleaning unit that makes its rounds across the province, are all part of what the co-operative does to connect B.C. growers.
“Three companies control 60 per cent of seed that farmers buy,” Catzel noted, “and we want to change that.”
He said local farm movements and branding like “buy local” and “buy BC” have helped seed variety production gain traction, but it’s only the beginning.
“People say if there are no farms there is no food. Well, if there’s no seeds, there’s no farms,” he said. “Gardeners can help by buying seeds produced locally. It’s not always easy to know what you are buying, but we hope to gain awareness and availability.”
BC Eco Seed Co-op held a crowd funding campaign through much of October and was able to raise $14,800 – just $200 short of their $15k goal.
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