One of the great joys of the approach of winter is allowing myself to dive into the seed catalogues and place orders for the coming season. Some seed lines we save and redistribute, some we replant from purchased seed, and every year there are a couple of new varieties that get a trial in the garden. Seed catalogues are a lot like other inducements to buy with glossy pictures and glowing descriptions of the plants and their edible bits, on the same order as wine labels, and I suspect that there is some of the same mystique generated by the anticipation of the pleasure of growing as there is with imbibing.
Earlier, I was in contact with Baker Creek Heritage Seeds about the possibility of a donation of seeds to our local seed library, run by the Food Group of the Alberni Valley Transition Towns Society, Vancouver Island Health, and the Port Alberni Branch of the Vancouver Island Public Library. Shortly after I made the request, I got a call from Charles, one of the group, wondering about an invoice he received from the Baker Creek folks, but with zeros showing at the bottom line: the donation had already shipped. It was a generous variety of different seeds, for which we are thankful, as we are thankful that there are outfits like BCHS that promote seed saving, open-pollinated and heritage varieties and who staunchly oppose genetic modification. My dealings with them over the last decade have all been of a positive nature and I continue to place substantial orders with them so I can play more effectively in the dirt when the weather improves.
I haven’t gotten my order from Baker Creek, but I did get an order from West Coast Seeds, who, I believe, have donated already in the past year (I’ll check and strong-arm them if they haven’t). Again, it’s a seed house I’ve dealt with for a couple of decades with nothing but positive results. I made a point of ordering larger quantities of seeds than I would likely use, and what you see in the above photo is my little kitchen table operation for breaking out small packets of seed that I will take to the library to share with others who might be thinking of getting started at providing some part of their own food. It hardly seems fair to encourage others to donate if I don’t have a bit of a stake in the game.
There are several groups in town who are involved in starting up community gardens, and I suspect that some seeds may find their way into those plots, but it is also my hope that we’ll see plantings in back yards of both renters and owners, that there might actually be initiatives to share surplus produce,and that some people will take the time to become knowledgeable about saving seeds and restore their withdrawals to the seed library as a return or deposit.
Between droughts and floods in some of the primary agricultural areas, food scarcity is a real problem, and price rises may have the same effect with the straitened budgets that many are experiencing. I know from my own growth as a player in the dirt that becoming a gardener is an ongoing process and takes not only sweat and sore muscles, but also thought and good information, gathered through reading, through talking with other gardeners and through personal experience: the donation of seeds will likely not be enough to promote successful food production. Gardeners will have to share time and labour to help others get started and then nurture the neophytes to ensure that the experience is as rewarding socially as it is nutritionally.
Meanwhile, along with the garden initiatives, there need to be efforts to get as many people as possible into a constructive engagement with the community, including the economic phase of life so that food, and other basic needs, are available to all lest we become a physical grouping of individuals rather than a community.