Tag Archives: USC Canada

USC Canada Seed Savers Survey

USC Canada is trying to understand the challenges gardeners experience in their seed production and saving, as well as what gardeners would like to see in a resilient Canadian seed system.

You can provide your input by taking their survey

A second, farmer-focused survey will be distributed later in the spring.

USC Canada will use this information, along with one-on-one interviews and other research, to help identify ways in which they can help boost the production, saving and exchange of biodiverse seed in Canada.

This is all part of The Bauta Initiative on Canadian Seed Security.



What Is Seed Quality?

Seed quality was one of the big topics at USC Canada’s Train the Seed Trainer sessions. All the participants had a lot to say on the topic. And though we had many conflicting opinions on other seed issues, we had consensus making a list of seed quality concerns.

I’ve taken that list and broken it into a few categories and elaborated on each of them:

  • Basic seed concerns
  • Physical handling concerns
  • Genetic concerns
  • Traceability concerns

Basic Seed Concerns

These are some of the first things that folks thing of in terms of good seed:

  • Germination rate: Does the seed germinate well?
  • Seedling vigor: Do the seedlings grow vigorously?
  • Seedborne diseases: Is the seed free of problematic diseases?

Physical Handling Concerns

  • Cleanliness: How much chaff, dirt, or dust is present?
  • Presence of weed seeds
  • Handling mistakes: Was the variety mislabeled? Was there an accidental mixing of another variety of the same species during cleaning or packing?

Genetic Concerns

  • Varietal purity: Has the variety cross-pollinated?
  • Population size: Was seed saved from a large enough population to maintain a wide genetic breadth?

Traceability Concerns

Where is the variety strain from originally? Is it simply another variety that’s been renamed? How were previous generations handled? Does the variety perform/appear different from what it once did?

What Is Seed Quality?

You might notice that I have highlighted all of the above as concerns. In the end we did not put forward a list that defines quality seed as each of these concerns is not all or nothing. They depend greatly on the end use of the seed.

Beets with a 55% germination are fine for a home garden though none of us would want to sell those beets seeds. Slightly crossed up tomato seed is probably good for the vegetable grower who saved it though again none of us would want to sell the seed.

Generally speaking if the seed is for sale, then high standards need to be met, but seed saved for personal garden and farm use needs to meet the standards the seed saver can tolerate.

Do you think we’ve missed anything in this seed quality discussion?

What are your seed quality concerns?

One comment one seed growers made was that he doesn’t often hear back from his clients after they’ve ordered seeds until their next seed order. He  would love to hear their complaints about the seeds (if they have any.) And of course he loves to hear from thrilled clients too!

So, go  and write your seed sources a letter to tell them what you don’t like so much and what you love!

Training Seed Trainers

After getting back from the OSA conference I participated in a two-day Train The Seed Trainer session  organized by USC Canada in Guelph, Ontario.

USC Canada works to promote vibrant family farms, strong rural communities, and healthy ecosystems around the world. A large part of this work is around seed security and diversity. Historically USC Canada has worked on these issues internationally but with The Bauta Initiative on Canadian Seed Security, USC Canada (in partnership with Seeds of Diversity Canada) will be focusing on Canadian seeds.

This two-day meeting was the first step in this initiative. The participants gathered to highlight gaps in current Canadian seed training resources, to discuss key seed concerns, and to develop a seed training curriculum that can then be used to train other seed trainers.

The Participants

The main participants were seed growers from across Canada who currently offer seed workshops. They included (from Eastern to Western Canada)

Some folks from USC were present: Suzie Walsh (USC’s Executive Director), Jane Rabinowicz (Bauta Initiative Program Development Manager), Tremayne Stanton-Kennedy, and Kenton Lobe (Director).

And some from Seeds of Diversity Canada: Bob Wildfong (SoDC Executive Director) and Andrew Mason.

Seed Workshop Design

Most of the two days was spent developing the actual curriculum. Participants were divided into three groups to develop the outline for a day long training using post it notes and markers. Afterwards each group placed their work on the wall.

Group 1

Group 2

Group 3

Then each group presented their workshop.

Patrice presenting the group 3 workshop.

The other participants then asked questions and highlighted similarities and differences between each presentation.

We then moved the post-it notes around and

came up with one super workshop combining the best of all three workshops. Jane is currently trying to make sense of this pile of papers and get it into an organized document.

What’s Next?

Each of the trainers will run train the trainers in their regions. At these session they will meet with other seed trainers to share the developed curriculum and get feedback.

In addition, there will also be a number of seed workshops based on the curriculum over the next year.

By the fall this seed curriculum will have been tested and refined, and should be pretty kick-ass.

Being part of this process really inspired me with what’s going on across Canada and it also gave me a chance to revise my own seed workshops. I’ve already begun to incorporate some of the techniques and topics we discussed.

If you are interested in learning more about the Bauta Initiative or attending one of these regional seed training sessions e-mail Jane (jrabinowicz@usc-canada.org).

What exciting seed initiatives are going on where you are?