Don’t worry if you spot a few “seedy” characters hanging around Powell River Recreation Complex this weekend. After all, March 16 is Seedy Saturday, an annual celebration of local seeds and gardening know-how.
Event chair Ellen de Casmaker describes the gathering as a multifaceted swap meet involving not only the trading and selling of seeds but also a silent auction, a keynote address and gardening workshops.
“The primary motivation behind Seedy Saturday is to encourage people to save their own seeds,” said de Casmaker. “It helps us preserve our biodiversity.”
Today’s supermarkets are filled with countless hybrid varietals designed for easy shipping and unblemished presentation. Flavour and originality have taken a back seat, with the knobby but oh-so-delicious tomatoes from grandma’s garden becoming all but a distant memory.
That is, unless she’s Italian. de Casmaker still has hope for them.
“It’s within that culture to save your seeds a bit more than it is in other cultures, so we were hoping to reach out to Powell River’s Italian community and see if they would share that and become a little bit more involved in Seedy Saturday,” she said.
But believe it or not, the largest suppliers of the world’s seeds are not actually Italian grandmothers. In reality, Israel and the United States hold the lion’s share of the market.
“And if you want sustainability, you can’t really rely on seeds coming from a distance,” said de Casmaker. “These seeds are not acclimatized to our area and it increases our footprint to get them here.”
Only local seeds and those cultivated in BC will be permitted for swapping and selling at this weekend’s event, which is one of dozens being held across the country. The idea first sprouted at Vancouver’s VanDusen Botanical Garden back in 1990.
With people becoming more and more curious as to where their food is coming from, de Casmaker has noticed a steady upswing in Seedy Saturday attendees at the Powell River event. Some come to trade seed envelopes for $1 apiece; others line up for the chance to chat with a master gardener. Either way they leave inspired to take back some control over their food security.
“Everyone can be a grower,” said de Casmaker. “Even if a little window box is all you can manage.”
To reinforce that point, organizers have enlisted Vancouver Island farmer and food activist Dirk Becker to share his experiences. Becker is best known for his efforts to “decriminalize” urban farming in Lantzville, a saga which took nearly four years. A single acre of his property now yields more than 16,000 pounds of food per year. Most impressively, he and his wife cultivate the land entirely by hand.
“Dirk is very much a proponent of everybody being able to grow food,” said de Casmaker. “And that’s what we need in order to become more self-sustaining with respect to food. It all starts with the seeds.”
Seedy Saturday runs from 9:30 am to 2:30 pm at Powell River Recreation Complex. Admission is $3 at the door. The event is hosted annually by a committee of the Powell River Farmers’ Agricultural Institute. For more information, visit Facebook.com/SeedySaturdayPowellRiver.