Vivien Adams understands the urgency behind food security, as she has seen firsthand the decrease of commercial vegetable varieties of seeds.
Adams is co-ordinator behind the Comox Valley Seed Bank — a sub-group from the Comox Valley Growers and Seeds Savers which aims to preserve and maintain a collection of viable, open-pollinated, non-GMO, organically grown food seeds that are well-adapted to the growing conditions of the Comox Valley.
“There is an enormous diversity of veggies varieties which produce so many different flavours,” Adams said. “Multi-national plant companies patent certain varieties and it’s gone forever. It’s a threat to the plant diversity.”
Over the past 100 years, 96 per cent of commercial vegetable varieties have been lost, Adams noted.
She explained hybrid seeds, those which are crossed, were created by companies for a variety of reasons, including commercial traits such as a longer shelf life, vegetables which travel well, and increasing sweetness.
As a result, many small seed companies have been bought up by the larger corporations.
Adams added hybrid seeds require the grower to purchase new seed every year.
Heritage, heirloom, open-pollinated or non-hybridized seeds are those that when planted, grow true, she said.
Due to the significant decrease in open-pollinated seeds, she said the Seeds Savers “wanted to take it to another level.”
“We are growing (the seeds) out year after year for them to become adapted to local conditions and climate change.”
Adams said the Seed Bank is now in its second year of operation, with a growing group of around 30 people growing and contributing to the bank.
The bank is a living seed bank, as the seeds which are stored have been tried out during seasons with a variety of conditions.
In 2012, some of the seeds saved include 15 types of beans, beets, winter squash, tomatoes, buckwheat and Ethiopian wheat.
For those unsure how to save seeds and donate them to the bank, member and fellow gardener Ellen Rainwalker said two longtime members — Nick and Anna Guthrie — will visit homes and assist in the process of saving seeds.
She noted the process with the bank begins with members taking 20 seeds and signing a contract which says they will monitor the performance of the seed throughout the year.
The record will include notes on how the seed performed in various weather conditions along with bugs and diseases.
Slowly, the group will develop profiles for the seeds they save, she added.
Along with the report, members are required to give back a minimum of twice as many seeds as they have taken.
“People seem to realize just how many seeds are disappearing,” she said.
Along with growing the bank, Adams said she is hoping to one day start a seed library, where people can ‘check out’ seeds just as they would library books.
“It would be great to get people in the habit of growing their food,” she noted.
For more information or to join the Seed Bank, contact Adams at 250-338-8341 or firstname.lastname@example.org