Opinion

FOOD MATTERS: New agricultural movement brings back seed variety

Qualicum Seedy Saturday is over already, so be sure to catch Nanaimo Seedy Sunday on March 3 at lovely Bowen Park.

There is a small entry fee to cover costs and this event makes a great family outing.

A 10:30 a.m. workshop features well-known author, Carolyn Herriot, on her book Zero Mile Living: Living the Good Life. At noon, Craig Evans and Jen Cody of Growing Opportunities talk on basic seed saving and at 1:30 p.m., Brenda Jager’s topic is Planting for the Bees.

Seedy Sunday is a project of Nanaimo Foodshare, so expect delectable lunches and snacks from François De Jong along with many booths for B.C. heritage seed companies and various garden specialties.

Central to a Seedy Sunday or Saturday is the seed swap.

This is when to bring to the swap table seeds you have harvested, with essential information on variety, age and characteristics in writing.

People often ask what they can do to contribute to food security locally.

One of the vital actions is to sidestep the gigantic corporations who control food plants through ownership of seed varieties.

We cannot trust Monsanto and the smaller companies it owns to maintain the variety of seeds we need, so we must support local sellers of open-pollinated seeds (seeds which can be gathered year after year from your own plants).

Look on growing non-proprietary seeds as a community resilience activity.

We just received our Lee Valley Garden Tools Main Catalog for 2013 and among the eight pages of books for gardeners I noticed a strong presence of books for organic food growers.

Topics include square foot and container gardening, composting,  growing vegetables and herbs, uncommon fruits, a vegetable gardener’s bible, and one on seed sowing and saving.

John Navazio, senior scientist with the Organic Seed Alliance, also has a book out called The Organic Seed Grower, A Farmer’s Guide to Vegetable Seed Production.

In the past century, more than 90 per cent of our seed varieties have disappeared from farmers’ fields, but a new movement based on a new kind of agriculture is bringing them back.

We should also recognise that humankind’s over-reliance on wheat, rice and maize have produced a less healthy diet than pre-Stone Age hunter-gatherers had.

The average height of people in the Near East fell by almost six inches in the early days of farming.

And analysis of 340 ancient skeletons in the Orkney Islands showed that hardly any people lived beyond their 20s.

We have the knowledge and technology to change our diets, not just from the corporate, over-processed pseudo-foods, but also to improve on more than 2,000 years of Stone Age bad dietary habits.

 

Marjorie Stewart is board chairwoman of the Nanaimo Foodshare Society. She can be reached at: marjorieandalstewart@shaw.ca.

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