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Column: Seed-planting season is just around the corner

Nanaimo’s Seedy Sunday on March 1 timed for the start of growing season
A past Seedy Sunday event at the Nanaimo District Secondary School gymnasium. (Nanaimo Foodshare/Facebook photo)


Nanaimo’s Seedy Sunday on March 1 heralds the beginning of our growing season.

I will be looking for my favourite seed potato varieties to hand to our gardener for planting as spring proceeds. I don’t want the nameless abominations provided by the industrial seed corporations. We will have excellent potatoes roasted, mashed, grated, and scalloped through the winter. When I meet people who say they do not enjoy potatoes I feel sad and remember a rare lovely day about 65 years ago, when my father and I were driving the 80 miles to visit his home village.

From a barefoot village boy, my father became a well-to-do city gent. I think I once saw him wear a sweater instead of a three-piece suit. But the village boy was still inside. He stopped the car beside Loch Fyne, produced a mysterious bag and we hopped over to the rocky shore, where he squatted and made a small fire. From the bag he took a saucepan, a small boiling of new potatoes and a bottle of water and set them to cook. When they were done, he drained the potatoes, took out a paper of salt, and a knob of butter and anointed our lunch. We were accustomed to eat in expensive restaurants for regular treats but I’ve never tasted anything as delicious as eating that simple meal, listening to the lapping of the water.

Seed exchanges and local seeds are vital to protect the essential diversity which the industrial food chains are eliminating and potatoes are a good example. The kind of monoculture which suits corporate profits for shareholders destroys the diverse heritage of thousands of varieties left by the Aztecs.

Seeds need to be frequently grown out to provide an abundance for home growers and market gardeners to escape the clutches of the global seed corporations. The annual seed exchanges provide the opportunity to get your season’s seeds and discover what’s new in local growing.

Seed champion Vandana Shiva encourages what she calls seed satyagraha, referring to the principles developed by Gandhi to resist colonial rule. Seed exchanges are part of a worldwide movement resisting corporate attempts to own the world’s seed stocks and tinker with natural diversity for short-term profit. We must swap or support local sellers of heritage seeds, open-pollinated. This is a resilience action.

Take a look at the web site of Seeds for Diversity, Canada, formerly USC. They have a couple of interesting publications, one of which teaches seed-saving.

If you have seeds to trade, be sure to take them labelled with plant name and variety, also date harvested and in suitable amounts. 12 beans is plenty for 12 stalks, with a few more just in case. Tiny seeds are swapped by teaspoonfuls. Nanaimo’s Seedy Sunday is at Nanaimo District Secondary School, from 10 a.m. to late afternoon. It is always a bustling, enjoyable event, with vendors of many food gardening aids, several scheduled workshops, and, of course, the swap table.

Check the Nanaimo Foodshare Facebook page or call 250-390-3363 for information.

Marjorie Stewart is past chairwoman of the Nanaimo Foodshare Society. She can be reached at

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