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Sowing the seeds

Seedy Saturday a showcase of local growth

The gloom of February brightened with the promise of spring on Saturday as thousands of Oceanside residents flocked to the Qualicum Beach Civic Centre to take part in Seedy Saturday.

The event, said organizing committee member Craig Young, is designed to promote plant biodiversity and encourage gardeners to use organic, locally-produced seeds for their gardens.

“It’s all about seed saving, seed sharing and working with the things that work in your area,” he said.

“We have a number of people who have been growing heritage seeds and seeds that have adapted to this area and grow particularly well.”

This message appears to be resonating, both with local producers and gardeners, he added.

“We start organizing this in September by contacting vendors and this year we were completely sold out by early December,” he said.

“That’s a first for us. As well, we have a steady stream of customers. It’s 11 a.m. now and we’ve counted just over 1,600 people coming in since just 10 a.m., so it’s a very well-attended event.”

Marsha Goldberg from Eagleridge Seeds on Salt Spring Island put it simply.

“Heirloom vegetables, herbs and flowers are disappearing from the face of the earth and we have to make sure we don’t lose them,” she said. “Also, they taste so good.”

Wayne Osborne of Omega Blue Farms in Qualicum Beach agreed.

“Food is important and whoever controls the food controls us,” he said, noting that the loss of biodiversity in the food supply can happen with few people noticing.

“Take green Goliath broccoli,” he said. “It’s one of the best performing broccolis available, but it’s open pollinated, so the food factories can’t control it.

“It disappeared from the market a couple of years ago and when I wanted to grow some, I couldn’t find it anywhere. I found a buddy who had some seeds and sure enough, it out-performed all the hybrids.”

Osborne, who is a poultry farmer, said he got into producing seeds because a poultry farm produces a lot of organic waste that is ideal for growing vegetables.

“As well, turkey food is dependent on food from off the Island, just like we are, so I wanted to feed my turkeys from my land as well.”

Dirk Becker of Compassion Farms in Lantzville said events like Seedy Saturday are becoming more important all the time as the world’s food supply groans under the pressure of ever more mouths to feed.

“Our entire food system is based on fossil fuel, so as our resources deplete and oil becomes more expensive, we will be forced to change,” he said. “We are taking a proactive approach and doing things now, rather than waiting until we are forced to do them.”

He said not only numbers, but also food habits are changing, with large impacts on the food supply.

“Currently, about 25 per cent of the grain crop goes into fuelling automobiles,” he said. “What that means, is people in Germany are essentially taking the food out of people’s mouths in Africa so they can feel good about driving their cars, because they’re fueled with ethanol.”

He said even very small changes, when multiplied by the huge numbers of people on the planet can have a huge impact.

“In the last few years, China has changed its diet and this has reverberated around the world, because they are drinking more alcohol and eating more meat, all of which needs grain,” he said. “As well, they increased the allocation of eggs from one egg per person per week to two and when you think about that, it means millions of tons of grain to feed the chickens — along with millions of tons of chicken manure, which creates methane — all in order to increase egg production to feed China.”

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