Submitted by Chris Thoreau, FFCF & UBC
British Columbia has long had an active community of organic vegetable seed growers - and for good reason. BC has an optimal climate for the production of cool-season and biennial crops and is suitable to produce good-quality seed in many other vegetable crops. A community of 14 small-scale seed companies has taken advantage of this and have been providing BC gardeners with organic vegetable seed for decades through a growing number of "Seedy Saturday" and "Seedy Sunday" events, one-day seed fairs, that take place annually in over 60 communities across BC.
BC is also home to hundreds of organic farms which purchase over $7.6 million dollars worth of organic and ecological seed annually, accounting for 27% of the national market. Increasing consumer demand for organic produce is growing the need to produce more organic seed for farmers. As farmers look to scale up seed production from the garden scale to the farm scale, many opportunities for research and market development have arisen. Research areas around organic seed include regional adaptation and climate change mitigation, variety selection, economic viability, crop breeding for organic systems, appropriate-scale seed processing techniques, regulatory impacts on seed production, seed quality assurance, and community engagement through participatory research.
The UBC Farm has engaged in organic seed research through the UBC Farm Seed Hub and the BC Seed Trials - a participatory research collaboration with FarmFolk CityFolk and farmers throughout BC to identify the best varieties for seed production in BC. Kwantlen Polytechnic University is also participating in the BC Seed Trials and has developed a seed lab for further research and testing of seed. The BC Eco Seed Co-op, established in 2014, is helping seed growers get their seed to market and providing training and mentorship opportunities. Together with organic farmers, these groups are leading the way in organic seed research in BC.
The research happening around organic seed production in BC is doing more than build a market for organic seed, it is also helping strengthen seed's role in building a resilient food system in British Columbia.