Seeds are a place where cultural, spiritual, and political identities converge and can have intimate and personal meanings for eaters, growers, and seed stewards. They are the beginning and the end of the agricultural cycle, and the foundation of our food supply.
Seeds represent a profound opportunity for growers to make intentional choices about the food and farming systems they participate in and support. Seed choices have implications for biodiversity and climate change, and they impact how resilient, diverse, and equitable our farms and communities are.
Not only do seeds shape our food – from flavour to nutrition to colour – but they also influence how a plant takes up nutrients in the soil and responds to diseases, pests, and other stresses. Preserving, improving, and creating seed diversity are some of the best ways farmers can adapt to, and mitigate, the deep and unpredictable challenges of climate change. Creating regionally-adapted crops that are bred to do well in ecological conditions is paramount to supporting farmers to adopt ecological methods.
EFAO’s Seed Program works to increase the quality, quantity, and diversity of ecologically produced, regionally-adapted seed through its work with The Bauta Family Initiative on Canadian Seed Security as well as partnerships with other seedy organizations and EFAO programs. Our partnership-based approach to training and education, knowledge sharing, research, participatory plant breeding, and seed conservation has bolstered a vibrant seed movement across Ontario for nearly ten years.
Expanding our knowledge about seeds.
Farmers and seed stewards across Canada create and adapt an incredible diversity of plants through both plant breeding and selection. This work is at the heart of seed security and emerging regional seed systems across the country. In 2021-2023, we will be showcasing this work and trialling regional varieties at demonstration sites across Canada. These sites will be places where you can see, touch, taste, and smell the beauty, deliciousness, and resilience of regionally bred and adapted varieties. In 2023, Ontario’s demonstration gardens will be hosted at Fertile Ground Farm in St. Agatha and at Ironwood Organics in Athens.
Each site will host training workshops, tours, and tasting events. This project is funded in part by the Government of Canada through Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada’s Canadian Agricultural Strategic Priorities Program (CASPP), a $50.3 million, five-year investment to help the agricultural sector adapt and remain competitive.
Ontario’s vegetable demonstration garden is a site for exploring and showcasing 70 crop varieties of vegetables best suited for regional seed production, growing varieties for conservation in partnership with Seeds of Diversity, and trialling okra, carrots, and heat tolerant lettuce, in collaboration with farmers across the province. At Ontario’s heritage grains demonstration site, you can observe and explore unique varieties of regionally-adapted wheat, rye, oats and barley.
Upcoming Field Days, Workshops, and Webinars
EFAO’s Seed Program hosts and facilitates a variety of online and in-person educational events and gatherings. Visit the EFAO events page to see them all!
SeedHeads is the cross-pollinating podcast where our Canadian seed heroes tell their stories, share their “how-to” tips, and talk about the seeds they love. SeedHeads is produced by The Bauta Family Initiative on Canadian Seed Security.
Seed Resource Library
Find links to past webinars relating to seed production, reports on national seed research, and resources that can help you advance your knowledge on seed in Canada.
Community Seed Network
The Community Seed Network connects and supports community seed initiatives by providing resources, information, and a platform for networking.
Improving and building seed diversity.
EFAO’s Farmer-Led Research Program
Would you like support on creating new seed diversity through on-farm breeding, or find what seed varieties work best in your ecological farming system? If so, then EFAO’s FLR Program might be a good fit for you. This program has supported variety trials on sweet potatoes, okra, spinach seed, summer head lettuce, iceberg lettuce, grain amaranth, sweet pea, and red bell peppers, as well as projects on the isolation distance for cut flower seed production, the dehybridization of Argonaut squash, and the breeding of a landrace of watermelon, amongst other on-farm seed work.
Canadian Organic Vegetable Crop Improvement (CANOVI) Project
As part of the CANOVI program, farmers evaluate seed varieties or advanced breeding lines under growing conditions of interest to ecological farmers. Different farmers may have different types of interest in variety trials. For example, a market gardener may want to trial currently available organic varieties that are best suited to their farm, but a seed grower might want to trial rare varieties that could be added to their catalogue or used in an on-farm selection project.
On-Farm Wheat, Oat and Potato Breeding
Are you interested in selecting new varieties of wheat, oats or potatoes on your farm to excel in your farming system and that meets the needs of your market? We can support you in obtaining crosses from different varieties and manuals on how to work through the process of on farm selection. We can also provide you with support in navigating the policies that come with creating new varieties.
Connecting With Other Seed Growers.
Seed Grower Meet-Ups
Join a meet-up to connect with other seed growers! EFAO members and seed growers of all experience levels meet informally online each month to share their seed growing knowledge. Members at at all points in the process of seed saving and production are welcome.
Contract Seed Grower Listserv
This mailing list was created for contract seed growers and Canadian ecological seed companies to connect, in order to increase the quantity and quality of ecological seed offered regionally!
Preserving Seed Diversity.
Community Seed Grow-Outs Program
This program is delivered in collaboration with Seeds of Diversity Canada. Participants have a chance to learn some new skills, take part in a fun, collaborative project, and support the incredible Canadian Seed Library, which is a collection of over 2900 regionally-adapted and rare seed varieties from across Canada!
Become a Seed Library Volunteer Grower
Are you a farmer, grower or seed steward with some experience in seed work who would like to support the conservation of the seed varieties kept in Seeds of Diversity’s Canadian Seed Library? By growing out seed and returning freshly-saved seed to the library you are playing a vital role in seed conservation.
This program is delivered in collaboration with Seeds of Diversity Canada. Participants will learn new skills, take part in a fun, collaborative project, and support our amazing Canadian Seed Library, which is a collection of over 2900 regionally-adapted and rare seed varieties!
Rare Varieties of Interest to Growers
What seeds are you looking for and cannot find for sale or exchange here in Canada? Many good open-pollinated and heirloom varieties are not commercially available or have been discontinued by seed companies, while others can also be quite rare, and strains can vary in quality. By filling out this form, we can learn what open-pollinated varieties growers are looking for.