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Back to January 2016 Newsletter

VSPN: Moving Forward in 2016

Paul Hrycyk

The new year at Seeds of Diversity means it’s time to gear up for another season of skill development, network expansion and seed production for the Vegetable Seed Producers Network (VSPN). We’re responding to the valuable feedback we have received from existing members over the last year and during a meeting we held with VSPN growers at the Ecological Farmers of Ontario Association (EFAO) conference in December. Now one year old, the VSPN has learned to walk, and is getting ready to run ahead in 2016.  

At an advisory meeting held during the EFAO conference, we heard that VSPN members wanted more avenues to talk to other members who are growing the same varieties. They want to be able to share notes and observations, compare planting and flowering dates, and discuss issues they run into. They want to know if there are others nearby growing the same varieties and if they’ve run into problems with pests or diseases. For 2016, we’re working to create these forums and connecting members who are growing the same varieties. So if you’re growing Algonquin pumpkin squash and want to know when the flowers might open, you will be able to check in with others who have been growing it too.

We also heard that the updated descriptor forms for 2015 were an improvement from the previous year and they’re more relevant for collecting information that matters to growers. We added a section for rogueing and selection but growers felt it was too general and didn’t give them the detailed guidelines they wanted. Since data collection is such a valuable component of the project for maintaining high quality varieties, the 2016 descriptor forms will include the three most important characteristics that should be selected for, for each variety. Although we try to choose varieties that are stable and do not need a lot of work, constantly selecting only the top plants and fruits for seed harvest will create a higher quality seed supply.

We were delighted to hear that some of the more experienced growers want to experiment with breeding and selecting hybrid varieties. That’s a big step towards creating suitable and unique varieties for different regions throughout the province. Others have asked for training on more basic skills that they should be familiar with as they improve their ability to produce seeds. One of the most amazing things about working within this network of growers is that members can draw on each other’s expertise. Less experienced growers can look to and contact more experienced growers. To help get everyone up to the same level, we’re working to develop a grower competency list in 2016, which will outline the most important skills and practices with which all growers should be familiar.

With each piece of feedback we receive, we are given an opportunity to improve the way the VSPN functions. If you have any insights or are looking for support, networking, or skill building opportunities, send us an email at growers@seeds.ca.

 

This project was funded in part through Growing Forward 2, a federal-provincial-territorial initiative. The Agricultural Adaptation Council assists in the delivery of Growing Forward 2 in Ontario.

 

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Paul Hrycyk is the coordinator of the Vegetable Seed Producers Network (VSPN).

 

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