In the Fields - Brenda Goudreault

This month, we meet Brenda Goudreault: school bus driver and master gardener. Brenda has been a member of Seeds of Diversity for almost 12 years now. In addition to listing 84 types of flower, fruit, herb and vegetable seeds in our Member Seed Directory, Brenda has translated several of the emails and letters you receive, since she is perfectly bilingual.

Brenda lives in Quebec, in a small range of the Laurentians. She and her spouse Jacques grow a garden of ~2300 square feet, overflowing with all kinds of vegetables including potatoes, carrots, beets, turnips and squash. The beds are dispersed across their yard to avoid cross-pollination between varieties, so that the cultivars offered to others will come true. In the cold season (which can be long and bitter in her region!), three greenhouses are used to plant seeds in advance of the warmer summer months. One unique greenhouse, which resembles a yurt, is heated by her house and was built with wood from her land.

"When I was little, my mother used to grow flowers, beans, radishes, salad, and that sort of thing. She spent a lot of time in the garden, and I loved working with her. Later, I met Jacques who loves gardening and who himself had a very large garden. My friends, meanwhile, do not really share my passion and wonder how I can spend so much time with my hands in the earth. I love it, and can stay out working until 9:00pm."

For Brenda, eating fresh and local is important. She eats what she grows and transforms it in all sorts of ways, making sauerkraut, pickles, and other preserves. To keep the harvest edible as long as possible, she puts it in cold storage. She can even store her watermelons! Her secret? The variety 'Blacktail Mountain." According to Brenda, this is a variety that keeps keeps spectacularly well - stored on the cold floor of her garage, she can eat it until December!

Brenda swears by the teas she makes out of plants such as nettle, comfrey, and seaweed, which she sprays on her vegetables weekly. "It's a lot of work, but it's so worth it! The plants become robust. Goldenrod will soon be in bloom, and I will use it to make a tea for my flowers. This plant has a pleasant smell - it smells like good wine."

What worries Brenda is the next generation. Her three children are living in Montreal and their lives have taken them down other paths. Similar to many gardeners, farmers and seed savers, she wonders what will happen when she is no longer able to work the land. It's not just the heirloom varieties themselves that are at risk, but the knowledge and passion of the people who hold their cultivation dear to their hearts.

Back to November 2012 Newsletter