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Back to October 2015 Newsletter

VSPN's First Year!

Paul Hrycyk

Seeds of Diversity is now 10 months into the first year of the Vegetable Seed Producers Network project (VSPN) and a lot has already happened. We’ve sent out 9,320 seeds to the 39 growers we are working with across Ontario. We have growers producing bean seed in Long Sault, cucumbers in Thunder Bay, peppers in Kingston, melons on Wolfe Island, lettuce in Sault Ste. Marie… and lots more.

In conjunction with The Bauta Family Initiative on Canadian Seed Security, we’ve organized 11 organic seed field days and workshops, and a trip to High Mowing Organic Seeds in September. The field days and workshops  focused on various aspects of seed production, seed cleaning, and integrating seed production into market gardens. They  also offered growers a unique opportunity to see first-hand how other farmers and market gardeners are running their operations.

How does the VSPN work?

Now, as the colder weather arrives, we eagerly await the arrival of the first set of seeds that growers will be sending back to us. While we wait, we are taking some time to look forward to 2016 and VSPN’s second year, and to reflect on the project so far.

In the vein of rogueing and selecting seeds, there were parts of the project we are calling “off-types” rather than mistakes. The pea variety we chose to grow out this first year, “Carouby”, was one of them. Carouby is unique in that it produces 10-inch pods. However, despite the fact that it is a snow pea variety, growers found that it produced a significant number of shelling peas, which didn’t taste very good. We heard from one grower that after climbing up and over a seven-foot trellis, the plants completely overwhelmed it, knocking it over. Needless to say, we’ve rogued Carouby out of the list of varieties that we will be growing out in 2016.

Other varieties, like the Algonquin Pumpkin (Cucurbita pepo), were a big success; they grew fantastically and taste delicious. Though we had some difficulty getting enough starter seed for this variety, we expect our growers to have lots to share at the end of this season. We’re also going to be adding a maxima variety and a moschata variety to the 2016 list, and will continue to work with growers to increase the local supply of regionally adapted squash seeds.

The variety list for 2016 will have a few familiar varieties, but will also reflect the lessons learned in 2015 and the feedback we continue to hear from growers. Along with more squashes, we plan to include kale and several biennial species for growers who want to take on the extra challenge. We also have more growers joining the network, which will allow us to increase the number of varieties per crop to a minimum of two.

It has been a privilege to be involved with the VPSN over the last 10 months. I’ve been lucky enough to meet some of the most passionate and committed people, who are working incredibly hard to produce high-quality, community-owned seed. I’ve seen how this network of growers supports each other at field days and the valuable advice shared by experienced growers continues to make the network stronger.

If you’re interested in finding out more about the VSPN or want to participate in 2016, now is a great time to get in touch with us. We’ve got several workshops planned during the 2015-16 winter to help train growers on seed cleaning and seed production, so if you think you’re limited by knowledge or experience, we can help. Send us an email at growers@seeds.ca to learn more or to connect with us.

 

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 project coordinator of the Vegetable Seed Producers Network

 

Photo: Aaron Lyons of Hawthorn Farm Organic Seeds demonstrates how their modified thresher cleans bean and pea seeds.

 

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