Seeds of change

Mary MacKay
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New initiative from Cooper Institute addresses seed sovereignty

Canada World Youth volunteers Hasna Lamondji of Indonesia and Adriana King of Manitoba and Cooper Institute staffer Josie Baker are gearing up for the big Seedy Saturday seed swap event at the Confederation Centre Library on Dec. 7 from 2 to 4 p.m.

There’s nothing like a little seed money to get a project growing.

And the Cooper Institute is using online crowd funding to cultivate cash for its new Seeds of Community project, which is engaging Prince Edward Islanders in saving and sharing seed, initiating a series of local seed libraries, and connecting the act of growing and eating with the global issues of food and seed sovereignty.


Seeds of Community has been selected by the Small Change Fund’s Atlantic campaign. The fund supports small, grassroots initiatives across Canada by matching funds raised by online crowd funding up to $5,000.

“Through the Small Change Fund we’re trying to crowd source a little bit of funding to help get some sort of startup kits for libraries across P.E.I. so they could get some storage and distribution materials and information, because obviously people learning how to save seeds is very important for the success of a seed library,” says Cooper Institute staffer Josie Baker.

The Seeds of Community started this year in Charlottetown with support from the Charlottetown Sustainability Micro-grant.

It included presentations and workshops and a seed exchange at the Confederation Centre Public Library on Saturday, Dec. 7, from 2 to 4 p.m.

“It does have to do with preserving food skills and preserving growing skills. These are skills that people would have had and that everyone would have known about,” Baker says.

“A lot of people who are regular gardeners don’t realize how to save seeds but also you need to make sure the seeds aren’t hybrids before they can save them anyway. It also makes you think a little bit more about where you’re getting your seed from.”

The Seeds of Community project is also trying to connect with gardeners who are already saving seeds.

“We are looking for and appreciating the involvement of people who already doing seed saving. There are lots of people across P.E.I. — just natural community networks of people who have gotten together and shared seed from their gardens for years,” Baker says.

“So we’re really trying to connect with those people across the Island and trying to add more resources . . . to that part of the seed library. Bringing more people into that network.”

The hope is that people will volunteer to grow seed just for the library as well.

Seeds of Community has already collected a small stockpile of seeds through donations and produced some at the Desbrisay Community Garden, which Cooper Institute helped to develop about a decade ago.

Canada World Youth volunteers Hasna Lamondji of Gorontalo, Indonesia and Adriana King of Winnipeg, Man., spent time in October cleaning out the garden and harvesting the seeds from heirloom or open-pollinated fruits and vegetables, such as tomatoes and beans.

“So we’ve been shelling the seeds off of their stalks for a couple of weeks now, labelling them and putting them in groups of 10 or 20 in envelopes. (The date is also included) because the fresher they are the more fertile they will be (for) next year,” King says.

Seed saving helps to preserve the diversity of food crops and develop regionally adapted varieties.

“If we’re growing and saving seeds here then we have plants that are adapted to the pressures that exist in this climate. . . ,” Baker


“Over generations and generations of farming humans have developed varieties of things that grow in all kinds of different conditions and so preserving those and sharing them is part of the whole idea around seed sovereignty.”

Organizations: Cooper Institute, Small Change Fund, Charlottetown Sustainability Micro Confederation Centre Public Library Desbrisay Community Garden

Geographic location: Canada, P.E.I., Charlottetown Iceland Gorontalo Indonesia Winnipeg

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Recent comments

  • Amy Smith
    December 03, 2013 - 21:45

    Mr. Kays seems to be confused. This initiative is about saving and preserving non-hybrid, non-GMO, heirloom seeds that are already adapted to the unique soil and growing conditions on PEI. This is not genetic engineering, it's plant breeding, something gardeners have been doing for centuries! The Cooper Insititute, and Josie Baker specifically, should be applauded for their efforts on all islanders behalf!

  • Bill Kays
    Bill Kays
    December 02, 2013 - 14:09

    All this will do is further contaminate our already contaminated seed supply. Inless these seeds are non-GMO, non-hybrid heirloom seeds all we will do is the will of Monsanto. Like other initiatives from the Cooper Institute .. they try to make you think this is a good thing but it is actually a bad thing. Tricking us into teaching our kids that this is a great lesson is flawed and based on bad science. Educate your children about the bad effects of GMO foods and the poor nutritional benefits derived from eating GMO foods. If you really want to do them a favor, teach them to DEMAND REAL FOOD and not to settle for GMO foods. Teach them to demand government protection from the profit motivated corporate giants that push their agendas through seemingly helpful "non governmental offices" (NGO's).

    • Robert Hewitt
      December 02, 2013 - 19:46

      Well, my take is that these people, the Cooper folk, and the volunteers, are doing this because they deem it to be worthwhile, a small contribution to making the world a bit better. They are doing this, I would guess, without the cynicism that is so prevalent in your post Mr. Kays.