Agriculture enthusiasts strive for food security

With spring just around the corner, Elk Valley Homesteading is aiming to educate individuals on the future of food security.

Organic, locally adapted plant seeds are becoming more rare as the years go on. With spring just around the corner, Elk Valley Homesteading is aiming to educate individuals through a film pertaining to seed diversity, and the future of food security.

Elk Valley Homesteading is a group of individuals who care about local agriculture. They meet regularly to discuss harvesting, canning and preserving.

The film, “Seed, An Untold Story” will be brought to The Arts Station on April 1 at 7 p.m.

“We’ve lost, in 20 years, 94 per cent of all seed diversity. It’s huge, most people don’t realize that,” said Elk Valley Homesteading founder, Rachel Crossland, who explained the importance of seed diversity.

“What happens when a seed is gone; it’s like the dinosaurs. They’re gone. When it’s gone, it’s gone.”

Crossland is concerned that without seed diversity, disease leading to crop depletion will increase rapidly. Every farming region on earth is very unique; climate, humidity, weather, soil acidity, and insect variations play a large role in the survival of a crop. A seed develops resistance to a region over time. It adapts.

“If you have only seven types of tomatoes, you set yourself up in a situation where disease, bugs, fungus… can wipe out whole entire crops, and destroy those seeds. Because there’s no resistance to different bacteria, in different regions,” said Crossland.

“This is a world-wide problem,” she added.

Seating for the film is limited to 100 guests. For advance tickets, call Rachel Crossland at 250-423-8665. Otherwise, it is $15 at the door. All profits will be returned to the communities of Elkford, Sparwood and Fernie.

Outside of Elk Valley Homesteading, Crossland is involved in a new group that is launching the Cold Climate Seed Library. This will serve as a community storage centre for healthy, local seeds.

“When you grow here, and you save the seeds from the plants that grow here, every generation (saved), the seed develops resistance to different bacteria’s, pestilence… and, or climate,” said Crossland.

The agriculture enthusiast has noticed several challenges while harvesting in the Elk Valley. The main issue comes when you buy seeds from commercial stores. With the elevation of the Elk Valley sitting over 1000 metres, seeds are less likely to thrive if they were harvested from an area of lower elevation.

“Any time we buy seeds, we’re getting them from the west coast, we’re getting them from Ontario or we’re buying them from down in the states. The plants are not accustomed to growing in our climate,” said Crossland.

“The goal of the cold climate seed library is to get those that grow seeds in the community, to save their seeds, and donate some of them to the seed library.”

For those looking to plant a garden, seeds will be obtainable from the library, upon completion of a course by those individuals in how to save the seeds.

“The point of it is, if you take seeds, we would like to try and save seeds and donate them back to the library,” said Crossland. “Instead of continually depleting the seeds… we will always be continually feeding into it.”

Seeds are usually saved in the fall, or the second year around. Vegetables such as carrots, onions, Swiss chard, spinach, etc., must be saved in the second year. This is due to the behaviour of the seed, as it will go dormant throughout the winter, and go straight to seed in the summer.

”Bolting” is a term used to describe seeds which go to seed their first year planted. If a first-generation seed is planted in warm temperature at the beginning of the summer, the plant will expend all of its energy on surviving and producing more seeds, rather than sending its nutrients to leaves. With plants such as Swiss chard, where the leaves are consumed, a seed that echoes the trait of bolting should not be kept and reproduced. This is one of the many things taught in the seed library course.

The founders of the seed library are planning to install the seed library at the Fernie Heritage Library. This is a work in progress.

An information stand will be present at The Arts Station during the showing of “Seed, An Untold Story”, which will give more information about the Cold Climate Seed Library.