Seeds of Diversity 25th Anniversary

Wow! My mind is swimming with all of the info I picked up at the Seeds of Diversity 25th Anniversary event at the Toronto Botanical Gardens. The speakers they had were fantastic, and I’m still processing everything they talked about. One of the founding members was there (can’t remember the gentleman’s name), and spoke about how the organization got started as well as his vision of its future.

I tweeted during the event, and here’s a list of my posts:

* En route to the Seeds of Diversity 25th anniversary at the Toronto Botanical Gardens. #Gardening #SeedsOfDiversity
* Just finished listening to a fascinating talk about the origins of Seeds of Diversity. #SeedsOfDiversity
* Cool project on the go called the seed library. Great concept! #SeedsOfDiversity
* OMG, bought $5 of garlic for planting, got enough extra seed to start a small garlic farm! LOL #SeedsOfDiversity
*Just finished listening to Gayla Trail from talk about all sorts of different gardens and gardeners. #SeedsOfDiversity

As you may have noticed in my tweets, I mentioned some garlic. The gentleman who was selling the garlic had a variety he called “Nono”, since his grandfather brought it over with him from Italy about 60 years ago. The cool thing was, he was including a small pack of garlic seeds with each of the bulbs. Now, I figured when I bought 6 bulbs, I’d get one or two packs at the most. Instead, I ended up with six!! To be honest, I don’t know what I’m going to do with all that garlic seed – probably offer some up for swaps, and maybe give some to relatives and friends. I also picked up some other seeds, to help round out my current stocks, including a resupply of carrots (I was running a bit low).

The first speaker was Collete Murphy, of Urban Harvest, who spoke on a variety of topics around the Slow Food conferences, which she attended as a delegate in 2006 and 2008. She had a great deal to say, and it was all really interesting, but it was also a bit disorganized – there wasn’t much structure to the whole thing.

The second speaker was one of the founders of the organization, whose name I didn’t get down unfortunately. The focus of his talk was about the origins and future of the organization, and why it had been successful. His oratory approach was to frame it like a discussion between a parent and a grown child, with a bit of sexual innuendo. I really enjoyed the points he made about the organization not being centred around a person, but rather around a great many people, and that even if the executive committee walked away today, the organization would be able to continue.

The third speaker was Bob Wildfong, who is the executive director of Seeds of Diversity. His topic was their atest project: the Seed Library. As I understand it, this project is intended to address the gap between the seed sellers, and the seed banks. On the one hand, seed sellers get a lot of seed out there and growing, which means that the varieties are adapting to the specific conditions where they are growing. The problem there is, they can only sell about 10% of the varieties needed to sustain biodiversity. On the other hand, seed banks can help retain huge swaths of biodiversity, but because they aren’t “in the field”, they are static, and thus when planted out in 10-30 years, they will not have had a chance to gradually adapt to the environmental changes that have occured over time. The Seed Library project will allow people to donate seeds, as well as donate money to help ensure that varieites are “backed up” in seed banks, as well as kept in circulation to keep the vareity alive and adapting. It’s a pretty complicated project, and I don’t see anything on their website yet, but I’d definitely suggest keeping an eye out for it.

The fourth speaker was Mary Brittain, who owns the Cottage Garden Seed Company. Her talk was an introduction to some of the interesting stories and myths behind the names of heirloom varieties. I knew that there had to be reasons for the names, but hearing the stories really helped me to better understand the origins of some of the plants and varieties out there.

The final speaker of the day was Gayla Trail, of fame. She talked about her experiences documenting all sorts of different gardens and gardeners, mainly the less “mainstream” ones. I really enjoyed her talk, because it reminded me that gardening is something that a wide swath of people interpret in a lot of different ways, and that it can be a good way to manage one’s own biases.

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