My name is Sahar and my mentor is Mel Syvestre. Mel has been saving seed for about 10 seasons now, and began selling seed she had saved in 2010. Mel has been working her magic at the UBC Farm for several years now, which is where our paths crossed. I’m a student at UBC, and I think I first met Mel when she visited our Plant Breeding class. I was totally taken by what she shared, and ended up doing a little seed saving internship with her that summer. And now I get to work with her again!
Mel started saving seed for a few reasons, including some of her favorite varieties becoming discontinued, and a general awareness that most of the seed she was purchasing was being grown further outside the region than desired. I asked Mel about her favorite seed crop to grow and it certainly wasn’t an easy answer, but ultimately, onions came out on top. Mel is now selling seed as part of the BC Eco Seed Co-Op, alongside a number of other fantastic growers.
I am currently a practicum student at the UBC Farm (an 8-month farming practicum). This takes me to the UBC Farm four days a week. I certainly don’t have a farm of my own, so my seed saving work this summer will be focused there. That being said, we’ve converted our backyard and most of our front lawn to a garden at home, and I may be able to save seed from the bush beans. At the UBC Farm, there are a few very exciting projects happening which I’m excited to participate in, albeit in a small way. The projects fall under two categories: seed trials, and variety trials. The seed trials are focused on growing out a range of varieties within a crop, and evaluating which perform best in this region. These trials are a collaboration between the Bauta Family Initiative on Canadian Seed Security and UBC Farm with support from University of Fraser Valley. The variety trials involve growing out a crop from BC-grown seed alongside the same crop from commercially saved seed or another supplier to evaluate their performance.
So far, I have spent one afternoon with Mel, dedicated to planting several varieties of pole beans, many of which were saved last season. The photos included highlight a few that we seeded that afternoon. I love beans, and hope to really build confidence in working with that crops this season. I’ll be able to sit and refine my goals a bit this coming long weekend, but for now, I’m really looking forward to seeing things involve with these projects, and hearing what all the other mentors and mentees are up to!