Gathering Program

2017 BC Seed Gathering Program

To view or download the full program follow the link here. Print programs will be available at Gathering.

Program at Glance

Program Details: 

Friday November 3 | Off site

10:00 AM – 12:00 PM   | BC Seed Trials Tour at UBC Farm

The BC Seed Trials project, now completing its second year, is a collaboration between the Bauta Family Initiative on Canadian Seed SecurityUBC Farm, and FarmFolk CityFolk. Through conducting vegetable variety trials on farms throughout the province we hope, with input from local farmers, to identify varieties which perform best in each region as well as those varieties which can be scaled up for bulk seed production. UBC Farm is the primary research site where all the trials are planted out in triplicates and undergo extensive quantitative and qualitative evaluations. Dr. Alex Lyon is the lead researcher for the BC Seed Trials, drawing on her extensive experience at the University of Wisconsin – Madison working with the National Organic Vegetable Improvement Collaborative project. The crops at UBC are maintained by Mel Sylvestre, UBC Farm Seed Hub Coordinator. Join Alex and Mel, along with FarmFolk CityFolk Seed Security Program Manager Chris Thoreau, for an in-depth look at the BC Seed Trials. We will take a look at leeks in the field and do a quick evaluation.

More info here!

Friday November 3 | KPU Richmond Concurrent Meetings

1:00 PM – 5:30 PM   | BC Eco Seed Co-op Meeting | Melville Centre for Room 1730

This meeting sees potential, new and existing members of the BC Eco Seed Co-op in a  facilitated dialogue to discuss their current and planned operational activities, key successes and challenges and share information with each other about growing this co-operative to meet needs of BC farmers. This meeting is open to interested participants though please recognize some internal decision making will occur. If attending please do your best to arrive on time or slip in quietly if you arrive late.

1:00 PM – 5:30 PM   | Community Seed Organizers Meeting | Melville Centre for Dialogue 2550 A

This session is open to anyone engaged in the seed community. From seed library and community collections librarians and volunteers to  Seedy Saturday organizers, seed growers, advocates and more. Join Matthew Kemshaw of Lifecycles and the Victoria Seed Library for this facilitated networking session to connect with others in and across BC, find common threads and share ideas.

2:30 PM – TBC  | Research Focus Group | Sustainable Agriculture Department Conference Room Floor 3 3450

The BC Seed Gathering is a great time to engage seed growers on important discussions around seed and seed systems. Chris Thoreau, Seed Security Program Manager at FarmFolk CityFolk, is hosting this research session as part of his Masters research at UBC around community seed systems in British Columbia.

More info here!

6:00 PM – 9:00 PM | Young Agrarians Social  

The opening social will include speakers, networking, Speed Seed “Dating”, Seed Equipment Show & Shine”, Community Asset Mapping, Seed Research & Initiatives Fair food and drinks.

Saturday November 4 

9:00 AM – 9:45 AM | Opening Plenary

Our full day of Gathering programming opens with a plenary on a blue print for change, how regionally-adapted, OP seeds, farmer-breeders and community seed advocates can shift seed systems

Speakers: Dan Brisebois, Steve Peters

Concurrent Morning Sessions

10:00 AM – 11:00 AM   | Stream: Beginner 

Integrating Seed Production Into Diversified Vegetable Operations: Key Considerations & Tips

This presentation will cover the basic of integrating seed production into a mixed vegetable farm. Mel will address topics including selecting the right crop for your system, time management, and case scenarios of integrated seed crops.
Speaker: Mel Sylvestre

Mel Sylvestre has 12 years of experience in small-scale organic production and holds a BSc. in Soil and Plant Science from UBC’s Faculty of Land and Food Systems. In 2012, Melanie initiated The Seed Hub at UBC Farm. The Seed Hub is a project focused on the convergence of seed production, education, research, and community building. She is currently the Perennial, Biodiversity and Seed Hub coordinator at the Centre for Sustainable Food Systems at UBC Farm. Melanie is also a founding member and the coordinator of the BC Eco Seed Co-op which focuses on growing quality seed for the BC bio-region.



10:00 AM – 11:00 AM   | Stream: Advanced 

Creating Farm-Original Varieties: Practical Plant Breeding for Climate Change & Regional Adaptation

Employing a few basic breeding techniques such as recurrent mass selection and progeny testing can significantly improve the performance of virtually any crop type. Vegetable species will be emphasized in this discussion.
Speaker: Steve Peters

Steve Peters has been involved with the farming arts since he was a child gardening with his father. His love of the dirt inspired him to pursue a career in agriculture, first as a vegetable farmer in the Northeast, then a master’s degree in soils and vegetable crops that led to working as a research agronomist for the Rodale Research Center. Several years later he shifted his focus toward seed. As the Seed Production and Product Development manager for Seeds of Change, he worked closely with a network of over 50 seed farmers to grow organic seed. He has since joined the Organic Seed Alliance (OSA) to help California and other western state seed farmers develop regional seed hubs, and create a viable economy around seed production and improvement. He also has an independent seed consulting business, ‘Seed rEvolution Now’, that grows, promotes and distributes high quality, organic, open-pollinated, public domain vegetable seeds.


10:00 AM – 11:00 AM   | Stream: Community

Sustaining the Seed Custodians: How Community Seed Collections & Initiatives Can Grow Self-Sufficiency

This moderated panel will explore the perspectives and insights from three seed custodians from across BC. Strategies for success, challenges and opportunities for collaboration will be shared with lots of time allocated for discussion.
Speakers: Matthew Kemshaw, Kristin Crouch, Colleen Doty
Moderator: Jesse Howardson

Matthew Kemshaw grew up in Shawnigan Lake and lives in the unceded territories of the Songhees and Esquimalt people. He is the Executive Director of the LifeCycles Project Society and co-founder of the Victoria Seed Library.




Kristin Crouch is passionate about growing and has been teaching sustainable garden classes for the Corporation of Delta for the last three years. Kristin not only has a diploma in Horticulture but over two decades experience with the Vancouver Master Gardeners Association. She currently blogs at That Bloomin’ Garden, and regularly contributes to numerous newspapers and magazines. She is a past president of the Ladner Community Garden Society and started the first Seedy Saturday in Ladner to promote seed diversity and promote organic growing. Kristin has been pivotal in starting the Ladner Community Garden, Alexandra Neighbourhood House Community Garden and the Tsawwassen First Nation garden prototype in conjunction with Simon Fraser University, she also mentors and delivers garden-focused educational programming. For Kristin, it’s all about learning and sharing her expertise.


Colleen Doty is Chair of the Seed Library of Galiano and has coordinated it since its inception in 2015. She runs a small farm on Galiano Island with her family, bees, and 35 chickens. She is passionate about growing food and encourages everyone to get soil under their nails.





Jesse Howardson is a farmer and seed saver who has been learning on organic farms for the past 10 years. She has been involved in regional movements for the preservation and promotion of ecological seed since 2012, working as coordinator for the Victoria Seed Library as well as directly with local seed farmers through the BC EcoSeed Co-op, the Bauta Initiative on Canadian Seed Security and FarmFolk CityFolk. Mentored over the years by many dedicated and brilliant farmers, she has shared her knowledge through hosting numerous seed saving workshops to support community skill-building for resilient local seed systems. For the past 3 seasons, Jesse has coordinated LifeCycles Project Society’s Farm Gleaning project.



11:15 AM – 12:00 PM   | Reports from the Fields: Pecha Kucha Community Presentations

Hear about a dozen seed related projects from around BC at these fast-paced community presentations.

Concurrent Afternoon Sessions

1:15 PM – 2:15 PM   | Stream: Beginner

Growing Native Plants from Seed for Restoration & Reclamation: Twin Sisters Native Plants Nursery of Saulteau & West Moberly First Nation

Hear Vanessa’s story about her role and work with Twin Sister Native Plant Nursery in native plant propagation for ecological restoration. Learn about their comprehensive seed collection process and the “why” behind native seeds and reclamation.
Speaker: Vanessa Adams

Vanessa Adams has had an interest in growing plants since she was a little girl. In the early 90’s she took an apprenticeship with Houweling Nurseries and proceeded to work in this fast past environment growing plants and delighting customers. With encouragement from family Vanessa moved back to the Kootenays to the carry on growing. When she was in the Kootenays she met some people from Moberly Lake who were putting together a native plant nursery. Vanessa ended up moving to Moberly Lake and is growing native plants for land reclamation at Twin Sisters Native Plants Nursery.


1:15 PM – 2:15 PM   | Stream: Advanced

Tools to Increase Production & Profitability: From Pricing to Contract Growing Determining What Works for Your Farm

Dan will walk through seed production to seed sales and consider what profitability looks like at each stage paying special attention to the differences between wholesale and retail seed sales.
Speaker: Daniel Brisebois

Dan Brisebois is one of the founding members of Tourne-Sol Co-operative Farm in Les Cedres, Quebec. Tourne-Sol was founded by five friends who met while studying at McGill University, McDonald Campus. Tourne-Sol is a workers co-operative. Farming together following ecological principles, they have built a democratic, diversified and sustainable enterprise. Tourne-Sol produces certified organic vegetables through through a 400 member CSA and farmers market as well as seeds that are distributed through their on-line seed catalogue. Dan has taken a leading role in the seed part of the coop’s business and is co-author of Crop Planning for Organic Vegetable Growers. He has adapted Richard Wiswall’s popular business planning worksheets for seed production and will be sharing his coop experience and business planning expertise at the Gathering. Dan is also the past president of Canadian Organic Growers, a USC Canada Board member, and on the Eastern Canadian Organic Seed Growers Network’s steering committee.


 1:15 PM – 2:15 PM   | Stream: Community

Seedy Saturdays & Beyond: Strategies to Support Local Seed & Local Economies

This moderated panel creates dialogue around one of the largest community venues of region seed education and sales; Seedy Saturdays. Hear from panelists about their approaches, to organizing, helpful tools and resources, current challenges and possibilities for growth. Time will be allocated for diving into group discussion and identifying common goals.
Speakers: Mary Cosman, Kaleigh Barton, Eleanor Wright
Cameron FitzGerald

Mary Cosman has been a grower-member of Seeds of Diversity Canada since the early 1990s. She has offered seed saving workshops at the Fernie Community EcoGarden every summer and coordinated the annual Seed Swaps there since 2005. Currently, she is working on a feasibility study for the development of a Seed Library in Fernie.





Kaleigh Barton is Co-owner of Heavenly Roots, a two acre market farm on Salt Spring Island. In addition to growing vegetables for the farmers market and a CSA program, she saves seed for her own farm’s use and hopes to produce a growing list of varieties for sale as well. Kaleigh and her partner, Ben, have cooperatively organized Salt Spring Island’s Seedy Saturday events since 2016.






Eleanor Wright lives on an off-the-grid homestead North-West of Lillooet where she’s been saving seeds for many years. As a member of Lillooet Food Matters she has helped host 9 successful Seedy Saturdays. Inspired by the first BC Seed Gathering,  Eleanor led the creation of  Lillooet Food Matters Seed Lending Library.



Cameron FitzGerald is the Urban Agriculture Program Coordinator at Richmond Food Security Society. He is a graduate of the Bachelor of Management program at Dalhousie University and Nonprofit Leadership and Management postgraduate program at Seneca College. This wide array of education allows him to bring a unique perspective to the different programs at RFSS. Cameron is an avid community gardener who loves to grow unique fruits and vegetables throughout the season.



2:15 PM – 3:15 PM   | Stream: Beginner

Growing Seed for Medicinal Plants

A look into growing Ayurvedic, TCM, Traditional Western and Native medicinal plants for seed, and integrating the growing of medicinal plants for both medicinal purposes and seed production.
Speaker: Rupert Adams

Rupert Adams has been growing food, medicinal herbs and their seeds for 15 years, working with Salt Spring Seeds, BFICSS as a co-coordinator and national training advisor, and built the business plan for CGC’s incubator seed farm. He’s VP of the Salt Spring Seed Sanctuary, runs Kairos Botanicals a medicinal herb business, and founded the emergent medicinal herb seed company Akasha Seeds.




2:15 PM – 3:15 PM   | Stream: Advanced

Agricultural Co-ops: Creating Advances Across the BC Seed Sector

Hear insights and ideas from three leaders from co-operatives that are engaged across the food and seed sectors. Participants will have the opportunity to ask questions and engage in discussion.
Speakers: Elvy Del Bianco, Chris Bodnar, Arzeena Hamir
Moderator: Chris Thoreau

Elvezio (“Elvy”) Del Bianco has worked as policy analyst and project manager for provincial and regional governments and in the social economy. As Vancity Credit Union’s Program Manager for Cooperative Partnerships, Elvy builds partnerships with a wide array of community organizations to support the creation of cooperative enterprises and realize a stronger cooperative economy. This work is largely informed by the activities of the Italy’s Emilia-Romagna region, the world’s most significant cooperative economy and the focus of Vancity’s Co-operative Study Tour, which Elvy has organized since 2008.




Chris Bodnar has a PhD in Communication from Carleton University. Although he how farms full-time, he still enjoys time in the classroom. Chris teaches the Business of Agriculture course in Kwantlen Polytechnic University’s Sustainable Agriculture program. He also sits on the board of the Mount Lehman Credit Union and the Glen Valley Organic Farm Co-operative. In the past he has served on the boards of the BC Association for Regenerative Agriculture and the Certified Organic Associations of BC. Chris is a Mentor to new farmers through the Young Agrarians’ BC Business Mentorship Network program. In the off-season, he facilitates workshops and speaks on the topics of business planning for small farms and co-operatives in agriculture.




Arzeena Hamir has committed a large portion of her life to increasing access to local food and sharing her passion for agriculture. She spent a decade working overseas with farmers in Jamaica, Bangladesh, India, and Thailand to encourage sustainable and integrated agriculture, composting and natural alternatives to pesticide use.

Arzeena then returned to British Columbia, worked for several years as the staff agrologist for West Coast Seeds and then created her own seed company, Terra Viva Organics. Arzeena was also the co-ordinator for the Richmond Food Security Society and worked on the board for the Richmond Fruit Tree Sharing Project, the Richmond Schoolyard Society and the BC Food Systems Network.

Now that she’s moved to the Comox Valley, and is part of Merville Organics Cooperative, she is sharing her passion for agriculture with local community groups such as the Comox Valley Growers and Seed Savers and the Fertile Ground Project. She also teaches soil science at North Island College. Amidst all of this, she finds time to be an awesome mom to two amazing kids, and manages her beautiful organic farm in South Merville.


Chris Thoreau has been engaged in small-scale and urban food production since 2001 as a farmer, educator, community organizer and advocate. His career began in Victoria, BC operating a certified organic farm for 6 years. He learned the ins and outs of plant breeding and seed saving through local workshops and training with Washington State’s Organic Seed Alliance. Since 2008, Chris has been based in Vancouver, BC where he received his Bsc in Agroecology in 2011 from UBC – focusing his studies on urban farming, soil management, and small-scale plant breeding. When he isn’t obsessing over seeds, soil and harvests, Chris spends much of his time with this son, doing everything from soccer to skating, running to wall-climbing, and reading to wrestling! A man of many talents….




2:15 PM – 3:15 PM   | Stream: Community

A Culinary Breeding Network for Canada? How farmers, plant breeders and chefs can work together to expand seed diversity and our palettes

In the US, the Culinary Breeding Network was founded to connect plant breeders, seed growers, farmers, chefs, produce buyers and others in the food community with a shared mission to develop and identify varieties and traits of culinary excellence to improve agricultural and culinary quality in vegetables and grains. With a vibrant, well-established farm-to-table movement in BC, and growing interest in developing new varieties, the time may be right for a similar initiative to take root here. Each panelist will share their thoughts on the potential and value of a culinary-focused breeding network and then the audience will get to work by sharing their own ideas and vision for how such a group could develop in BC and across Canada.
Speakers: Susan Davidson, Alexandra Lyon, David Gunawan
Moderator: Shauna MacKinnon



Susan Davidson has been growing deep roots at Fraser Common, since 1980.  Her son and daughter were raised there and her grandchildren love to run through the fields, bounce on the trampoline, and are accustomed to holding hands for a quiet time before our evening meal. Susan’s mother, who taught her to garden as soon as she could walk, thought it was an amazing experiment, in principle. Susan’s  father, who helped build the farmhouse she live in and  is remembered each time they stoke the fire in the sauna, not so much! Susan aspires to make conscious, and conscientious, choices about feeding herself and others. And to live in ways that respect the earth, the farmers, and all inhabitants of our beautiful, finite planet.




Alexandra Lyon is a Postdoctoral Research Fellow at the Centre for Sustainable Food Systems and the UBC Farm. She recently earned her PhD in Environment and Resources at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, where researched the seed needs of the organic vegetable sector and coordinated variety trials on organic farms as part of the Northern Organic Vegetable Improvement Collaborative (NOVIC). She is excited to apply this experience in BC and looks forward to learning from local seed and vegetable growers about their challenges, priorities, and farming practices.





David Gunawan is, above and beyond all else, the paterfamilias at Farmer’s Apprentice. He began his culinary career working in the kitchen at a West Lafayette brewpub while pursuing his degree in environmental engineering at Purdue University. He earned his stripes in back-of-house roles under acclaimed chefs such as Chris Nugent at Les Nomades and Carrie Nahabedian at Michelin-starred Naha in Chicago before landing in Vancouver — where he made stops at West, Maenam and Wildebeest before launching the farm-to-table staple known as Farmer’s Apprentice in 2013. Gunawan’s abiding affinity for sourcing the best fresh, seasonal ingredients by supporting local farms, pastures and providers led Farmer’s Apprentice to be ranked No. 2 on enRoute Magazine’s list of Canada’s Best New Restaurants 2014, the same year the restaurant also swept the podium with nods for Best New Restaurant, Best Casual Restaurant and Restaurant of the Year at the 25th Annual Vancouver Magazine Restaurant Awards. In 2015, Gunawan opened South Granville Wine Bar Grapes & Soda next door to Farmer’s Apprentice and Royal Dinette in Downtown Vancouver, with each restaurant further reflecting Gunawan’s innovative, artisanal and locavore-forward focus. In 2016, Gunawan was named Chef of the Year at the annual Vancouver Magazine Restaurant Awards.


3:45 PM – 4:45 PM   | Stream: A

Action Planning for Seed Growers Facilitated Working Session


3:45 PM – 4:45 PM   | Stream: B

Action Planning for Community Seed Organizers Facilitated Working Session


5:00 PM – 5:30 PM  | Action Planning Closing Plenary


6:00 PM – 9:00 PM | Continuing Conversations, Carrot Variety Tasting & Reception

Continue your conversations from the day, enjoy snacks and drinks and engage with carrot variety tasting.

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