When the Covid-19 pandemic was declared in March, the fate of this year’s mobile seed cleaner tour was very uncertain. We knew we wouldn’t be able to bring it to bustling markets to connect with farmers and consumers in the same way we did in 2019, but we hoped we would at least be able to visit a few farms. Eight tour stops later, and well over 100 seed varieties cleaned from the Interior to the Island, the 2020 mobile seed cleaner tour was a success by any standard.
This year’s tour began in August with a visit to SSOL Gardens, a sprawling 20-acre farm on the banks of the South Thompson River outside Kamloops. The small, tight-knit community, cultivated there by Daniela Basile joined us for a packed day of threshing, screening, and cleaning. Over the course of a day and a half, we cleaned over 20 seed lots of onion, coriander, dill, carrot, spinach, radish, beans, and more.
As September waned, the mobile seed cleaner made its way to Vancouver Island with BC Seed Security Program Coordinator Steph Benoit at the helm. Arzeena Hamir and the folks at Amara Farm in Comox used it to clean lettuce, bok choy, collard greens, and coriander. Amara Farm is a featured farm in our Farmers for Climate Solutions series. Read more about the climate-friendly practices they employ to grow 47 different vegetable crops and woody perennials.
On the southern coast of Vancouver Island, the seed cleaner landed at Metchosin Farm. Fiona Hamersley Chambers, the owner and operator of the seaside farm, tends to over 200 seed varieties. Her impressive collection includes a number of flowers, native plants, fruit trees, and berries. Running the air column separator for about 10 hours over the course of a day and a half, we cleaned at least 30 varieties from her collection.
Next, we visited BC Eco Seed Co-op member farm Saanich Organics. Theresa Heinekey is the formidable young seed grower behind Seeds of the Revolution, Saanich Organic’s “adventure in seeds”. On the open, south-facing vista that comprises Northbrook Farm (one of the three main farms that make up Saanich Organics) we spent the better part of three days cleaning large lots of brassicas, lettuce, beans, and coriander, and smaller lots of many other things.
Over Thanksgiving weekend, the mobile seed cleaner made its way to the One Straw Society in Roberts Creek. There, BC Seed Security Program Director, David Catzel, was able to demo the mobile seed cleaner and host a workshop on seed cleaning. Later in October, the seed cleaner journeyed eastward over the Coquihalla once more for a visit to the Kootenays, where David gave three workshops on Seed Production as a Diversification Tool for BC Farms. In Argenta, the trailer’s Clipper fanning mill was used to clean a couple of thousand pounds of oat, buckwheat, and pea cover crop. In Winlaw, conditions turned snowy, but that didn’t stop the folks at Hummingbird Farm from cleaning 13 types of flower seeds, invoking memories of warmer days. Finally, in Grand Forks, a group of passionate seed savers came out to talk seeds and compare notes about some of the seed cleaning equipment they had made.
Why do we have a mobile seed cleaner? The long-term vision of the BC Seed Security program is a thriving ecological seed sector in BC that produces high-quality seed crops at a commercial scale. The mobile seed cleaner is a resource to help growers scale up seed production and more efficiently process seed to ready it for sale. While we hope to help many small growers clean their seeds with this trailer, we also hope it will inspire others to start similar projects in their own regions to help create a network of seed cleaning sites across BC and further scale up organic seed production across the province.