Seed Hub

UBC Farm Seed Hub

Supporting Community Seed Systems

The UBC Farm Seed Hub supports community seed systems in BC through interdisciplinary and community-engaged research and education through the Centre for Sustainable Food Systems (CSFS).

 

Seed production at the UBC Seed Hub provides an opportunity for education and outreach for UBC students, farmers, and the public. The Seed Hub also serves as a connection point for community stakeholders and CSFS associate members to engage in research that furthers knowledge for and about community seed systems.

 

Initiated in 2012 under the guidance of a UBC Land and Food Systems directed studies program, today the Seed Hub is an integrated part of the CSFS at UBC Farm. The Seed Hub is rooted at the UBC Farm, but also engages across a broad geographic region through research and outreach at local farms throughout BC, including on-farm variety trials, field days, workshops at a variety of locations, and online outreach to farmers across Canada. The Seed Hub also fosters collaborations with local, national, and international organizations and universities to advance knowledge about plant breeding and seed systems for resilient agriculture.

 
Why Community Seed Systems?

Seeds are fundamental to agri-food systems because they produce the diverse, adaptable crops needed for healthy environments and communities. Since the beginning of agriculture, communities have engaged in saving and selecting seeds, resulting in thousands of unique varieties (types) of crops adapted to different environments and cultural uses. This gives seeds deep cultural significance, as the means to produce and reproduce crop varieties that have played important roles in human sustenance and cuisines around the world. Modern plant breeding carried out by both public universities and private companies builds on a long history of variety selection by farmers and gardeners around the world.

Seed systems include all of the practices, infrastructure, and institutions involved in plant breeding and seed production. Agricultural sustainability can be enhanced by seed systems that provide communities with diverse crop varieties that are well-adapted to the regions where they grow and are resilient to a wide array of stresses and disruption such as pests and diseases, droughts, weed pressure, and climate change. Seed systems are crucial in building community food systems that provide nutritious and culturally important foods through sustainable means.

Networks of farmers, gardeners, seed companies, and scientists throughout North America are building community seed systems that help to diversify the seeds available to local agriculture through regional seed production, seed swaps and exchanges, and farmer-engaged plant breeding. Community seed systems include regional seed businesses, farmers who grow seed, farmer-plant breeders, university scientists, cooks and eaters, and many other stakeholders.

Seed Production
The UBC Farm produces seed of 20-30 different crop varieties each year from 15-20 different crops, including an array of vegetable, bean, flower, and herb species. Seed crops are produced as part of integrated cropping systems at the farm and are harvested and processed using small-scale equipment that comprises the Seed Hub infrastructure. Some of the seed is used for crop production at UBC Farm, while the rest is sold through multiple venues including at the UBC Farm Stand, a seed rack at the UBC Botanical Garden. The CSFS at UBC Farm was a founding member of the BC Eco Seed Cooperative, a cooperative of local seed producers. A substantial portion of the seed grown at UBC Farm is sold through the BC Eco Seed Co-op. Finally, the Seed Hub provides seed donations to various community groups including the UBC School of Education Seed Library.
Education & Outreach

The UBC Seed Hub offers a diversity of opportunities for students and community members to learn about seed production and variety selection through workshops and hands-on activities. The seed crops, research plots, and seed processing facilities serve as a demonstration site hands-on workshops. More than one hundred students and community members come to the Farm every year to learn about the basics of seed saving, including how to grow seed crops, maintain genetic diversity within varieties, process clean seed, and store and market seed. UBC students have the opportunity to engage further in these topics through internships. The seed research program, including participatory variety trials, provides outreach opportunities for farmers both at the UBC Farm home site and at connected variety trials on partner farms.

A selection of the education and outreach activities connected with the Seed Hub include:

 

Workshops are available on demand for community groups, schools, and organizations. Various levels of seed saving teaching and multiple topics in relation to seed saving and seed security are offered.

 
For more information about workshops and other learning opportunities contact Mel Sylvestre.
 
Research

The goal of the BC Seed Trials is to contribute to resilient agri-food systems in British Columbia through participatory research which engages farmers in producing knowledge relevant to seed systems development. A multi-year collaboration between Bauta Family Initiative on Canadian Seed Security, FarmFolk CityFolk and UBC Farm, the BC Seed Trials research project aims to increase the quality and quantity as well as the biodiversity of BC’s seed industry. The variety trials conducted at the UBC Farm and at over 20 other farms will identify seed that is well adapted to the local climate and ecosystem via experimentation with differing varieties. The project will increase the expertise among local farms in seed trial design and crop evaluation and eventually lead to a scalable ecological BC seed production.

 

The BC Seed Trials also have field days, public events, articles and social media presence to raise the visibility of BC-grown seed and generate conversations between seed growers, vegetable growers, and end consumers. Additionally, they have education and training strategies to pass on this knowledge to existing farmers.

 
For more information, visit the BC Seed Trials Website

Upcoming, on farm plant breeding for locally adapted varieties.

A mostly unknown fact is that carrots are one of the more complex seed crops to produce. First, the crop is a biennial, meaning it requires two years to grow out and specific overwintering storage requirements. Secondly, domesticated carrot will readily cross with Queen Anne’s lace (Daucus carota var. carota), a progressively common weed in British Columbia. Complete isolation between the wild and domesticated varieties is necessary to produce true-to-type seed. Isolation structures also allow farmers to produce different varieties of carrot seed in close proximity.

The long-term objectives of this project are to:

 

    1) Increase the viability of growing organic and ecologically-grown carrot seed in high-tunnel isolation structures. This approach is meant to eliminate cross-pollination with Queen Anne’s Lace.

    2) In addition to addressing the reality of cross-pollination with Queen Anne’s Lace in British Columbia, the outcomes generated by this research will also point to best practices in increasing the yield of regionally-adapted seed through the potential of growing out multiple carrot varieties without cross-pollinating.

This research complements the work of the BC Eco Seed Co-op, the Bauta Family Initiative on Canadian Seed Security, and the UBC Farm Seed Hub to increase the quality, quantity and diversity of ecologically-grown vegetable seed in Canada.

Read more here.

Helped BC Eco Seed Co-op develop a protocol to help evaluate seeds.

Future of the UBC Farm Seed Hub

Shared equipment: the Seed Hub is working with our local NGO partner FarmFolk CityFolk to host a mobile seed processing trailer which can be moved to other farms and locations.

Participatory Plant Breeding for Organic Agriculture.