IT TAKES A VILLAGE TO RAISE A SEED

IT TAKES A VILLAGE TO RAISE A SEED

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Three Forks Farm is a certified organic farm on Manitoulin Island that Peggy Baillie has been operating with her husband, Eric Blondin, since 2016. They produce mixed vegetables, chicken, and … seeds!

For ten years before starting their own business, Peggy and Eric had different jobs within the local food and agriculture sector, including working on other people’s farms. Peggy explains where seed fits into the picture for her: “Through that process, I really fell in love with seed (obviously!), and developed a great passion for it. One of my very close friends is Jill Bishop, who runs Urban Tomato Seeds in Peterborough, and she was actually the first person that taught me how to save seed and really kind of sparked that passion in me. So when we started our farm in 2016, I felt that seed needed to be part of what we're doing because it's just so fundamental and so lacking.”

Peggy has a particular passion for sharing regionally-adapted seeds that will work well in Northern Ontario. “We're trying our best to continue to grow out varieties of short season, northern-adapted seeds that will work well in northern Ontario. And part of my goal with that is to give people the confidence that they can grow their own food in northern Ontario, and in northern climates in Canada by supporting them with the right kind of seed that will work where they're growing.”

This year, they have 50 varieties and they hope that next year that number will jump to 75 or 100. Peggy’s favourites are melons. “I really get so excited about watermelons and cantaloupes and muskmelons because I feel like a lot of people in the North don't feel like they can grow melons. I really think people should have the experience of being able to eat a watermelon fresh from the garden.” Last year they grew Sweet Dakota Rose, Blacktail Mountain, and the heirloom Gnadenfeld. 

Peggy was part of the Organic Vegetable Seed Production course, offered in partnership by Canadian Organic Growers (COG) and The Bauta Initiative, and takes part in EFAO monthly seed meet-ups and their annual conference. “It’s been through these activities that I have gained so much more confidence and built a great network of people that I rely on, and that have really helped me develop my confidence and grow our seed business.” Peggy also led a Farmer-Led Research Project through EFAO on whether covered structures would improve lettuce seed production in northern Ontario. 

“Prior to Bauta really taking off, I feel like seed wasn't a conversation in the local food system. And I feel like it has gained so much more momentum as a result and I just see so many people looking at seed and experimenting with it and doing so much more work around seed when they weren't even thinking about it before, which I think is really great. I feel like the conversation and the relationships that Bauta continues to foster is the most important part. I have all these people that I can reach out to now. Like, the other day I was like, ‘Hey, where do you get your seed racks?’ Like I'm struggling so hard and then people give answers so fast and the problem is solved! I don't think that I would have had the relationships I do now in the seed world if Bauta wasn't around.”

Credits

Thanks to Meredith Davis, Good Roots Consulting, who conducted the farmer interviews for this story.