The following timeline shows how The Kingston Area Seed System Initiative (KASSI) developed within the context of national and international events:
1960-70: Beginning of corporate takeovers of small regional seed companies across North America. Locally, this is noticed by Carol and Robert Mouck, certified organic market gardeners near Napanee.
1975: The Seed Savers Exchange begins its work of saving the people’s seed and heritage seed in the U.S.
1984: Seeds of Diversity Canada (SoDC) is now an independent charitable corporation operated by a volunteer board of directors. (This group was formerly known as the Heritage Seed Program, a project of the Canadian Organic Growers.)
1990: “Until the 1990s, seed development in Canada was public. Researchers were on the public payroll at public universities, and Agriculture Canada facilities developed new varieties to meet farmers’ needs and then turned those varieties over to farmers at low cost. In the early ‘80s, the public sector did 95% of plant breeding in Canada and 100% of breeding for cereal crops and oilseeds.” National Farmers Union (NFU) Fact Sheet #3.
1990: The Canada`s Plant Breeders Rights bill was adopted. [The 2014 Canadian Food Inspection Agency website describes this bill thus: “Plant Breeders’ Rights (PBR) are a form of intellectual property rights by which plant breeders can protect their new varieties in the same way an inventor protects a new invention with a patent.”]
1999: Carol and Robert Mouck, in partnership with the Sisters of Providence of St. Vincent de Paul begin their seed saving work on the Motherhouse grounds. The Heirloom Seed Sanctuary (HSS) is born, saving almost 400 varieties of locally-adapted and heirloom vegetables, flowers, and herbs.
2006: Seed Saving workshops taught by Carol and Robert begin in the HSS barn.
2008: A symposium on Seed Issues is held at St. Lawrence College in partnership with NFU Local 316, Unitarian Service Committee (USC) Canada, the Action Group on Erosion, Technology and Concentration (ETC Group), and others. Wolfe Island farmer Kathy Rothermel teaches a seed saving course at St. Lawrence College.
2008: The first Kingston area Seedy Saturday is hosted on Wolfe Island.
2008: Professional horticulturist Cate Henderson is hired full-time to continue the ministry of the HSS.
2008: The Eastern Canadian Organic Seed Growers Network is formed.
2009-2010: Seed Saving workshops designed for farmers take place through the New Farm Project, of NFU Local 316.
2011: Seeds are the focus of the Guelph Organic Conference.
2011: A proposal is launched for a seed system in Kingston, tentatively named ‘KASSI–Kingston Area Seed System Initiative’. A committee comprised of Kathy Rothermel, Howe Island farmer Dianne Dowling, Kingston Unitarian Fellowship Rev. Kathy Sage, and Heirloom Seed Sanctuary seed saver and gardener Cate Henderson begins to meet to review the proposal and consider actions.
2012: USC Canada and Seeds of Diversity Canada sponsor a nation-wide pilot project on Canadian Seed Security. The pilot project, funded by the Bauta Family Foundation, sponsors Cate Henderson to lead Training for Trainers for Ontario stakeholders at the HSS.
2013: “The same half dozen [global] companies control two-thirds of seed production, 70 percent of pesticide production, and 75 percent of private agricultural research budgets, far outstripping any government’s resources.” From Tunis 2013, conference co-hosted by GRAIN, the ETC Group, and La Via Campesina (International Peasants Movement).
2013: The 6th Annual Kingston Seedy Saturday is held, and over 300 people participate.
2013: KASSI receives a $2,000 grant from the Ontario Natural Food Co-Op (ONFC) Community Development Fund to be used toward public education projects.
2013: The Kingston Seedy Saturday committee joins KASSI, and KASSI becomes its parent organization.
2013: The Ontario Public Interest Research Group (OPIRG) in Kingston agrees to partner with KASSI to lend project support. Two Kingston area seed growers are contracted to grow trials through the Bauta Family Initiative on Canadian Seed Security (BFICSS) and Seeds of Diversity Canada (SoDC).
2013: KASSI receives a $4,000 grant from the Bauta Foundation for the purpose of preserving a subset of the HSS seed collection in a second location, and to grow out and distribute heritage seed for the general public.
Feb. 2014: KASSI receives a Seed Facilitation Fund grant of $2,500 from the Bauta Foundation to support regional farmer training, and to build training materials for children.
March 2014: KASSI supports the 6th annual Seedy Saturday event in Kingston, and introduces the Seeds Grow Food project to the public. Hundreds of people attend. There are displays and exhibitor booths on three floors of the Kingston Unitarian Fellowship Hall. Our website, www.SeedsGrowFood.org, goes live.
August 2016: KASSI is incorporated as a Not For Profit organization! We received funding from the Bauta Foundation to grow open-pollinated seeds in Community Gardens in the Kingston area!
2017: We grew out twenty varieties of open-pollinated plants for genetic preservation at Edible Forest Farm near Inverary. Thanks to Michelle Thomas and Bob Chambers for sharing their gardens with us and generously supporting this project! We partnered with Loving Spoonful to clean and process these seeds in the fall!
2018: Commercial seeds are now controlled by three multinational chemical companies with the merger of Dow and Dupont, Monsanto and Bayer and Syngenta and ChemChina.
A grant from the City of Kingston and the United Way allowed us to hire a project manager and a Community Seed Garden Coordinator. We thank them for their generous support. These grants allowed us to expand the beds and grow-outs in Community Gardens.
Varieties were also grown out at Edible Forest Farms, Inverary thanks to Michelle Thomas and Bob Chambers. You two are champions!
April 2019: KASSI and Ratenhythos accept the Heirloom Seed Sanctuary seed collection from the Sisters of Providence. We will be growing the seeds in Community Gardens and at Edible Forest Farm, Inverary thanks to the support of the Sisters of Providence for one year.
2020: The COVID pandemic has exposed the vulnerabilities and inequities of the agribusiness/industrial food system. KASSI will be growing out almost 50 varieties for seed and food in Community Gardens, farms and gardens in the Kingston Area thanks to our generous volunteers and amazing growers! We want to be sure that we have local seeds for local needs in the future!