97% of the seeds sold in Canada are imported. Most of the seeds that you will find in retail outlets are grown elsewhere in the world and simply packaged in Canada by the large recognizable seed companies like MacKenzie, Stokes and OSC Seeds.
Choose open-pollinated (OP) seeds to grow for food and seed. The seeds you save will grow plants that are the same as their parents. You can legally save and share seeds from these plants. Growing open-pollinated varieties for food and seed conserves the genetic diversity of each variety and builds climate-resilience.
Saving seeds from open-pollinated plants means that you will never have to buy seeds again and you will always have seeds for your favourite varieties on-hand that are ready to grow in the future.
Open-pollinated seeds are available on a sliding scale donation from the KASSI Living Seed Commons if you are willing to grow them out for seeds and food to share with others. Your donations allow us to continue our work!
You can purchase open-pollinated seeds from local seed companies that actually grow the plants and seeds in our region. All of these seeds will be better adapted to your growing conditions and more likely to thrive in your garden.
Bear Root Gardens and Kitchen Table Seed House are two local seed growers. You can meet them in person at Seedy Saturdays in March. We salute them for their commitment to producing quality local seed.
So what’s an heirloom variety? An heirloom can be described as a variety that has been passed down from generation to generation, likely because it has superior qualities or because it is a variety that is worthy of being handed down. This implies that heirloom seeds are open-pollinated but there is no legal definition of heirloom in Canada so look for open-pollinated or OP on the package- or ask to be sure.
Regardless of where you purchase your seeds you need to ask if the seeds have been grown organically in Canada. Organic growing practices are best for the environment and produce seeds that perform better in natural chemical-free gardens.
The Ecological Seed Finder will help you locate organic seeds that are grown in Canada.
Seed packets do not have to be labelled as open-pollinated (OP), hybrid or patented in Canada. If the seed packing companies choose to include this information it must be accurate.
Hybrids are created by crossing plants of two different varieties and generally do not produce offspring with the same traits as the parent plant. The seeds from hybrid plants will not grow the same as their parents if they grow at all. Hybrid seeds are not recommended for seed saving.
Some of the hybrid seed varieties that are available for the home gardener have been patented. It is illegal to save and share seeds from plants with a patent.
There are many genetically modified varieties of seeds (GMOs) available for large scale industrial farming. These GMO varieties often require large inputs of chemicals (fertilizers, pesticides and herbicides). It is illegal to save or share seeds from GMO varieties.