Thursday, 03 August 2017 00:00

Captivating Seeds: An Exciting Project Germinating in Montreal

Showcasing diversity in agriculture: 45 regionally-adapted organic vegetable varieties growing in Montreal's West Island.

Text "Captivating Seeds" and the "USC Canada" logo and tagline "How we grow our food matters" superimposed over an image of three different coloured pails each lying on black earth and spilling out a different kind of bean seed. 

(en français)

As part of its Canadian field program, USC Canada is germinating an exciting project on the western tip of Montreal.

With summer in full swing we are pleased to announce Captivating Seeds, a farm-based program showcasing 45 regionally-adapted crop varieties. We've partnered with the community food organization Santropol Roulant, and the co-founders of the Santropol Roulant farm, Howard Reitman and Samuel Oslund, to help incubate this new flagship project.

The Captivating Seeds pilot project is based on our work with 12 ecological seed growers in Quebec. Some varieties we are growing have been bred over many years, through seed growers' careful selection, including open-pollinated corn varieties, such as Wapsie and white corn developed by Coop Agrobio du Québec. Some are heritage varieties, like the Sweet Siberian Watermelon and the Winter keeper beet provided by Les Jardins de l'Écoumène. Others still, like the Buffalo Creek Indigenous squash offered to us by Le Noyau, have deep roots with the First Peoples of the land around Montreal.

This is your chance to learn more about some unique varieties of local beans, tatsoi, eggplants, peppers, radish, mustard, cabbage and much more! Through partnerships with producers, chefs, local organizations and members of the public, we are hosting a series of events to celebrate the heritage and diversity of varieties adapted to organic agriculture in Quebec's nordic climate.

From August to October, we invite you to get acquainted with these delicious ecological varieties and the producers working to bring them to life. We will be working with passionate volunteers, like Libertad Castro-Colina, to cultivate the crops, collect data from observations and install signage. We will also offer educational tours and informative workshops with partners to bring the stories of these seeds to life. Finally, we will work with the emerging USC Canada Chefs Ambassador Network to harvest, prepare, taste and compare varieties. The gardens are taking shape, so come on down!


Join us for our community tours!

August 10 + 24 and
September 14 + 28
4 PM to 5:30 PM
@ 261 Senneville Road (see map below)

Please register here in advance.

How to get involved

  • Come share your farming, seed growing and gardening experience at an informative workshop or knowledge-sharing activity.
  • Help us collect data using the "Crop Observation Forms" on the varieties you are most interested in and come get some hands on experience with the project. To volunteer, start by filling out this form.
  • Join us at our community tours on August 10 + 24 and September 14 + 28 from 4 PM to 5:30 PM @ 261 Senneville Road (see map below). You can also help us promote on Facebook! Tours are free but please register here in advance.
  • We can also organize guided visits for groups, classes, businesses and non-profits. Come learn about initiative and take advantage of the shaded areas to have a meeting or discussion. Please register here in advance
  • If you are a chef, restaurateur or are curious about what these varieties taste like and want to meet seed growers and farmers, join our local seed celebration festival, "From Seed to Flavour - A Culinary Journey" in Montreal on October 2.

All of our work starts with seed, so we know that the best things start small, but grow over time, and with lots of local help.

Our 300 square metre pilot plot at the Santropol Roulant farm is part of an established and growing farming community on the island of Montreal. Knowledge sharing between farmers, gardeners and seed breeders, along with farmer-led research, are the cornerstones of our programming at USC Canada. We are working with our neighbours to present and celebrate the unique agrobiodiversity and agricultural heritage of the St Lawrence watershed.

We look forward to sharing this participatory "seed to flavour" experience with you!

Learn more about Captivating Seeds

Hugo Martorell, Quebec Regional Coordinator, The Bauta Family Initiative on Canadian Seed Security
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Contact Laura Howard if you are a chef or restaurateur
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Contact Samuel Oslund, the farm manager, for farm-related inquiries
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How to get there

On Transcanadian/Highway 40 West, take exit 40 and turn right on the Chemin Senneville.

Take a right at 261 Senneville Road, go down the road, past a yellow house and onto the dirt path. When you see greenhouses and barns on the left, turn in and park there.

Thank you

A big thank you to all our partners, including the Santropol Roulant and seed growers throughout the region: Patrice Fortier (la Société des plantes), Loïc Dewavrin (la Coop Agrobio), Teprine Baldo (Le Noyau), Lyne Bellemare (Terre Promise semencière artisanale), Jean-François Lévêque et Guylaine St-Vincent (les Jardins de l'écoumène), Brian Creelman (les Semences Nourricières/Seeds for Food), Olivier Légaré (les Semences du batteux), Daniel Brisebois (la Ferme Coopérative Tourne-Sol), Petra Page-Mann (Fruition Seeds), Christine Pumbu (Potager Africain Coopératif), Monique Michaud and Richard Favreau (Ferme Val-aux-Vents).

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LottaHitschmanova tbnWhat's in a Name?

We’re called USC Canada because we started out way back in 1945 as the Unitarian Service Committee, founded by the energetic Dr. Lotta Hitschmanova. We’re still planting the seeds that Lotta sowed. Find out more about our founder, Dr. Lotta Hitschmanova.



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