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On fostering biodiversity - with seed saver Teprine Baldo

  • 5 min read

Oneka's farm is operated after the principles of permaculture, with the intention of caring for and preserving the ecosystems it is part of. 

Dedicated to this mission, is an ecosystem of people. Humans who, through their hard work, time, energy, talent and knowledge, contribute to growing our plants, and our name, while limiting our footprint on our habitat and regenerate it.  

We want to express our gratitude for these special humans by shining a little light on their work and will feature them here occasionally. 

Today, let us introduce to you Teprine Baldo, seed saver, or seed sheperd as she likes to say, founder of Le Noyau

Teprine operates a 5-acre farm in Standbridge East, Quebec, very close to the Oneka farm.

There, she grows some of her family's food and works at saving and protecting heirloom plants and seeds, some of which are indigenous to the area, and some come from other places in the world. Teprine sells her organic seeds to the local community of growers and gardeners, seasoned and new. She is a nurturer and a transmitter of knowledge.

She is passionate to share what she has learnt over the years so that as many people as possible connect, reconnect with the soil, the joy and sense of purpose of growing their food and their garden. 

Some of the calendula and sage used in the Oneka products formula is grown from Le Noyau seeds!

Oneka and Le Noyau share a love and connection to the Living and most importantly, they support each other in what they are called to do, which is being keepers and stewards of the land. 

This mission is paramount in their collaboration. One way of protecting and regenerating de land they were entrusted with, is to support biodiversity.

Diversity of plants and animals is very important. It makes living things adaptable. It allows wild and domesticated species to withstand threats like diseases, climate changes, pests, and other unpredictable conditions. With enough variation in a group, there will always be some individuals that are naturally suited to survive and can thrive under any changing situation. 

Food biodiversity is a key ingredient in creating a secure and sustainable food system. Diversity in plants also gives us a "treasure chest" of options for raising the healthiest and most productive crops. No matter what changes happen in our food system, we will always be able to adapt if we have enough genetic diversity. 

The problem is that plant genetic diversity is disappearing. Fast. Like the erosion of a building's foundation, this "genetic erosion" threatens to destroy the system of food and farming that has been built on plant genetics for over 10,000 years. There are still thousands of varieties to choose from, but the vast majority of them are endangered. Hundreds become extinct every year. 

Today, only a tiny fraction of Canada's crop genetic diversity is available to farmers. Most varieties are forgotten and all but abandoned in seed banks. Of the 7,098 apple varieties documented as having been in use between 1804 and 1904, for instance, about 86% have been lost. Similarly, 95% of the cabbage, 91% of the field corn, 94% of the pea, and 81% of the tomato varieties no longer exist. 

Did you know that 75% of global food biodiversity has become extinct in the past 100 years? 

A century ago, millions of seed-saving gardeners and farmers kept our plant varieties alive. They maintained thousands of "heritage" or "heirloom" varieties as part of traditional agricultural practice. But in modern times, people stopped saving their own seeds, leaving the job up to seed companies and gene banks. Unfortunately, there are only about 250 seed companies in North America, and only a handful of people working at government seed banks. The work of millions of ordinary people just can't be done by a relatively small number of professionals, however skilled and well-equipped they may be. 

These facts were gathered and explained by fellow seed savers: Seeds of Diversity.

Alarming? Yes... 

We wanted to learn more about the work of seed savers like Teprine because, as just explained above, it is of the utmost and critical importance. So, we asked her: 

How do you support biodiversity in your work as a farmer and entrepreneur? 

As a mother and a farmer, I make a point of growing the seeds for the food we love to eat, what we use in the kitchen to prepare meals.

As a seed saver and entrepreneur, a lot of my work consists in building relationships with growers to raise their awareness about their role in the process of collecting seeds, biodiversity and a part of their food sovereignty. 

On my land, I work at preserving indigenous species of plants, as such I follow a specific set of scientific guidelines so these plants' purity can be intact and protected. I work as a keeper of the local and international plant genome heritage. 

It is very important to me to share and spread (like seeds) the knowledge I have acquired over the years alongside my esteemed mentors. If we want more people to have access to nutritious foods, there needs to be more individuals doing what I do. That is why the building of local growing and seed saving communities is so important, to inspire, support each other in our mission for common good. 

Spring is here, a lot of us are getting busy seeding, transplanting, planting in our kitchens, green houses, gardens, court yards, balconies etc.  

So, we asked Teprine: what can each of us do to go in the right direction and support biodiversity while gardening? 

 

  • Start small! Whether you wish to grow aromatic herbs, vegetables for your cooking or flowers/plants for their beauty, select the type and number of plants based on the time, energy and level of commitment you are willing and are available to provide. Planning too big can result in getting overwhelmed by the task at hand. Start small, to enjoy the process, own it, reflect on it, learn from the inevitable mistakes. And maybe next year, you do a bit more. 
  • Familiarize yourself with your local plant hardiness zones 
  • Prefer seeds and plants that strive with minimal intervention of the human hand, low maintenance species if you will. Example: peas and lettuce
  • Buy your seeds locally. 
  • Pollinators provide crucial work in support of plant and food diversity. Each type of plant attracts a different group of pollinators. For example: carrots are pollinated by flies. If you wish to help and invite pollinators in your garden, plant, help propagate seeds of melliferous plants that will attract them. They will help your garden in return! 
  • Leave areas of your garden alone to allow for rewilding and regeneration. Manicured cut down lawns with only one type of grass can reduce the biodiversity of soil and pollinators in your region. Dandelions, on the other hand, are the most incredible aids to biodiversity for insects, the soil and even humans!
  • Connect with your local community: whether you live in the countryside or in a city, there are growers and gardening enthusiasts everywhere. Seek them out. 

Working and talking with Teprine has been yet another opportunity to witness our interdependency with nature and its elements. We are not above it, we are not separate from it, but part of it. 

When paying more attention to our food ecosystems, we are faced with uncomfortable facts, with choices to make but in this process, we are given the chance to reclaim our connection to our own food, to what sustains us, to ourselves, to one another, to our humanity really. It is both humbling and empowering.

 

Here are some other recommended seed saving companies selling outside of Quebec:

Annapolis Seeds Nova Scotia - https://annapolisseeds.com/

Hope Seeds Nova Scotia - https://hawthornfarm.ca/

Hawthorn Seeds Ontario - https://hawthornfarm.ca/

Heritage harvest Seeds Manitoba - https://heritageharvestseed.com/

Salt Spring Seeds BC - https://www.saltspringseeds.com/

Seeds of Diversity  Canadian Seed bank - www.seeds.ca

 

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