What about seed miles?

More and more, people are paying attention to their food miles. And it is something we all should pay attention to. Of course, we backyard gardeners smugly proclaim that our food miles are zero for anything we grow ourselves.

But what about our seed miles?

I really got thinking about this when I put in my first-ever seed order to what I thought was a local source.

When the seeds arrived, I was amazed, and not in a good way, to find out just how many of them came from overseas.

Of course, it takes much less energy to ship a packet of seeds as compared to the food that packet represents, but by out-sourcing our seed production business we are, once more, neglecting the development of a critical step in local, sustainable food production. So while I used those seeds, I looked for alternatives for future seed purchases.

And I've narrowed it down to three main sources:

1. Local grower and tomato-growing virtuoso, Linda from Tree & Twig Farm. This farm is just down the highway from me, and is where I got my tomato and pepper transplants last year. Linda is also the one that gave out the free beet seed late last summer for the Great Beet Challenge. Which reminds me, I never did a follow-up on that.  I planted. They grew. Something ate them at the seedling stage, killing Every. Last. One. Grrrr.....

2. The Cottage Gardener. Not quite local, but within the fabled 100 miles (almost at the very edge, but still inside it), and certified organic, this mail order site is the next place I look for anything I can't find from Tree & Twig.

3. Richter's Herbs. The go-to company for all my herb needs. They sell both seeds and live plants, and without exception, every thing I have ever bought from them was of excellent quality. And they too are within that 100 mile boundary. And as many of my herbs are either perennials or self-seeding, I rarely buy anything here. What I do look for every year though, is what they offer from their SeedZoo, a source for very rare and different crop varieties.

On the odd chance I can't find what I want from these three suppliers, then, and only then, will I go to one of the big companies.

To go off on a tangent, do you realize just how MANY choices there are for seed? The sheer number of choices astounded me - especially considering how little advertising most of them do. And if I can offer a bit of advice, a bit more advertising might be a good thing - I cannot count the number of times I see one, and only one, Canadian seed producer mentioned in any blog post or on-line article talking about sourcing sustainably-grown seeds. And while I have nothing personal against Salt Spring Seeds (although I do have to admit I find some of his conspiracy theories a bit... odd), I cannot help but think that maybe, just maybe, crops that grow well a few miles down the road might be a bit more suitable for my garden than those growing in a completely different climate on a Pacific-coast island over 4500 km away.

I do realize that at least some, if not all, of the seeds offered by these sources aren't actually from local sources. I know some of the seeds offered at Tree & Twig are actually grown there, while the rest come from SSE. I haven't found a source that offers 100% locally grown seed (nor have I found a source yet for seed potatoes), and so, this is the best I can do for now.

Of course, saving my own seeds would effectively reduce my "seed miles" to zero...


  1. Interesting post! And something that isn't often mentioned in the "local food" discussions.

    Last year I ordered most of my seeds from Hope Seeds which is a small company in NS (with seeds coming from growers throughout the Maritimes) and bought the rest at the local coop, but the seeds may have been from away, I didn't check. This year I will order from Hope Seeds again, and also from Vesey's which is a PEI company, but I will make sure to double-check if their seeds are actually from PEI. Thanks for making me think about this :)

  2. Marcelle again - I just contacted Vesey's seeds to ask where their seeds are grown and received a reply that they are grown throughout the world, with a specific mention of Oregon and Washington - which is most definitely not local to New Brunswick. I'm even more thankful now to have Hope Seeds as a Maritime-grown seed company.

    Happy growing!

  3. Thanks Marcelle - I hoped the post would get more people thinking about this, and supporting their local seed growers!



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