Seedy event brings out green thumbs; leaves green in the wallet

A gathering of seed vendors and local gardeners brought out the green-thumbed crowds. While the stars of the show may have been the thousands of seeds up for sale, the real winner was the long-term savings.

Seedy Saturday was held on Sat., March 12, in the Heron Park Recreation Centre at 292 Manse Rd. The pay-what-you-can event featured vegetable and fruit seed vendors from across southern Ontario as well as workshops on gardening and a seed exchange.

If you invest $100 in seeds, you could come away with food that will last you a year and if you save the seeds they will just keep on giving back year after year.

— Karen Wright

Karen Wright, who sells organically grown seeds through her company Terra Edibles, had a booth at the exchange. Wright had over 1,000 varieties of seeds for purchase, but said you would only have to buy seeds from her once because they can be reused.

“You can go to the grocery store and spend $100 and come away with food for a week,” she said. “But if you invest $100 in seeds, you could come away with food that will last you a year and if you save the seeds they will just keep on giving back year after year. It’s a small price for a big return.”

This is the third Seedy Saturday to take place in Scarborough and the fifth within Toronto. The program started in 1989 in Vancouver but has spread and today there are 60 Seedy Saturdays taking place nationwide.

Katie Fullerton works as a community animator with EcoSpark, a company on contract to the city’s Live Green animation program. Fullerton was responsible for bringing the event to Scarborough and said the program is a great way to preserve Canada’s heritage seeds.

Fullerton defined a heritage seed as one that can be traced back at least 50 years.

“A lot of the seeds have been brought here by newcomers from places like Poland, Russia and South America and those seeds have adapted to our climate conditions,” she said.

While the seeds may have originated from various parts of the world, it’s the stories attached to the seeds that interests one one of the vendors.

Colette Murphy, 64, has been in the seed business for the past 16 years and had 400 varieties on hand at her booth. She said every seed has its own unique origin story but some are better than others.

Murphy talked about a beefsteak tomato with a unique name. She said during the ’30s when the depression hit, a man named M.C. Byles created a legendary tomato through cross breeding. Byles owned a radiator business and was known by the nickname Radiator Charlie.

“Charlie was growing these tomatoes and they were so big and so fantastic and so prolific that he decided to start selling them for a dollar a piece,” she said. “He was able to pay off his mortgage and that’s how the tomato got the name Radiator Charlie’s mortgage-lifter tomato.”

While Charlie may have used the tomatoes to get his riches, Murphy said she works seven days a week from sunrise until sunset for very little money.

“My son sometimes says, ‘you’re crazy to work this hard for so little money’ but this is what I love,” she said. “I do it for the passion.”

Wright also said she does it for the passion as well as the satisfaction of knowing where her food comes from and she wants to share that passion with others.

“I am thrilled coming to some of these shows,” she said. “Because people come up to me and say, ‘I’ve only got a balcony or a shade garden,’ and I say ‘god dammit go ahead and grow.’”