(Above) A rare tomato grown from seeds from the Dan McMurray Community Seed Bank. (Below) The seed bank's namesake

Creston Valley seed bank looking for volunteers

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Seed saving for the Dan McMurray Community Seed Bank in the Creston Valley will be even easier and more fun this coming growing season. Last year, volunteer growers said they learned a lot and enjoyed the process of growing seed plants and saving seeds.

In 2016, there will be a group leader for each type of vegetable. Each leader will recruit growers, distribute seeds or plants of the grower’s choice, and show them how to prevent cross-pollination and save seeds. Growers will donate seeds back to the seed bank, but keep most of the produce they grow.

Why is a seed bank needed? Seed banks help preserve varieties of plants that grow well in our climate and soils. With a wide variety of seeds available, we will have seeds that over time will adapt to climate change. As well, seed banks maintain diversity in food plants, whereas the variety in commercial seeds decreases every year. In the event of a major disaster, we would always have seeds available even when supply lines for goods are cut off. Plus, ecologically grown local seeds are just better!

The seed bank in Creston started in 2012, after the deaths of well-known tomato growers Dan and Val McMurray. In 2004, shortly after moving to the valley, Dan and Val started growing vegetables on their Wynndel flats property and collecting seeds. They traded seeds with growers around the world, and over the years developed a unique collection of open-pollinated seeds (offspring of these seeds are just like the parent plant, unlike those from hybrid seeds).

In 2012, the entire seed collection was donated to the College of the Rockies and the Creston Valley Food Action Coalition (CVFAC) in trust for the community. When the seeds were transported to the college, the collection included 1,600 varieties of tomatoes and many varieties of peas, beans, squash, melons, corn and peppers. Quite a few of these were rare heirlooms. It took a pickup truck fully loaded to move them all!

Volunteers and college staff were organized to sort and catalog the seeds. It took two full days because each variety had to be recorded on paper and then put into spreadsheets. Since then, volunteers have been growing out as many varieties as possible and donating seeds to other seed banks. But each year the seeds get older. Now the best varieties will be selected to grow out to replenish the stock before the seeds die. And the bank intends to expand to other types of vegetables.

Over the next few months, the seed bank will be gearing up for a big growing season, and is looking for volunteer growers or people who just want to help. To learn more, attend Seedy “Saturday” on Sunday, Feb. 7, part of the Creston Valley Farmers’ Market at the Creston and District Community Complex. Or, find the seed bank on Facebook or email DMseedbank@gmail.com.

—DAN MCMURRAY COMMUNITY SEED BANK