By Heather Killen
A heritage seed business has taken root in Annapolis County.
Andrea Berry, owner of Hope Seeds in Belleisle, says her catalogue seed business is sprouting up everywhere. This small, mail order seed company was started in 1993 by Kim Edmondson, a stay-at-home mom in New Brunswick, and specializes in rare and heritage seeds.
According to Berry, founder Edmondson was mainly interested in growing and preserving heritage seeds, but by 2004, this enterprise had grown too big to manage on her own as a small sideline.
Berry, who grew up in the suburbs outside Toronto, moved to New Brunswick after she graduated from university. She first became interested in seed saving while she was managing the organic gardens at Falls Brook Centre.
Before long she and Edmondson were working together and by 2007, Berry had taken over Hope Seeds and combined it with a Truro-based seed company. Between the two small businesses, Berry was able to quit her day job and live her dream on a full-time basis.
In 2010, she moved the business from New Brunswick to the 60-acre farm in Annapolis. While last year’s rainy start put an early damper on the growing season, with a little help from fellow farmers, she was able to get things back on track by fall.
The heavy rains and run-off last spring caused her fields to remain too soggy to plant, but Danny Bruce came to the rescue by offering an acre of his organic land for her to use for seed and food crops.
Last week Hope Seeds was preparing shipments of several varieties of seed potatoes. The customer base is spread over the Maritimes and as far down as Vermont. About 200 varieties of flower, herb, and vegetable seeds are listed online and in the catalogue.
She specializes in seeds for several varieties of potatoes, sunflowers, ornamental grasses, beans, veggies, greens, squash, and delicious varieties of herbs.
These high-quality adapted seeds are specifically bred to thrive in a range of climatic conditions on small organic farms and gardens, she added. Many of the seeds come from Berry’s grower network of organic and sustainable family farms in Eastern Canada, but a few of the seeds are brought in from Quebec.
Berry networks with other small organic farmers, many whom have been practicing for decades. She is very selective about the quality of the stock she sells because Hope Seeds is as much about preserving the past, as it is about safeguarding the future.
Whenever someone buys Hope Seeds they are helping to support a local organic farmer, she added. Maintaining a healthy diversity of plant varieties will help ensure food security into the future.
“These varieties are tried and true for generations,” she said. “And we’re passing on how to grow and preserve the varieties.”
Part of the fun is preserving not only the heritage varieties of food, but the stories they carry, she says. Goose Gullet Beans have been cultivated along the French Shore since the late 18th century.
In 1755 when the Acadians were deported from Grand Pré, they purposely crashed their ships along the banks of Clare County. Survivors hid from the English, living with the Mi'kmaw in the woods. That fall, they discovered some beans in the gullet of a downed goose and saved and planted the seed the following spring.
Hope Seeds catalogues can be found at the Historic Gardens, Home Hardware, and at the Farmers Market in Annapolis Royal; at Noggins in Bridgetown, Denhaans in Middleton, and Scotia Gold in Coldbrook.
Hope Seeds is located 6473 Highway 1, in Bellesille and can be found online at http://www.hopeseed.com/, or by phone at 665-4905.