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Seed Stewards renew commitment to caring for local heirloom seeds

Kathy Rothermel, KASSI Chair at the time the image was taken; Cate Henderson,
curator and seed grower for the Heirloom Seed Sanctuary Collection; and Janice Brant, Co-Chair of Ratinenhayén:thos at the Rematriation Ceremony in April 2019.

After the closure of the Sisters of Providence Heirloom Seed Sanctuary in Kingston two years ago, the seeds in their possession were gifted to the Kingston Area Seed System Initiative (KASSI) and Ratinenhayén:thos, an Indigenous seed stewardship organization at Tyendinaga.

At that time a Rematriation Ceremony was held, with everyone involved committing to continue to care for these locally-adapted, open-pollinated seeds that can be legally grown, saved and shared, according to a joint media release from Ratinenhayén:thos and KASSI.

Two years later, on Saturday, Apr. 17, 2021, the three organizations will renew their commitment to the seeds, in an online anniversary celebration.

“Friends of our seed stewardship work are invited to join us, to recognize the central position of seeds in our culture and our food system,” said Janice Brant, Co-Chair of Ratinenhayén:thos.

In 1999, the Sisters of Providence of St. Vincent de Paul established the Heirloom Seed Sanctuary at the Providence Motherhouse, Kingston, beginning with a living collection of heirloom seed owned by Robert and Carol Mouck, according to the release. The Moucks grew out the seeds each year, saved seeds and held workshops and other public events to spread knowledge and to distribute the seeds in the community. After their retirement in 2008, this work was continued at the Providence Motherhouse by gardener, Cate Henderson, until the closure of the sanctuary in 2019.

“The Sisters of Providence are very pleased to have been part of the important work of the Heirloom Seed Sanctuary and to continue to connect with the two community groups that received our seed collection,” said Sr. Diane Brennen.

“We want to celebrate these precious open-pollinated seeds because our ancestors selected them, cared for them and shared them with each other. They are the foundation of our food system,” echoed Cathy Christie, Chair of the Kingston Area Seed System Initiative (KASSI). “Our vision is that in the future every household in our region will have a cupboard with jars of open-pollinated seeds saved from previous years to grow more local food and local seeds, making our regional food system more self-reliant and resilient.”

Register to share in this celebration of seeds on Eventbrite. The event takes place online at 10 a.m. on Saturday, Apr. 17, 2021.

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