Seed Saving for Urban Gardeners

Practiced by farmers and gardeners for thousands of years, seed saving strengthens food security at the community level, empowering people to reclaim control over their food supply. With the unsustainable practices of industrial farming on the rise and our precious crop diversity disappearing, a new paradigm of seed growing, saving, and sharing is necessary.  Our urban context offers some particular advantages for seed saving.  With little to no chance of cross pollination from industrial agriculture urban gardens have a unique advantage for raising genetically pure seeds.  Though this benefit is not without its challenges.  As urban gardeners we know that space is always at a premium, and many of the techniques used in organic farming rely on having access to abundant land.  This course will address these concerns specifically and offer solutions for the urban gardener to save seed with confidence.

This three week intensive course is designed to offer a comprehensive yet accessible overview of the science, social/political context, and craft of seeds.  Not only will you learn these skills, but you will be introduced to a local network of gardeners and seed savers who will serve as you peers as you continue to seed save in the region.

Appropriate for teens and adults, this course is for gardeners, teachers, NGOs, activists, and anyone interested in turning the tide on the industrialization of our food system.


Features of the course

      • Plant anatomy and sexual reproduction in vegetable plants
      • Understanding of plant genetics, breeding and selection
      • Social-political context of seeds today
      • Hands-on skills for harvesting, storing and cleaning seeds
      • Course pack with extra readings for further study
      • Catered lunches during Saturday classes

Course Outline

Date Time Topics Guest Lecture
Thursday November 3 7-9pm Why Save Seed? Seed Basics, Plant Anatomy
Satuday November 5 12-4pm Seed Industry, Genetics, building isolation cages Thibault Rehn – GMOs in Quebec
Thursday November 10 7-9pm Genetic diversity ,Taxonomy, Pollination
Saturday November 12 12-4pm Harvesting, Storing, and Cleaning Seed, building screens Dan Brisebois – Tricks of the Trade
Thursday November 17 7-9pm Breeding Systems, Selection & Evaluation
Saturday November 19 12-4pm Seed Enterprises and Education, Germination testing Bauta Foundation – Seed Advocacy


The course will take place at the at the City Farm School Gardens at Concordia University – Loyola Campus (NDG).  All topics listed will be covered in the course, though some minor changes may be made to the order.

This course will ask participants to be very involved.  We will employ many different training techniques throughout the class, to help ensure that all learning styles are respected.  Participants can expect to be working in groups, working in the field, problem solving, getting dirty, listening, writing and talking.  This will be a very hands-on, interactive class!


Guest Presenters

Thibault Rehn
Thibault RehnCoordinator Vigilance OGM
Thibault Rehn is a long-term environmental activist, now co-founder and coordinator of the Vigilance OGM.  The organization which oversees the campaign “Exigez l’étiquetage!” He is interested in issues related to GMOs and pesticides as well as citizen mobilization, which he considers essential to achieve a more just and sustainable society.  An engineer by training, he worked several years at Greenpeace Quebec as a volunteer coordinator.  And… he is a graduate of City Farm School’s market gardener program!
Dan Brisebois
Dan BriseboisFarmer at Ferme Cooperative Tourne-sol
Dan Brisebois is a founding member of Tourne-sol Cooperative Farm, begun in 2004.  Located just outside of Montreal, Tourne-sol is an employee-owned cooperative with five members, engaged in about seven acres of vegetable and vegetable seed production.  The farm produces certified organic vegetables and seeds that are distributed through a 400 member CSA, farmers market, and on-line seed catalogue.  Dan has a BSc in agricultural engineering from McGill University.  He is a past president of the Canadian Organic Growers, as USC board member and on the Eastern Canadian Organic Seed Growers Network steering committee and co-author of “Crop Planning for Organic Vegetable Growers”. You can reach Dan at at  and follow his blog at
Bauta Family Initiative on Canadian Seed Security
Bauta Family Initiative on Canadian Seed Security
The Bauta Family Initiative on Canadian Seed Security is building a national movement to conserve and advance seed biodiversity, keep seed in the public domain, and promote ecological seed production.  Many dynamics in the contemporary agricultural landscape add up to a seed and food system that has negative impacts on human and environmental health, and that is vulnerable to severe weather, pests, diseases, and rising soil salinity.  As Canada’s climates change, so too must our approach to food production.  Broadening the range of crops and varieties we grow, and investing in the development of varieties adapted to ecological farming and Canada’s diverse growing environments will increase the resilience of our agricultural system

How to apply?

To ensure that all participants have enough access to the presenters and the hands-on materials we will limit enrolment to 20 people.  We ask that anyone interested please fill out the application form found here. The purpose of the application is to evaluate the learning level of the class so that we can be sure to tailor the course to your needs.

The cost of the course is $200.   This covers the cost of all materials, course pack, lunches for the Saturday sessions and the training you will receive.

Bursaries are available for those who need them.  We do not want cost to be a limiting factor for participants, so we are working to develop a sustainable model for those who need support financially.  For more information on bursaries, please email

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