New report highlights locally grown seed diversity in Canada

GUELPH – A new report titled “Building Climate-Resilient Seed Systems in Canada” highlights local organic seeds as key to food and seed security, and climate-resilient agriculture. 

The report comes from SeedChange, a non-profit based in Ottawa, in partnership with the Ecological Farmers Association of Ontario (EFAO).

The majority of vegetable seed sold in Canada is imported from the United States, Europe, and Asia, where it is bred and/or grown before being offered to Canadian seed companies for resale, according to the report. 

That model of importing and re-selling seed is useful for farmers looking for high volumes of competitively-priced seed, but it also creates dependence on a global supply chain. 

“A natural disaster, crop failure, or border closure anywhere in the world might affect seed availability for vegetable varieties that are important in Canada,” says Aabir Dey, SeedChange’s Canadian program director.  

The report highlights the farmers and seed growers in Canada who are working to develop local alternatives to this system. 

For the last three years, SeedChange has organized 24 “seed demonstration gardens” across Canada, including two sites supported by EFAO in Ontario, to showcase and evaluate local varieties of vegetables and grains grown on organic and ecological farms. 

Included in the report are profiles of unique vegetable varieties that have been developed and regionally adapted by farmers and seed growers in Canada. 

“I am so proud to announce the release of this report,” says Dey. 

“Organic and ecological farmers across Canada are creating more resilient seed systems by preserving heritage varieties, producing good quality local seed, and creating seed diversity on their farms through plant breeding. 

These regional seed varieties are tools for growers to become more seed secure, and better adapt to the impacts of climate change.”

One such variety is the Renegade Red pepper, bred through SeedWorks plant breeding club in partnership with EFAO’s farmer-led research program and the SeedChange’s Canadian program. 

In response to Ontario ecological farmers expressing a desire for an earlier-maturing red pepper with a blocky shape and excellent flavour, members of the club joined together in 2016 to develop this open-pollinated variety that is now in its sixth generation. 

Renegade Red seed contains broad genetics, making it more adaptable to changing climate conditions year after year. 

In an informal survey of farmers market attendees, Annie Richard of Kitchen Table Seed House reported that Renegade Red was the fan favourite in terms of flavour.

“After a few years of selecting for square-shaped, early ripening, and tasty peppers with my colleagues, we took Renegade Red to the farmers market with a few other varieties and had people vote on the pepper they liked most,” says Annie Richard of Kitchen Table Seed House, one of the farmers who participated in the breeding project. 

“Renegade Red won by a wide margin! It’s a lovely pepper for our region because it’s ready early, has a nice shape, and excellent flavour. We get a lot of great feedback about it.”

Gardeners and farmers who use organic and ecological practices need a diversity of regionally-produced seeds that are well adapted to local conditions. Regional seed varieties help fill a critical gap in the sustainable agriculture sector, concludes the report.

To read the full report, visit 

For a listing of companies offering regional seed, visit