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Dan Jason


Accession Number Interviewer
Date Location
Media cassette tape Audio CD mp3 √
ID 118 Duration 31 min.




Unknown Speaker 0:06
I'm trying to feel it so as Bob said, I moved to Saltzman but 18 years ago. My gardening career started on software united, I never had an opportunity to garden anywhere else before. I had done some books on wild plants and how they were initially by by the native people here. When I first came here, I had my first garden and slowly but surely I had bigger and bigger and bigger gardens. And it evolved to the point where I was living on Blackburn road at the LSE, some of you will probably remember the people who purchased the Saltzman Center took over from across the road there 69 acre parcel, and I happen to be filming right across the street. What happened was I ended up getting their garden. I wasn't really into their philosophy and such but I became friends with with them all and they, they have this beautiful agricultural piece of land. And they needed somebody to manage it. And I ended up doing that. They had a budget for me. Even though I wasn't getting paid to be their gardener, I had as much money as I wanted to get as many seeds as I wanted and all kinds of equipment from road tour to really make me noticed that they had there. And so I started doing a lot of research on my love of gardening. I went through all the catalogs and got all my favorite things in that sense amount of testing. And my focus started being on on through exactly seeing people there that were coming on. They had retreats and workshops and lots of people with the software center. And they are vegetarian. So I tried to grow a lot of things that can be cooked up to provide substantial food. And they ended up the beans and brings all the all of the ordinary vegetables. But my my first exciting discovery was a soybean that was a black swan. I found that it was a very edible, like delicious soybean that can easily mature here. It's called black chips where I've been led to believe that soybeans just weren't for Canada at all, because there weren't enough units here. And also that soybeans always taken my gestion and they tasted horrible. But the soybeans were really great. And then the time I've served them to people at Saltzman center, they really like them and nobody ever had indigestion. What I did was try and make them available to quite a few other people and have them tested all the columns, etc. And when the reports came back the next year,

Unknown Speaker 3:17
everybody was very enthusiastic. They did well. So I went friend of mine told me that they had grants available to the Department of Agriculture in Sydney.

Unknown Speaker 3:36
They have several potential for new crops. And I did an elaborate preparation with backup, I always use letters of controversy. The soybean could indeed grow here and elsewhere in the province. They rejected me Of course, and men because we were doing research on TVs at the time. So that was the start of Saltspring seeds for me, because I decided well crazy to depend on the government. Why not just put out a little catalog and some of my other means together with the backup soybean and see what happens. So I did that. And the responses are great. And one thing led to another and I did more research and all the all the things that I started finding the most interesting were beans and grains of a huge diversity of beans. Not only soybeans, but regular beings and lima beans inside with beans and garbanzo beans and lentils and also started going through lots of different kinds of barley and I found that there was an amazing lack of catalogs that you can Get these kinds of foods because we've sort of given up that area over to big agriculture, knowing it's mostly very cheap to buy beans and grains and storage, and you don't normally think about growing them on garden scale. But what I was wondering where there are a lot of varieties that I was discovered, that had a really big flavor that were that were just not available anywhere else, a lot of research and connecting with people all over the states in Canberra, and just heirloom seeds that had been in people some weeks I started, I started researching and rotating these rallies. And I got to see that the this whole area was one that was just neglected in our culture. But the rest of the world has always been living on high protein crops that basically feel crops. Things like beans and like grains. In South America, you have some other grain crops like amaranth and quinoa, which are becoming quite well known now. So year after year, I was building up my collection of views and was getting quite popular. And might, I had this inspiration of building up a suit company, similar to the one that was a James suit company that was on sawston Way back. And this is here. And we have on Saltspring of fantastic places that were relatively freedom from his use from some of the mainland. And we have not big areas of agricultural land. But we have all these nice little valley bottoms that are good soil. They're isolated from each other, which means you can keep your your seed impurity, low lot of seeds, for instance of broccoli, it's all cross pollinate. So if you're growing one broccoli in one place, you can have somebody else growing another one somewhere else. So this was my my concept building up a similar kind of idea to what had already happened on talk to me

Unknown Speaker 7:07
two years ago. And now Now it's coming to be exactly like that, that kind of thing. I've

Unknown Speaker 7:18
no longer at Folsom center after many years on on my mental farm. And I live there and grow all the seeds. And I sell seeds all across North America, and, in fact, to Australia and Europe and Africa, every year that just doubles on himself. And now I'm finding other people on the island to roasting, swimming as well and becoming a network of people go and see the time supplying these new kinds of crops to the rest of Canada to farmers who are small farmers and to larger farmers. And this to me enough, I was just in the right place at the right time for all this because a lot of the crops that I first started growing just in 1988. Now I've gotten to be quite popular. When I started quinoa, which is a South American Conference, when I started going on in 1988. Nobody had ever heard of it. I turned a lot of people on to a lot of farmers even in the prairies, and now it's a commercial crop in Canada. And the same thing with black jet soybeans. Now you can find black soybeans, people are learning how to cook them. People are finding that there are in the soybeans that you don't have to. Only PETA animals are only turned into some other product like tofu or, or soy milk, you can just pick them up by themselves. And what if Keane was related to our ordinary technique, lambsquarters, which gardens would probably be pretty familiar with excepted puts out a very large seed hemp seeds that are like millet. And it's very high protein. I have, you'll see something on the slides here. And amaranth is another similar one. They're just about a four or five, six foot high plant that have very really leading with the relatives that we see in our gardens and we have ordinary pygmies in our garden. But these are crops that have sustained people in South America for 5000 years. You can turn into a flower but the thing about all these crops that I grow are basically all you have to do is you cook them up hold like do rice. And so the the their chief asset is you don't have to process them. You don't have to refrigerate them you don't have to carry them you don't have to turn them into something else. Even even the barley is in the weeks. There are some varieties that you can just cook up whole. So you get all the nutrition, all the benefits without losing the vitamins and processing them and all that kind of thing. Yeah Not a home gardener actually can process these very simply. You let them mature, the beans just mature on the vine, all the grains just mature. And it's just a matter of threshing them when they're when they're ready to harvest. But quite simple and simple techniques to like most of my beans, I simply put in a big rectangular box when they're totally dry like this on them, and all the pods come apart. So all this has become just as people are turning away from red meat diets, and a lot of people are finding that they're allergic to meat and dairy now, and they're also allergic to the kinds of meats that are over hybridized. And this is getting back to a more more simple kind of food that hasn't been over developed. So much of our sciences has worked on, on hybrids, and now we have these transgenic crops, which they take cues from from other plants, from other animals from bacteria, and they, and they put them in the mix the genes and now this was taught us that has characteristics, unlike anything you've seen before they have this transgenic tomato, which is new oatmeal, which they've spent six to $7 million to produce just they've just taking genes from a bacteria put it in a tomato so that the tomato doesn't rot. And my whole approach is the exact opposite. It's taking what nature provides, just like farmers have done for countless generations, I'm just selecting in the field, you select the ones that are the that produce the most or the taste the best. And then you work with those. And so tasting crops and controlling the students to such an extent that you can even see this. In hybrids, you can't say received any more than the company's control, control the season, you always have to go back to them. So that's the nature of Salt Spring season. Now we have this exciting thing happening on salt spring where Pokemon season has actually gotten to the known worldwide. And at National Farm, there's the largest commercial selection of beans and grains in North America, which is quite an exciting thing for this little island to be able to say that. And along with that. As Bob said to I'm involved with the heritage C program of Canada, which is a nonprofit organization, I wear a different hat with suspect because I'm the director of this program that aims to to preserve all the old varieties of seeds that have been kept in families and that we've almost lost because of all these hybrids that have been developed, but a lot of very, very good, good qualities. And it's just, they've just been neglected because they've been overtaken by people trying to make money overseas instead of really working with great genetic material that we have already. So as part of the search of C program, we have a network of people across Canada. And once a year, everybody lists the seeds that they have available. And it's usually for food crops, but it's also for herbs and flowers. And anything that you see that's listed that you like it's just a matter of, well, if James Jones of Oshawa, Ontario has this beautiful Hollyhock you just write him a letter, and they'll send you that oil. And it's a it's just a trading system read across the country. But this past year, an interesting thing came came up, wherein a friend of mine who lives up Vancouver Island in New York coordinate in a place called Merville. And then this remake was on shmini All by herself, acquired a lot of old fruit trees, a lot of very old features, some from Saanich and some from Europe. She built up a nursery nursery and called it solum river fruit tree nursery. And he had something like 250 Different kinds of old apples and plums and cherries. She phoned me up last year two summers ago and she wanted to get back to sculpting she what she didn't want to do this nursery anymore and she's being an orphan Olson she called me up and asked me what should I do? And it just so happened that I was going up canoeing with my husband my 12 year old daughter to Strathcona park that very same day, the next day, I got, I got together with her and we have this meeting. And what happened was, I decided that it would be just a fantastic thing to take this fruit tree nursery and bring him to Saltspring Island as part of the heritage C program, and the urgency program, could could run it as a commercial operation but but maintain its nonprofit status. And we just use the money. You know, we wouldn't make any profits out of it. But we maintain it. We did the custodians of all these. So I talked to all the other directors, and that, in fact, is what happened to me. We brought this song in nursery because ultimately we planted the orchards of these trees already so that there'll be permanent permanently established trees. But we also have the nursery at matzo farmer along with my salts, new seeds now, we're just in the process. Actually, today the fence is going up today, we're adding two more acres of of area to keep these fruit trees out of them for the nursing. They get mailed as just the no but that hi to people who want them across the country. And they're all as many of you know Saltzman Ireland was an incredible senators four weeks back, it was the biggest fruit tree growing area before the open authentication came on stripe itself with all their irrigation. It took over what's awesome it was. So it's, it's amazing to bring a lot of these trees back here. And we have over 350 different varieties and they're all the old names that probably a lot of you would recognize, you know, Cox's orange Pippin, and Brian's gold and stuff like that. And there's a couple of catalogs here actually, if anybody would be interested in seeing what we had, and there's also in the,

Unknown Speaker 17:07
the November, December, Canadian Geographic, Tom Kapil roto, just an extraordinarily great article about the whole history of the species and how the brought them to Saltzman and a couple of copies here, but if you if you're interested, you can look it up in the Canadian Geographic, the one just at the end of the year, the November December one. So now, not only do we have all this collection of beans and grains, but we have really the biggest collection of heirloom fruit trees in North America that's offered on a commercial basis. So the roles offspring, and we also have, I'm the garlic custodian for the program. Not so far we have 40 different varieties of garlic, I know most of you would just be amazed to know that there's more than one variety even. They come from all around the world. And they have different flavors and tastes and shapes. And you get to know them just like you get to know apple trees, or you get to know wines or you getting to know Jesus, and lots of different ways of differentiating them. And for me, it's it's really exciting and important to to know what we have in terms of genetic diversity. So much biodiversity on the planet is being lost is the loss really rapidly reducing something like 25,000 species a year. And the whole thrust of what I'm doing is trying to maintain these, these old sins because there's a there's a lot, a lot, a lot of value in them. And not only for the fact that they taste good, but because of hybridization because of hybrid seeds and the overdevelopment of seeds we have what our whole agriculture has gotten to be very narrowly based the genetic basis extremely narrow. And most people don't realize that because we take our food so much for granted. But all the crops that we grow, it's gotten to be so big, and the transnational corporations control to such an extent that it's a monoculture agriculture. And even though it looks like the when you go into a grocery store that you have just a vast choice. It's based on a very, very narrow genetic base. Our crops are extremely vulnerable. It's a disease strikes corn or wheat, it's likely to wipe out everything just because there's there's no inbuilt variation. farmers across the world have always shown chosen a diverse seed source. They don't they don't select for totally uniformity the way our culture does, and they keep a broad base We have all these all across, but they're not they're not in use anymore. And they represent what we can fall back on. If the crops that we do grow, fail. And this has happened a few times already crops, we had a serious corn season seven years under the bar the virus two. And what happens is, they go, when, when a situation like that happens and the disease is threatening all the crops, just in North America, pretty much and worldwide, they go back to places like Ethiopia that maintain a much broader genetic base, and they find something that's resistant, that has genes that are resistant to the virus or to the rust. And then they breed that into the crops safe. So I'm working on all these all these old heirloom heritage seeds. And that's basically the whole thrust of what I'm doing. An interesting bringing up to date with the story is, in the past couple of years, we've had some people visiting from Ethiopia, they're looking to make connections with what's happening with gardeners and farmers here in North America. And they when they came here to Salt Spring, two years ago, they were really surprised to see that some of us were growing the same crops that they grow in Ethiopia, they grow all the land crops, the field crops, that are basically beans and grains that all the garbanzos on the chickpeas, garbanzo, beans, chickpeas, lentils, strategies, beans, and barley and wheat, they have a vast collection of those. And when these new Neopia came here, they saw that we were really interested in the same thing that they are. And as a result, we had a conference here on talk to me on and just a few short months ago called selling the global pantry, preserving our world's food supply, talking about our shared desire to preserve all these old crops for basic nature for food security, so that we know that we have all this stuff to fall back on when when our modern cultivars are threatened. And what happened was they invited me to go to Ethiopia. And I went just this past November and December, to see what they were doing with their crops there. I wish I could tell you the whole story of it. Because it was very, very exciting and very interesting to me. But what was the main outstanding thing that that I was struck with in Ethiopia was that the the agricultural establishment there, the scientists, the people working with genetics, and the people in the government, are working with farmers, the farmers and the scientists are working together to preserve the old drives. Ethiopia, as you probably know, had really serious drought and famine and civil war not too long ago, and they almost lost their old crops. Just like it's happened so many other places in the world, they have to be thankful to receive all the gifts from Canada, in the form of our surplus wheat, and other grains. And when they did that, they basically stopped growing, they didn't have any of their their old crops, let's say when when the drones hit, they more or less had to eat their crops, the crops and the seed from them that they would normally say, for this for the for the coming here. So they have little of their own, they started they started growing all the hybrids, that we have all the really more developed kinds of grains and beans because they didn't have any choice. So they've been doing that for years and years, but since 1984 1985. But these Ethiopians that came here were responsible for trying to bring back their own crops. Because these Europeans have been farmers for 10,000 years and they know that their their crops have adapted to their specific conditions in Ethiopia, and they have a much broader base and they stand up to disease and pests better. And all the introduced varieties, the so called improved varieties, just they don't work very well has been found all over the world they need large When amounts of inputs, they only grow well with fertilizers, and they only grow well with a certain amount of irrigation and moisture. And they tend to not stand up to the frost as easily as, as the adaptive drivers. So what I saw in Ethiopia was the result of five years of multiplying the very tiny amounts of grain that they still had found in the country, to the point where now the Ethiopians are starting to grow their own their own crops again, and they're got to talk to the farmers in the fields. And they were just very, very excited to be growing their their old foods again. And the timing again, every every place we went, they said, This is just so much better. Because all these old crops of ourselves multi multipurpose uses they can be the animals are animals like them, they taste better for us, they can be used for so many different things. Some of them can be used for pursuit, some of them can be used for, for stew, some of them can be used for making beer. And they have such a broad base that it's all part of the culture, whereas New introduced crops just didn't do it for them at all. So this program is it's a two level approach in that they grow these crops. The scientists work with the farmers and they make sure to preserve them in the field. They grow their crops in the field, and they grow selections of them. They're selecting with the farmers to improve overall crop still. And at the same time, they have this gene back in Addis Ababa, where they have a backup system so that they can be sure if something happens in the field or in the gene bank. And if for some reason the ones in the gene bank

Unknown Speaker 26:59
don't work after they've been in there for too long, because they haven't adapted to the real conditions in the growing outside, then the what's going outside can backup. What's in the GMAT, it's a very simple concept just means that they're actually going stuff in the field, and they're actually growing. They're maintaining the same varieties in the GMAT. But we don't do that in North America. Everything that we have, we have pretty good gene banks, where we have all these old variety store, but we don't grow them out. It's called in situ growing, where you actually have people maintain these varieties in the field. And it's really crucial because as you all know, things are getting weirder and weirder, our weather is changing, to the point where we never know what to expect one year. So the next time we were having extreme weather conditions, you know, one year old, the extreme cold the next year will be extreme rain next year with the extreme heat. So we have got the ozone layer layer, and just all in all times, it's really crucial to have plants growing up so that they can adapt to these changing conditions. And I've come back from Ethiopia now wanting to do a similar kind of thing. In that we set up a good system of tracking and growing all these things while at the same time maintaining them to the federal governmental people are whatever you have in storage and gene banks but also growing so that we don't lose it. So my slides will just show you some of these crops and just a few shots of Africa. And as I'm joined the slides, if you want to come in with any questions, feel free. Then when I finish I can I can talk to you more. Okay, so move this back a little bit.

Unknown Speaker 29:06
Strong. Person by directly, yes, I have a CDROM as anybody ever wants to come to mental farm and see the garden and see my little secret in their logins under the living drives at Cesar and Vysa HMI there is feel free to have any O's No. Normal nine to five or six public on weekends. We're really excited about that garden this year. We'll have four acres there and we've been cleaning up the place and the garden is going to be extraordinary, I think so the time you want to come to have a visit

Unknown Speaker 30:00
Now that it's on that cell road, it's about a half mile down the road. Probably most of you know or metro road. Metro North of the long harbor road. And Canvas apartments and a half mile down is the only thing that looks like a farm. Looks like a farm lifestyle now hold on just a sec, but make sure I put this in the right way

Unknown Speaker 30:43

Unknown Speaker 30:47
I don't have a long distance slipper here, so I'm just going to sit down and do this one. Ethiopia was really amazing to me. I expect a country to be a country to be totally devastated and desperate like and people can be starving everywhere. And I didn't find out