B.C. COVID-19 restrictions allow seed swaps — but no seeds | iNFOnews | Thompson-Okanagan's News Source

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B.C. COVID-19 restrictions allow seed swaps — but no seeds

FILE PHOTO- A Vancouver Island organization planning a seed swap is being told they can't have seeds to sell or swap at an upcoming event because of COVID-19 restrictions. Bedding plants are acceptable.
Image Credit: PEXELS
January 30, 2021 - 7:30 AM

It’s the time of year Seedy Saturdays and Sundays are sprouting in many local communities preparing for spring planting, but like most events, COVID-19 is having a lot to say about how this year’s events will be conducted.

No one is more aware of that than Janet Thony, President of Coombs Farmers Institute on Vancouver Island.

Her organization recently presented their COVID-19 plans for their Seedy Saturday meeting, scheduled for March 13, 2021, when the group was told by an Environmental Health official for the Island Health Authority said seeds wouldn’t be allowed at the event.

The group planned to have bedding plants and compost available for sale as well, which were ruled acceptable.

“It was very confusing. It wasn’t the Island Health Authority’s edict, but it was the result of an ambiguity in a document produced by the B.C. Centre for Disease Control,” Thony says.

The problem lay in a list of allowable foods to be sold. Thony says her group pored over the list for 10 days, asking different people to interpret the wording.

“It was amazing the range of responses we got, but that helped us clarify how to go forward and make an argument to the Public Health Office. The ambiguity and redundancy in the list made it impossible for any two people to interpret it the same way,” she says.

The Coombs Farmers Institute will be writing a letter to the Public Health officer, but regardless, Thony says the group will be proceeding with their event – with seeds.

Thony says the health officer couldn’t give her organization a definitive answer as to what the regulations actually meant, so they have responded with an interpretation of their own as to what constitutes food.

She said her cupboard was full of peas and beans and other 'foods' that were also seeds.

“We couldn’t determine what they meant by the words they chose to use,” she says.

She wonders if the ambiguity isn’t there on purpose, to discourage the annual seed meetings from taking place in any physical form.

Seedy Saturday and Sunday events will be taking place in many Thompson and Okanagan communities over the next couple of months. Some are planning virtual events while others make plans for an actual swap.

Rachael Fleming of Okanagan Master Gardeners in Kelowna says her group is unaware of any seed restrictions for their Seedy Sunday event scheduled for Sunday, March 14.

“Here in Kelowna we are working closely with the City of Kelowna to be sure we follow all COVID-19 regulations and restrictions set by the province. We are working hard to have a safe and successful day as we support sustainable gardening practices,” she said in an email today, Jan. 29.

A media spokesperson for Interior Health said in an email today seed swap events are currently suspended until Feb. 5, at which time it is expected provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry will address any new or continuing restrictions.

“In general, organizers can work with Interior Health environmental health officers to determine if their event meets the provincial health office’s guidelines and they have a COVID-19 safety plan implemented,” Interior Health said. 

Interior Health says they can't speculate at this point what restrictions might be in place for meetings scheduled in March.

National Seed Swap Day is traditionally held on the last Saturday in January — today.

Meant to be a reminder spring is just around the corner, the day’s commemoration of seed swapping is also part of a tradition that has been taking place for thousands of years.


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