Saving seeds and growing food close to home on P.E.I.
Tina Davies has an entire room in her house dedicated to seeds.
Glass jars line the wall, and there are plenty of seed packets around.
Davies and her husband Arthur are the co-founders and currently the only members of the P.E.I. Seed Alliance.
They estimate they have seeds from more than 1,000 varieties of plants, including more than 100 types of tomatoes, dozens of different beans, and several rare squashes.
Each seed has been carefully adapted to P.E.I.'s climate and growing conditions, Davies said.
"They start to adapt over the years. And they will grow in colder temps. And we have to worry now with the heat in the summer. We've had a few really hot summers and some varieties I used to grow just can't stand the heat," she said.
"And so ... you just trial them and see which ones aren't lost to insects, which ones can stand both heat and cold. And there's a lot that are really resilient."
The seeds come from all across Canada — everything from beans, peas and bell peppers to spinach, melons and zucchini.
Some are being grown for pest resistance, others for cold- or heat-tolerance.
Once the first crop is grown, Davies dries and saves the seeds.
"You put them in a strainer and wash them and then you lay them out and dry them. And then you store them in jars for the winter," she said.
Davies packages seeds each week to be mailed out, dropped off locally, or sold at the Summerside Farmers' Market.
The Cooper Institute, located at Charlottetown's Voluntary Resource Council, is one of the pickup points for seeds.
Institute program co-ordinator Ann Wheatley said seed-saving is about empowering people to take control over the food system.
"You know if we were to depend just on the large global food system, we'd be depending on a few varieties of seeds, very limited. But with saving seeds at the local level you're able to really diversify and grow many more varieties," she said.
Wheatley said it's also about "preserving some of the diversity and the beauty of some of the fruits and vegetables that we grow," and keeping heirloom varieties in production.
As for saving money by gardening and saving seeds, there are a few things to take into consideration.
"I think it is true that by producing your own food you can reduce the costs associated with feeding yourself," Wheatley said.
"But gardening takes time and in today's world not everybody has a lot of time to spend on gardening.... But I think people do understand as well that it's something that has other benefits. You know, it's good for one's mental health to be able to plant a seed, see it grow, nurture it and actually be able to harvest something at the end."
Davies said the most popular items are common crops like greens and tomatoes.
But more recently, she's been focusing on different varieties of beans.
Especially because she's hearing from more folks who are worried about the rising cost of food.
"We've seen through COVID and the food insecurity that it's really important that people know how to grow their own food," Davies said.
A seed exchange called Seedy Saturday is taking place this weekend at the Summerside library from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m.
The following week there will be another Seedy Saturday, this time at the Charlottetown Library and Learning Centre starting at 10 a.m.
As Davies and her husband are getting older, she said they're hoping to inspire others to join the P.E.I. Seed Alliance.
And keep the seed-saving cycle going for years to come.