What Strathcona 1890 is all about
Having lived in the Downtown Eastside of Vancouver for over a decade I have seen a lot of money thrown at dealing with poverty, addiction and homelessness over the years. The fact is, money can't fix everything.
For years I have lamented that, as a society, we tend to offer people hand outs rather than hand ups. I am also intimately aware of the challenges children of addicts face. I have helped raise three such children. In Vancouver's infamous Downtown Eastside there are numerous food programs, especially for kids in the inner city schools. Don't get me wrong, I think there is a need for these, however I also see a danger in kids learning life skills based on getting hand outs. I believe that kids need to develop a sense of independence, self-confidence and pride in their abilities in order to become healthy, balanced adults that can contribute to society.
For a number of years I looked for ways to support my community and I have done a large amount of probono work for organizations such as the Lower Mainland Christmas Bureau. I am also an avid gardener and have spent the last decade landscaping and planting what was once a lumpy plot of weeds and asphalt in the Downtown Eastside into an urban oasis. Recently, I have been very impressed with ideas coming out of innovative businesses like Soul Food, My Arms Wide Open and Urban Farming to name but a few.
With all this inspiration literally in front of me it is surprising that it took a conversation with an old friend who I had been helping out by developing packaging for her fledgling spice company. In a word, seeds. To be more exact, non-GMO, open pollinated, non-chemically treated, heirloom seeds for sustainable food resources. Seeds are really at the heart of the matter. Without seeds there are no plants, no fruits, no gardens...well you get the picture.
I came up with the idea to package heirloom seeds in a wonderful container using historical botanical illustrations that capture the feel of early Vancouver. My vision was to create collections of seeds that people with little or even no yard could grow in order to produce a portion of the food they eat. This would cut down on our carbon foot print as well connect people with the very nature of what they eat. I also find gardening good for my mental well being. I cup of tea or glass of wine in the garden can really take the edge off of a stressful day.
With the help of some very knowledgable people, who have been in the seed and nursery industry for over fourty years, I have selected non-gmo and untreated seeds for container gardens on urban balconies, roof top gardens and window boxes. With my background in branding and my training as an illustrator and fine artist, I decided to combine historical botanical illustrations that are in the public domain to create new stunning visuals for my packaging.
I also think too many people are afraid of gardening. So fear not - I came up with the Greenhorn Collection & Kids Starter Seeds just for you. If you have a black thumb, start out with the runner beans. Plant them one inch deep in a big pot of good soil, because they don't like to have their roots disturbed as they grow, add some water and sunlight and you will have plants started in 5-7 days. Added bonus - the flowers are edible and look spectacular in a salad. Even if you don't buy the Greenhorn Collection there are easy to grow seeds and step by step planting instructions in every package.
As well, I think people often find it hard to envision the final result of planting seeds. So I have included recipes and activities in every package. You will be amazed at the difference in taste between vegetables and herbs you buy in a store and what you can grow yourself. I also highly recommend the edible flowers which can add something special to appetizers, salads, cheeses, deserts and so much more.
Proceeds from sales of these unique collections of seeds help create new jobs in the Downtown Eastside as well as help develop sustainable food growing programs at Vancouver’s inner city schools, daycares and community centres. Job creation is focussed primarily on youth, single parents and people living on disability.
My children's programs have been with preschool and elementary school school children in the primary grades. It is a work in progress and we learn as much from every class we work with as they do from us. I am also hoping to create a roving truck farm that I can use as a demonstration of small space gardening.
I am dedicated to promoting positive change one seed at a time. I created Strathcona 1890 and developed and implemented the Urban Seed Project to help promote and develop local, sustainable food resources in the heart of Vancouver.
I really hope you will give these seeds a try. Help us change the world, one seed at a time.