Celebrating Canadian Culture in Food & Seeds

Seeds are a connection between the past and the future. When you save seed from one crop, you anticipate planting, growing and harvesting more food in the future. But seed can be more -- it can connect us to our heritage.

Seeds are a connection between the past and the future. When you save seed from one crop, you anticipate planting, growing and harvesting more food in the future. But seed can be more -- it can connect us to our heritage.

For centuries, people from other nations have immigrated to what is now New Brunswick. Some were wealthy immigrants who brought huge loads of possessions to the New World. Others were refugees, fleeing political turmoil, poverty or famine. Some came to our land with only the clothes on their backs—but sometimes treasures were hidden in their clothes. Sewn into the hem of a dress or tucked under a hatband, there could be gold coins, a diamond or seeds. For an immigrant, seeds were precious links to their homeland and culture, and a promise for their future.

The Albert County Historical Society is honouring and celebrating Canada’s heritage as we approach the 150th Anniversary of Confederation. New Brunswick culture is a tapestry of influences from the Mi’kmaq, Wolastoq (Maliseet) and Passamaquoddy First Nations; settlers from what are now France, Germany, Ireland, Scotland, England and the U.S.; and more recent immigrants from all around the globe. Our rich cultural heritage is reflected in the diversity of foods we eat and the plants we grow.

In 2017, we will bring the stories of these cultures alive as we create a historical garden at the Albert County Museum in Hopewell Cape, NB. The garden will include plants with historical significance for the Maritimes and particularly Albert County, NB. We will plant crops that represent snapshots of Canada’s history, including

- plants harvested by the First Nations;

- grain grown on dykeland by Acadian Settlers;

- herbs passed from French settlers to Mi’kmaq and then to Acadian farmers;

- vegetables brought by German settlers 250 years ago;

- potatoes grown after the Irish Potato Famine, which brought many immigrants to Canada;

- vegetables brought by recent immigrants and refugees to Canada.

With each type of plant, we will tell a story about its possible link to our history. The sharing of stories and seeds can strengthen our culture as we look towards the future.

Long-term goals:

To help connect people with their heritage. History becomes alive when you bite into a bean that may be a descendant of beans brought by German immigrants 250 years ago. Enjoy the smell of fresh-baked bread made from Acadian wheat and learn how Acadians cleared and dyked land in Albert County centuries ago. Dig up potatoes and learn about the Irish Potato Famine and the value of biodiversity. … Teaching people about history takes many forms. Linking stories to the hands-on process of gardening and cooking, including in school gardens and cafeterias, can help teach stories to a greater diversity of people.

To preserve traditional varieties of crops. Every year, heirloom varieties are lost because no one saves the seed. By planting and saving seed (and tubers), we can build up an Albert County supply of heirloom vegetable seed and plantstock.

To teach people how to grow garden crops and save seeds. Seedsaving and even vegetable gardening are becoming lost skills. By planting, gardening and saving seed in public gardens (and perhaps offering workshops), more people in Albert County can learn these skills. This will help Albert County become more self-reliant in food and seed production.

To record plant profiles. The profiles will describe a plant, the story behind it and how the food is used (perhaps with a recipe). It will also describe the growth habit and provide instructions about when/how to plant, tend and harvest. Photographs will accompany the text and perhaps, in future years, these can be packaged with seeds.

If you want to tell the story of gardens or food in your past, or if you have seeds to share, please contact Janet Wallace at garden@albertcountymuseum.com.

This project is funded in part by the Government of Canada and conducted in partnership with the Pays de Cocagne Sustainable Development Group and la Musée des pionniers de Grande Digue in Kent County, NB.