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Yukon seed library distributing more seed packages than ever

'We just love getting seeds out to people and we just love it when people donate seeds back,' said Taryn Parker at the Energy, Mines and Resources library in Whitehorse, where the seed library is maintained. (Andrew Hynes/CBC - image credit)
'We just love getting seeds out to people and we just love it when people donate seeds back,' said Taryn Parker at the Energy, Mines and Resources library in Whitehorse, where the seed library is maintained. (Andrew Hynes/CBC - image credit)

The Yukon seed library has had its most prolific year, distributing a record number of seed packets to eager local gardeners.

The Energy, Mines and Resources Seed Library collects and distributes plant seeds that can be grown in the Yukon to its more than 600 members. Those who run it say the catalogue is both diversifying and expanding.

"We just love getting seeds out to people and we just love it when people donate seeds back," said Taryn Parker, a librarian at the Energy, Mines and Resources library in Whitehorse, where the seeds are kept.

In its 2022 - 2023 season, it distributed around 2,100 packets of seeds, but in its 2023- 2024 season, it has so far distributed almost 3,000 packets.

Parker says it's a contribution toward increasing food security in the territory.

"I just get super excited to prove that hey, you can grow things up here. You can grow fruit, you can grow potatoes, you can grow so many things. Even if you … only have a kitchen shelf, one little window, you can grow something in a container, or if you have a huge multi-acre property you can garden," she said.

The library is tucked in a back corner of the third floor of the Elijah Smith building in downtown Whitehorse. It's a colourful little space, with a large metal filing cabinet that contains hundreds of carefully-catalogued seed packets.

A drawer full of seeds at the Yukon government's seed library in Whitehorse.
A drawer full of seeds at the Yukon government's seed library in Whitehorse.

A wide variety of seeds are stored at the library. (Andrew Hynes/CBC)

Many of the seeds are for plant varieties that are hardy and adapted to Yukon growing conditions, says Randy Lamb, an ecologist at the Yukon government's agriculture branch.

"With any variety of plant you can grow it for several seasons and select the [the seeds from the] ones that perform best in your microclimate," he said.

"You will get a locally-acclimatized or adapted variety after a few years."

Some red orach seeds at the Yukon Energy, Mines and Resources department's seed library in Whitehorse.
Some red orach seeds at the Yukon Energy, Mines and Resources department's seed library in Whitehorse.

Some red orach seeds from the library. (Andrew Hynes/CBC)

Gardeners who've done that have been sharing their seeds with the library, he added.

Lamb said there are many challenges to growing food in the Yukon, including cold soil, cold air, and an excess of daylight in the summer.

"Long day length can really mess up some plants, they just won't grow here. They'll bolt and go to seed right away."

As the library grows, the number of seed types keeps increasing. For example, the library has locally-adapted plant seeds for food common to many different parts of the world.

"I don't know who first brought it in, but a locally-adapted bok choy and oriental greens … [have] been showing up quite a bit," Lamb said.