With COVID-19, growing your own food has suddenly come back into fashion. Planting a veggie garden offers many benefits, from enhanced food security, to being able to add delicious nutrient-dense food to your dinner table.

“The important thing is that people need to understand what they are putting in their body,” says Barb Hazenveld, a permaculture designer in southern Alberta who sells non-GMO, chemical-free, cold-hardy vegetable, herb and flower seeds grown on her family’s one-acre property south of Calgary. “Whatever people can grow themselves, if they feed their soil (without agricultural chemicals), it will be better and healthier than anything they can buy.”

Seeds are a new product for CoCreative Works, a company that Hazenveld runs with her husband, Hendrik, providing permaculture design consulting and residential construction and renovations using green building techniques and recycled materials to customers across southern Alberta.

“The special thing about our seeds is that they are grown in the foothills of the Rocky Mountains in Zone 2A, 4,000 feet (1,220 metres) above sea level and will grow in most parts of Canada,” Hazenveld says. https://sis.agr.gc.ca

The Hazenvelds are growing seeds with the help of their children, ages 10 and 14, in a cooperative model. “I want to use this as a way of teaching my kids to be little entrepreneurs,” explains Hazenveld, who began selling seeds in 2020 when, because of COVID-19, “suddenly everybody wanted to be a gardener.”

CoCreative Works’ seeds are open pollinated from plants fed by manure from the family’s hand-raised rabbits and chickens. “The seed is really, really healthy. It has been fed well and looked after.”

They also sell perennial flower seeds, like delphiniums. “Hummingbirds go crazy over them,” says Hazenveld, who think flowers are also important to include in your space, “because you want to create a biodiverse ecosystem in your garden.” Many of the flowers they grow have more than one purpose. “They’re either really good for bees, they will attract beneficial insects or they’re smelly and will deter bad insects.”

Some plants she grows because she loves the way they smell or look. And some plants may surprise, by how versatile they are. For example, Lamb’s Ears, probably best known as a perennial ground cover, also has flowers that “bumble bees go absolutely crazy over. It’s one of our most beneficial insectary plants in the garden.”

“From a permaculture perspective, having seeds is really valuable,” says Kym Chi, a permaculture facilitator and herbalist who is based out of B.C.’s Sunshine Coast. “It means that if anything ever happens (like a wildfire or other disaster) and you have to start over, you have seeds that are resilient to your local area.” In Canada, lettuces, kale, collard, Swiss chard, squash, beans, peas, zucchini and “pretty much anything in the brassica family” typically grow well. Flowers such as nasturtium and calendula are also very beneficial.

“Reach out to your local seed savers,” Kym Chi says.

“Since I have gone down this path, I have always had abundance. I have never not been able to feed myself healthy, organic food.”