Biographies of Presenters

BC Seeds Gatherning 2014 – Bios for Presenters

Jon Alcock

Certified Organic Grower in the Okanagan Valley for 27 years. Specializing in rare, heirloom and open pollinated seeds.

Brian Campbell, West Coast Seeds

Brian Campbell of West Coast Seeds is a member of the Master Gardener Association of BC, a Certified Bee Master, and has an International Certificate in Permaculture Design. Brian teaches traditional farm based skills including fruit tree grafting, seed starting, beekeeping and sustainable garden design. Heavily involved in food security issues in Richmond and across BC, Brian is passionate about sharing his knowledge and skills with others.

David Catzel

David has farmed at Fraser Common Farm Co-op and with Glorious Organics Co-op for the last decade.  Before that he worked in various community gardens in Vancouver. Seed saving has always been of interest and he continues to learn with each growing season.  David has given introductory workshops for the City of Langley as well as for the Langley Environmental Partners Society.

Jen Cody

Jen has been active in the food community since 1998. She is a founding member of the BCFSN. She is now working on a number of different projects including development of a cooperative for BC seed producers, nutrition and indigenous foods workshop facilitation, and working with community farms. Jen is an active coordinator/worker and founder of Growing Opportunities Community Farm. In it’s 7th year, the farm is working with people of all levels of ability, and has supported people with mental health disabilities to participate. She is a part of the carrot seed research project, growing carrots for seed in high tunnels. She co-coordinates the Center Island Seed Savers network, and participates in community education related to seeds. The farm is developing a commercial growing seeds project. Jen also keeps bees which has enriched her cross cultural communication and her passion for developing opportunities to work in the community using collective approaches.

Susan Davidson

Always a gardener, 30 years living and working co-operatively and farming organically, doing what I can to keep these options open in perpetuity.

Barbara & Lorne Ebell

My family mostly lived in and around Vancouver. A great place to grow up—Great tram, bus and ferry system. I was active in music, theatre, camping and hiking, and we all attended downtown church, so we had friends all over the city. I moved to Vancouver Island when I was 21 and worked for a law firm. I met Lorne in the summer of ’58 and settled down in Victoria to married bliss.

Lorne was born in Saskatchewan but mostly lived and farmed in Manitoba, northwest of Brandon.  Being a scholarly type he managed to work on the family farm but continue to go to school and finally to the University of Manitoba where he graduated in agriculture; and then on to the University of Alberta where he did his PhD. From there to Ontario with the Ministry of Forests, who sent him out to B.C. where he became research officer #1 in Victoria.

Lorne had always been involved in all things environmental so we worked on them all while we lived in Victoria. Certainly his greatest achievement was a multi-year endeavour to clean up all the streams and creeks in the region, removing year of the junk, planting shade trees, restocking and returning them  to their natural state.

In 1970 Lorne took a job in Botanical Research with Firestone Company and we all moved to Liberia. We had a grand time. We were part of the 250 family plantation community: Lorne with his research projects, fishing and exploring. I sang and taught choir and kindergarden and enjoyed life if our adopted country.

In 1980 we moved back to Victoria where we purchased a house and both went back to work.  Lorne, back at Research  with the Ministry of Forests, and I to the Ministry of Agriculture in the Policy Branch and Women’s Programs.

During that time we purchased the farm in Nanoose, intending to retire and take up farming. That was 1987, and here we are, still farming. This job we really love. It is absolutely a challenge because most Vancouver Island folk don’t buy local food (less than 3% of our food of locally grown). The great thing is that we are able to work with a dedicated young crew who are just as keen as we are and we expect that they will carry on leading the way to a sustainable food community as time goes by.

We have no intention of retiring, but we are giving responsibilities to our young crew. Nanoose is a lovely place to live so I don’t think we are looking for another career.

Dan Jason

A passionate gardener since he planted his backyard in Montreal at age 13, Dan Jason is committed to empowering people to grow their own food and save their own seed. Since 1976 he has lived on Salt Spring Island, BC, where he created the mail order seed company Salt Spring Seeds, which specializes in heritage and heirloom open-pollinated and non-GMO seed varieties of vegetables and plants.
Dan was strongly involved in Seeds of Diversity Canada in the early years, and founded the Seed and Plant Sanctuary for Canada in 2003, which he now heads. Dan has written many books, including his most recent Saving Seeds as if Our Lives Depended on it. As an active critic of genetically modified seeds, patents on living organisms and industrial agriculture in general,he is a dedicated educator on sustainable organic gardening and farming, food politics, seed saving, and a farmer of beautiful gardens full of vegetables, grains, medicinal and culinary herbs and flowers.

Helen Jensen, Bauta Family Initiative on Canadian Seed Security

Long fascinated by cultivated plant species, Helen studied on-farm seed conservation in Morocco for five years, as part of her PhD research at McGill University. She worked with farmers to conduct on-farm trials of local barley varieties and conducted participatory assessments of barley diversity. As national research lead for the Bauta Family Initiative on Canadian Seed Security she is involved in national PPB projects for wheat, oat, potato, and maize, and manages variety selection projects for spinach and Chinese cabbage.

Sharon Jinkerson Brass, White Thunderbird Woman

Sharon Jinkerson-Brass, an award winning multi-media storyteller from Key First Nation in Saskatchewan. Sharon received her cultural teachings from her beloved Anishinabe Grandmother Rebecca, who was a midwife and traditional healer. In recent years Sharon has been inspired by the notion of creating relevant cultural practices based on our ancient wisdom and values. As Cultural\Health Coordinator for the Pacific Association of First Nations Women she developed a multi-dimensional program around “The Sacred Tree of Life” which lead to “The Sacred Seeds of Life.” Sharon believes ceremony and creativity is a vital part of the change necessary to save the Earth.

Matthew Kemshaw

Matthew Kemshaw has been supporting urban food programming in schools, parks, and other community minded spaces for almost a decade. Matthew began saving seeds 10 years ago, with Elementary school children. He has gone on to support several community seed sharing initiatives in both Victoria and Vancouver. In 2013, Matthew was responsible for pulling together a unique network of librarians, seed savers and community programmers to design and implement the Victoria Seed Library. He is excited to continue to grow this network and further develop our understanding of how to run a successful community seed library in the local library. Matthew is currently working with the Surrey Libraries to explore the creation of a Surrey Seed Library.

Bardia Khaledi

Bardia Khaledi holds an M.A. in Anthropology from Simon Fraser University; his thesis explored the history of botanical gardens as well as their current conservation and accession policies. He is the chair of the VanDusen Seed Collectors where he promotes seed saving and raises funds for the VanDusen Botanical Garden Association. As an educator/consultant, he encourages others to foster biodiversity and accommodate native plants in their gardens or at their farms.

Robear LeBaron

Started farming on Hornby Island BC,1970. Slowly enlarged farm to present 60 acres. Now grow tree fruit, soft fruit, vegetables, dairy, beef and eggs for sale. Started seed saving with golden bantam corn 1978. started wholesaling to salt spring seeds 1998.

Laurie McKenzie, Organic Seed Alliance

Laurie is on the Northwest Research and Education Associate at Organic Seed Alliance (OSA). She has a Master’s degree in plant breeding and genetics from Oregon State University, where her research focus was on breeding for organic systems and has over 10 years of experience in the organic farming and seed world. At OSA Laurie conducts breeding and variety trial projects, writes educational guides and materials, and teaches on-farm workshops.  She lives in Port Townsend, WA where she can often be found frolicking on the beach with her dog.

Ross Moster, Village Vancouver

Ross has a forty year background in small business, food, cooperatives, social and environmental activism, and sustainable, resilient community building.  He's engaged in numerous projects through Village Vancouver, Vancouver’s Transition Town Hub, which he founded (, and is a member of the Car Free Vancouver, SPEC, and IMAPON boards and a longstanding member of the Vancouver Food Policy Council. He is particularly passionate about fostering collaboration through creating neighbourhood “Villages” and Neighbourhood Food Networks, and has helped start and is active in many local NFN's, including West End Neighbourhood Food Network, which he coordinates. Ross served as GM of an organic food co-op for 20 years and on the boards of L.A. Eco-Village and different California cooperative organizations for many years. Village Vancouver currently has 10 seed libraries and a seed bank project, and is collaborating with a design class at Emily Carr University to develop several unique and creative new designs, including a wearable seed library on an apron. Several libraries will be on display at the Seeds Gathering.

Jane Rabinowicz

Jane is Director of The Bauta Family Initiative on Canadian Seed Security at USC Canada. She joined the USC team to develop the program in 2011, and is now spearheading its implementation with a pan-Canadian program team. Jane is also Vice-President of the Silver Dollar Foundation and sits on the Board of Directors of Centraide Montreal. Jane was previously Director of Development at Equiterre, and Executive Director of Santropol Roulant. In all of Jane's work, she emphasizes creativity, clear and open communication, and the importance of working in partnership to address the challenges facing Canadian communities today. She lives in Montreal.

Andrew Riseman, UBC

Andrew received his PhD from The Pennsylvania State University in Horticulture focusing on the breeding of nutrient efficient cultivars.  He then completed a Post-doctorial Fellowship at the Danish Institute for Agriculture working on chemical free growth control of miniature potted roses.  In 2000, he accepted his current position at UBC in the Faculty of Land and Food Systems.  His research concentrates on plant breeding and understanding the role of genotypes in sustainable production systems.  He is also the Academic Director of the Centre for Sustainable Food Systems-UBC Farm.

Erika Simms

Erika has been working for the Richmond Food Security Society (RFSS) since 2011. A native of Vancouver, she grew up eating fresh garden produce grown by her father. She has always had an interest in growing and cooking food, and worked for many years as a chef. A Richmond resident since 2000, she strongly believes that members of her community need access to local food and the opportunity to grow their own produce.  After she joined the RFSS, she was motivated to start the Richmond Community Seed Library.

Patrick Steiner, Stellar Seeds

Patrick Steiner is a BC-based farmer and seedgrower. He operates Stellar Seeds, an organic seed company specializing in heirloom, rare and locally adapted seeds. He lives and farms in Johnson’s Landing at the north end of Kootenay Lake, where he grows many of the seeds they sell. His family also grows vegetables for the Kaslo Farmers Market and local stores.

Robin Sturley

I got my start in organic farming as a farm apprentice in 2009. Since then I have apprenticed on a couple of other farms, started a seed company on Vancouver Island, and most recently started selling organic veggies in the Cowichan Valley as part of Sweet Roots Farmer Co-op. In the near future I will be relocating to the Comox Valley. Currently I am most interested in winter vegetable production, and how this relates to seed saving for many of our staple food crops.