The BC Seed Trials is a collaboration between:

  • Bauta Family Initiative on Canadian Seed Security
  • University of British Columbia
  • FarmFolk CityFolk

In collaboration with:

  • Integrative Agroecology Lab at University of Toronto
  • University of Fraser Valley
  • BC Eco Seed Co-op


Program Management Team


Chris Thoreau has been engaged in small-scale organic food production since 2001 as a farmer, educator, program manager, and advocate. Chris has been based in Vancouver, BC since 2008 where he attended the University of British Columbia’s Agroecology program. He received his B. Sc. (Hons) in 2011, focusing his studies on urban farming, soil management, and small-scale plant breeding. He currently manages the Vancouver Food Pedalers Cooperative.


Alex Lyon is a Postdoctoral Fellow with the Centre for Sustainable Food Systems at UBC Farm, where she has worked since 2016. Dr. Lyon’s research looks at how and why farmers participate in alternative seed systems and the role of such systems in supporting socially and environmentally sustainable agri-food systems. She was first introduced to the world of organic seed during her PhD at UW-Madison, working with the Northern Organic Vegetable Improvement Collaborative (NOVIC) which developed an on-farm research network to breed new varieties for organic agriculture. Her primary project at UBC has been the BC Seed Trials, which consist of participatory variety trials aimed at supporting the emerging vegetable seed sector. Building on this work, beginning in the spring of 2019 Dr. Lyon and her collaborators will be working with farmers to develop new vegetable varieties for organic farms in regions across Canada through participatory plant breeding.


Helen Jensen holds a PhD in Biology from McGill University and an M.Sc. as well as a Bachelor’s degree in Biology from the University of Ottawa. During her doctoral research, she studied the evolution and disease resistance of barley varieties in Morocco, in collaboration with researchers and agricultural producers in the Taounate region. Helen has been with USC Canada since 2013, contributing to the implementation of The Bauta Family Initiative on Canadian Seed Security. She works on  participatory plant breeding and participatory variety trial networks to develop varieties adapted to the needs of organic and ecological producers.

Melanie Sylvestre has 12 years’ experience in small-scale organic production and holds a B.Sc. in Soil and Plant Science from UBC. She integrated seed production to her farming practice in 2007 and has since been increasing the amount of space and time seed takes in her life. In 2012, she initiated the Seed Hub at UBC Farm, a project focus on the convergence of seed production, education, research, and community building.

Rae Kramer is an MA student at UBC in the Institute for Resources, Environment, and Sustainability working under the supervision of Dr. Terre Satterfield and Dr. Jiaying Zhao. Her research is focused on how perceptions of foods and farming systems affects consumer decision making. She completed her BA at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign in Environmental Science and Anthropology. She has been involved in with with the UBC Farm since September 2017 and is excited to join the seed trials research team for its final year.

Program Collaborators
The Bauta Family Initiative on Canadian Seed Security is a national program working with farmers and partners to build a diverse and resilient Canadian seed system through:
  • Increasing the quality, quantity, and diversity of ecologically-grown Canadian seed
  • Promoting public access to seed
  • Facilitating information-sharing and collaboration among individuals and organizations committed to advancing an ecological and diverse seed system in Canada
  • Respecting, advancing, and promoting the knowledge of farmers in seed and food production

The Centre for Sustainable Food Systems (CSFS), located at UBC Farm, is a unique research centre that aims to understand and fundamentally transform local and global food systems towards a more sustainable, food secure future. The centre is a living laboratory, committed to finding solutions to both the local and global challenges facing food systems sustainability and translating solutions to improve personal, community, and environmental health.


The Integrative Agroecology Labconducts interdisciplinary research on plant strategies and the nutrient economy of agroecosystems. We investigate practices that improve the efficiency of nutrient cycles, optimize plant-soil interactions, and promote landscape scale services in low-input agriculture and agroforestry systems. Our research aims to provide mechanistic insights into the ecological principles that govern the structure and function of biologically complex agroecosystems. To do this, we make use of a diverse set of technical tools and employ various temporal and spatial scales: from manipulative trials at the rhizosphere scale to observations of large agroecosystem dynamics. The Integrative Agroecology Lab also investigates innovation in social-agroecological systems, particularly the role of informal agrarian networks in agroecosystem management.


University of Fraser Valley Agriculture Centre of Excellence is a joint venture including the University of British Columbia (UBC), Kwantlen Polytechnic University (KPU), Thompson Rivers University (TRU), Okanagan College (OC), British Columbia Institute of Technology (BCIT), Vancouver Island University (VIU), and the University of the Fraser Valley (UFV). Building on the strengths and expertise of each college, institute, and university, we will create a cohesive and efficient Agriculture Network of assisting and embracing the present and future challenges of agriculture and related industries within BC.


BC Eco Seed Co-op is a producers’ co-operative committed to vegetable, herb, grain, flower, and cover crop seed that is ecologically grown, open-pollinated, regionally adapted, held in the public domain, and GE-free.Our mission is to increase the quantity and improve the quality of ecological and organic seed grown in BC. We believe that seed sovereignty is an essential part of sustainable bioregional food systems.