Heirloom Seed Sanctuary


The Heirloom Seed Sanctuary is participating in a unique Kingston project that encourages farmers and gardeners to grow an extra row of food to donate to emergency meal programs.

It’s called Grow a Row, organized by Kingston community food group Loving Spoonful. The extra food will be collected from June to October for delivery to 18 local agencies that feed clients.

This is just one of many projects carried out by the award-winning Heirloom Seed Sanctuary run by the Sisters of Providence.

In addition to the Grow a Row food drive, the HSS has organized workshops and the popular HeirloomTomato Tasting Day to help spread knowledge and garner interest in the need to support local food organizations, seed saving, sustainability, and feeding the hungry.

We provide the seeds with love and care, and in return, they provide for us — a miraculous cycle from seed to food.

The seeds of some varieties (tomatoes, onions, peppers, etc.) will start their growth in the greenhouse late winter to early spring, depending on the growing season of the plant, while others prefer being planted directly into the ground (beans, squash, melon, etc.). The greenhouse plants require personal attention until they are ready to join the earth and the rest of the varieties already taking root in the gardens.

Once in the gardens the seeds and plants already adapted to growing in the Kingston climate will start their own journeys through life. With rain, sunshine, nature’s pollinators and some guidance at the hands of Cate and her helpers, including several Sisters of Providence, many seeds will sprout and reach to the heavens. Many will produce food for use this year while others may be preparing for a longer journey to produce food down the road.

Over the course of the growing season many of these plants are harvested and taken inside the barn. This allows for collecting seeds from a variety of plants which ensures future generations of growth. Cate and her helpers count, catalog, and prepare seeds for winter storage or donation. Seed-saving workshops are a great resource to those learning how to save seeds at home.

Closer to the end of summer, many varieties of tomatoes are harvested for use in the annual Tomato Tasting Day. Visitors are invited each year to come out and sample their favourite heirloom tomatoes. Last year, over one hundred visitors showed up! After they’ve sampled the delicious tomatoes, guests are invited to tour the grounds, and attend workshops to learn more about the importance of seeds, farming and the different organizations dedicated to helping provide food for those who need it now (Grow a Row, St. Vincent de Paul Society, etc.) and food for future generations.

Once the growing season ends, final cleaning and checking of seeds is done and the grounds are prepared for next growing season. This usually includes mulching or planting of a cover crop.

As winter nears the end, the cycle of life begins again providing for us all.

The Heirloom Seed Sanctuary has received the Canadian Environment Award in the Sustainable Living category, is a part of the CRAFT (Collaborative Regional Alliance for Farmer Training) Kingston network, and is a proud supporter of Loving Spoonful and their Grow a Row project.

Editor’s Note: Mike Hammond began working full time at Providence Motherhouse in February. In addition to his duties in the Communciations Office, he also is working with Cate Henderson in the Heirloom Seed Sanctuary office.

Congratulations Mike!

You can now get Heirloom Seed Sanctuary updates through Facebook.