BY CATE HENDERSON
Providence Village is a heart-felt idea that is moving forward at 1200 Princess St, the Motherhouse of the Sisters of Providence. We don’t know yet exactly what it will be like, but it will certainly change the look of the wide-open spaces currently occupied by the lawn, meadow and gardens of this property.
Some gardens may not survive, others may need to move or be repurposed. For that reason, a transition plan for the Heirloom Seed Sanctuary seeds has been developed by staff and approved by Leadership. It will be evaluated and “finessed” each winter, over five years, until it is completed. During that time we will learn how the gardens and grounds at Heathfield will be developed into Providence Village, and whether seed gardens and community gardens will still be possible.
We know that the Heirloom Seed Sanctuary is truly a visionary ministry that transcends time – but is very rooted in space. The food-plant varieties included in this unique seed collection have been grown out in this area for many decades: before 1997 (the year they were first grown here at Heathfield), they were grown at FoxFire Farm near Napanee by Carol and Robert Mouck. No other community or region in Ontario has a well-known, documented seed collection that is so comprehensive (from Adzuki beans to Watermelon) and so well adapted to produce food. None! This excellent regional seed collection transcends time in that it is a collection of heirloom-varieties that have already been passed down through generations, and should continue. The Moucks passed it down to the Sisters for safekeeping and, in turn, the Sisters must pass it down to the next generation. And just as the Moucks made plans for this transition to the Sisters’ stewardship, so we carefully plan the next steps.
A seed collection is not like other collections in that it is composed of living beings: the seeds must be kept alive. One cannot simply wrap each item in bubble wrap and tuck it away in storage until it is convenient for the next people to come along. Each variety has its’ own storage requirements and longevity. The number of seeds required to grow an adequate population size for reproduction also varies, along with the instructions of how best to grow each one. All of this must be factored in. There were definitely bumps along the path of transition from the Moucks to myself as the steward chosen by the Sisters for this wonderful ministry. No doubt there will be bumps along the path in the next transition as well. All the more reason to be mindful and move slowly and conscientiously as one of the Sisters’ most publicly-known ministries. As our staff mission statement points out: “We treasure the high esteem the Kingston community has for the Sisters and their ministries and we commit ourselves to maintain this reputation with pride.”