Seed Growers in Alberta and B.C. are Joining Together

by | Oct 3, 2022

Seed growers in Alberta and British Columbia have come together to form one new united organization.

A new agricultural organization was formed in Western Canada earlier this year, and while it’s not starting from nothing, the group is bringing together two organizations whose members have a lot in common.

ABCSG logo

The new logo for the Alberta-British Columbia Seed Growers (ABCSG)

The amalgamation of the Alberta Seed Growers (ASG) and the British Columbia Seed Growers (BCSG) started in 2021 and became official in June 2022 under the name the Alberta-British Columbia Seed Growers (ABCSG). The new group represents nearly 720 seed growers from the two western provinces.

For BCSG, overall membership in the organization dwindled over the years along with loss of government support led the board to look into a merger with ASG. The association at one time had 50 to 60 members but was down to around 24 members before the amalgamation. Most members of the board found themselves serving in positions for decades and as a group without any hired staff they were struggling to provide value added opportunities such as research work to their membership.

When the Seeds Canada merger was proposed, the plan was for there to be eight regions. Originally BCSG thought they could possibly be a region with the Alberta Peace River area, which would give them enough people for national representation. After CSGA voted not to amalgamate, BCSG thought joining ASG might be a good idea, so they approached their eastern neighbours asking for an amalgamation.

For the merger process to happen, first members of both groups had to vote in favour of an amalgamation. From there the ASG bylaws had to be updated to allow B.C. members to become ASG members with voting rights and the ability to run for board positions. A special resolution and proposed revised bylaws were sent to members 30 days before the respective branches’ annual general meetings. These changes permitted seed growers from both provinces to become full members of the new organization.

A news release at the time of the announcement said both Alberta and B.C. are critical players in Canada’s seed industry, and as a united association ABCSG will continue to provide marketing opportunities and advocacy for members locally, regionally, and nationally.

When the amalgamation was first proposed, Tracy Niemela wasn’t yet president of ASG, but she thought merger was a good idea. Niemela is part of Sandy Hill Seed Farm in Sylvan Lake, Alta. and while she may be located in the central portion of the province, she understands the similarities of growing seed in the peace regions of Alberta and B.C. area.

They experience similar issues, the Peace Region seems to function as a region with limited recognition of the provincial boundary. So, dealing with weather and producing seed, it’s the same across the region. If you want to have a bigger voice in the West, or you want to expand your business reach, I think amalgamation is a good idea,” she explains in a phone interview.

As the amalgamation process unfolded, Niemela was chosen as the president for ASG and found herself at the forefront of discussions on the proposed merger. She found that ASG members were concerned about loss of national representation for their fellow B.C. seed growers at the national level with the Canadian Seed Growers’ Association (CSGA).

“They didn’t want the B.C. voice being lost and making sure that we are actually taking B.C. into account. We’re not just Albertan, we’re Alberta/B.C. Reframing our minds to make sure that we understand the B.C. concerns as well,” she says.

Those concerns were taken into consideration throughout the amalgamation process with the ABCSG board appointing Ed Hadland as an interim board member to represent the B.C. region earlier this year. Hadland is a third-generation seed grower in Baldonnel, B.C. He served seven years as a CSGA board member and was an active member of the BCSG board over the past thirty years.

“I think it was good to help with transition if there’s any questions. There are other Peace Country, Alberta directors, so they’re fairly close with us and what we do, but I think it was good to have one B.C. member on there to start with,” Dave Wuthrich says in a phone interview.

Dave Wuthrich

Dave Wuthrich, seed grower in British Columbia’ Peace Country and former British Columbia Seed Growers (BCSG) board member

Wuthrich is a former BCSG board member and was a driving force behind the amalgamation. He runs PW Farms Ltd. near Cecil Lake, B.C. and served on the BCSG board for around 30 years in various positions including as national representation with CSGA. With the merger having now happened, Wuthrich is stepping back from branch board activities for the time being.

“We’re getting the information and the support that we were expecting. They’ve been good,” he says. Adding it’s reassuring now to know if any B.C. seed growers have questions about applying for a field inspection or anything, they can call ABCSG Executive Director Kelly Chambers and have access to a wealth of information.

“Just knowing that there is a person there to help walk us through issues that we may have, I think that’s a big bonus. And I mean, you can go on their website, they have lots of information there.”

For Niemela, she sees the merger as a positive for agriculture in both Alberta and B.C. as it helps to provide a stronger voice for the West nationally in the seed industry.

“We’re still the seed growers, we’re all still working hard to produce the best quality certified seed for the farming community. Whether we are in Alberta, or B.C. the same seed regulations are applied to ensure quality seed for our customers,” she says.

Related Articles

Growing Grass Seed in B.C.’s Peace Region

Alberta Wheat and Barley May Be Going from Two to One

Better Together