Volunteer Group Profile: Seed Collector 40 Years

Written by Penny Williams, Volunteer Writer

The gift shop shows the public face of the Seed Collectors’ activity — which displays a tower of seed packets and greeting cards. But as every VBGA volunteer knows, any Group’s public face depends on many hours of work behind the scenes.

Today’s Seed Collectors are true to the mandate first defined 40 years ago by Garden curator Roy Forster and volunteer Mary Palmore. They harvest, record, preserve, and sell seeds from Garden plants.

“We have a Tuesday team and a Sunday team,” explains Liz Gosselin, co-chair (with Verna Semotuk) of the latter. “Both teams collect and clean seeds; Sunday we also handle data entry, packaging, and order fulfillment.”

As always on Sunday, Heather Gillis weighs the clean seeds and records the information. (Though Liz has overall responsibility for the comprehensive database, other volunteers also enter data in specific areas.) Several team members are counting seeds into the packets that will allow Liz to meet online orders and Janet Hamilton to restock supplies in the gift shop. Jean Foster is there as well, adding more of the greeting cards that she creates with photos taken by various members of the Group, and for which she maintains inventory.

Seed Collectors currently meet in the Volunteer Lounge, their fourth location in ten years. It is to become their permanent location, and the Volunteer Engagement team is working to ensure that this arrangement meets their needs while considering the rest of our volunteer community as well.

Along with this workspace challenge, the Group has been handling a COVID-pause challenge. They are still playing catch-up with seed inventory, the result of a year and a half of doing no collecting at all. 

Then again, challenges are part of life. The Group meets them with pride in their 40-year history and the collective strength of their membership — Master Gardeners among them, and an impressive number with a decade-plus of service. They’re all there because they love what they do, and they know it matters. Seed collection, preservation, and research are essential to the plant legacy role of VanDusen. It is a botanical garden, not a show garden. 

In addition, says Verna as Liz nods agreement, “Our seed packages and greeting cards promote and raise money for the Garden — $10,000 in 2022. Like other volunteers, any time we’re in the Garden visitors approach us and we help educate and engage them. And… we’re very fond of each other!”

Mid-day or so, Janet enters the gift shop with the latest public-face result of all those behind-the-scenes hours. More product for Garden visitors; more promotion and income for the VBGA; more links in the community.