Together We Grow

This is the teaser video that I included as part of a submission to the CBC about the BC Seed Trials.

The extract opens on urban farmer Chris Thoreau ruminating on why all but one of his tomato plants have failed. “It’s a little embarrassing,” he says. Other participants in this citizen seed trial (that he is heading up) are showing off crops of healthy green seedlings. Thoreau has but one sprightly, little plant to show for his efforts.

I still think it would have been a good little film, but it was rejected. Such is life.

The teaser was never viewed by the CBC. In fact, it was password protected and never viewed by anyone. So I’ve made it public now. (Edit: I’ve posted it to my YouTube channel)

Here’s the one-pager that I included with the submission.

Together We Grow: A network of hundreds of citizen gardeners grow the same tomato seeds together to help improve British Columbia’s food security, sharing the failures and successes of the trial online.

Characters: Chris Thoreau* and Tara Bishop are co-ordinators of the Citizen Seed Trial. Now in its third year, Citizen Seed Trial is a mass-participation, seed-testing experiment that happens in the growing months between March and September. We will also show a varied selection of amateur gardeners and growers from British Columbia (and beyond) who are participating in the Citizen Seed Trial.

Story and Format: Chris Thoreau is an urban farmer based in Vancouver who heads up the Citizen Seed Trial. Thoreau initially appears in his Vancouver apartment with his solitary tomato seedling like a boy whose school project has gone awry. The jagged leafed Stupice plant looks perky and healthy for its few inches of stature. However, it is surrounded by barren pots of dirt. Only two of Thoreau’s batch of seeds have germinated. Other growers with the same seeds are posting photographs on social media showing 80%, 90% even 100% germinating success with strong, vigorous plants. It’s disappointing, especially since Thoreau is Seed Security Program Director at Farm Folk, City Folk. He has produced sprouts in flats (sunflower, radish, arugula, etc.) for local restaurants and farmers’ markets for years and become a leading light in Vancouver’s niche micro-green movement. “I don’t know what it is. I’m a little puzzled,” he says.

The citizen science project has flourished though. Seeds went out to 320 addresses across BC. A blind trial, participants are given one of three varieties of tomato – Stupice, Black Krim, and Principe Borghese. The seed for each variety is sourced from four different regions in North America. The aim is to understand which tomato seed is best suited to British Columbia. We follow the Trial to its conclusion to find out which seed wins and why. Was the seed that produced Thoreau’s perky little seedling a winner from the start?

Creative treatment: The aim is get up close and personal with tomatoes through the people who grow them. Building on interviews with individual growers at home with their plants, their social media posts (over a hundred are in the Facebook group this year) and user videos, we will show the community of citizen scientists growing toward a common goal. The film will show the enthusiasm and strategic thought that goes into growing tomatoes in a cool climate and the satisfaction of growing success. There will be elements of friendly competition, as participants compare their specimens, but also the horse-race element of the blind competition as it becomes clear (or not) which tomatoes are favoured.

Lush close-ups of the growing plants will help tap growers’ almost visceral relationship with their plants. With a quirky, warm, and humourous mood, the film should be educational and fun for green-thumbed types and appealing as a human interest story to a wider audience.