Thursday, January 6, 2011

Seed Swap 2.0

Well, a new town, a new year, so it's time for a new seed swap.

My first go at seed swapping was last year while I was still living in Des Moines. I had a ready-made set of people to recruit from, in the form of the community gardens. Turn out was respectable and I think everyone really enjoyed it.

This year things are different (like that's ever not true!) and that will create some interesting challenges. First off, my new little town doesn't have a community garden. Secondly, I don't have a large cohort of friends here yet. What I do have is seeds, and the willingness to plan something and risk that nobody shows up. :-D

I've gotten the local extension office in on the fun. I think they'll help some with getting the word out to those who might be interested. I'm meeting with the local gardening club on Tuesday, and I'm hopeful that some of them will be interested in the event too.

I'm going to rely on those two groups to hit a lot of the potential audience, but I'm also printing some flyers to advertise in grocery stores/library/etc, and I'm going to go the old fashioned route and knock on the doors of gardeners I've seen in my neighborhood.

If you've never been to a seed swap, the general idea is to get a bunch of geographically local gardeners together in a room to swap seeds (duh), swap advice, recruit hands for pet projects, combine seed orders to save money on shipping, learn how to save seed from something new, etc. All you need is a room big enough for the (hopefully) couple dozen people, tables and chairs to comfortably sort through the seed bounty, and a couple of people willing to talk about local varieties, seed saving techniques and the like.

In my case I've decided to use the local library's meeting room, (meetings in churches always give me the willies) I'll do a short bit on seed saving if people are interested, (I've got some lettuce, basil and radish seed still on the stalk and needing cleaned that will make good props) I've got donated seed from Seed Savers Exchange out of Decorah, IA, (so noone will leave empty handed) and a bunch of clear little envelopes for those that forget to bring such things. Easy-peasey!

The hard part of course will be getting people interested in coming to such a thing. Most people, of the increasingly rare subset that actually garden, just buy their seeds every year from their favorite glossy catalog and that's all the thought that goes into their seed. The problem with that model is that often times the seed is coming from far away. Sometimes the variety is not suitable for the micro-climate the gardeners wants to plant it in. Other times seed growers can make mistakes and the seed shipped to the gardener isn't quite what was advertised. As oil becomes more and more expensive, growing seed crops and shipping them around the nation will grow more expensive, perhaps at some point prohibitively so. For these reasons, and more, knowing how to save seed is something I consider crucial for gardeners.

Getting together with local gardeners to swap seeds can yield bounty beyond just seeds. In times of hardship, knowing other food growers in your neighborhood can make the difference between having enough to eat and not. Those connections, those friendships, don't just grow out of thin air. Like the vegetables in my garden, they must be sown, nurtured and cared for to bear fruit.

So, I'm sowing. Come join us if you'll be in the neighborhood!

Feb 12th, 1-3pm, LeMars Public Library.


Gingercake said...

HI! Just read your comment on my blog and came over to check you out! I wish I could come to your seed swap. I have been a gardener for awhile but only the last few years have gotten into my vegetable garden. A seed swap sounds great. I look forward to hearing about how it goes! I am going to try to get my kids more involved in my garden this year by growing some things here at home from seed. I usually buy seed for my beans, lettuce, etc, but thought it would be fun to grow special tomatoes, cabbage, pumpkins, etc instead of just buying the plant. Good luck on your path to freedom!

Anonymous said...

I really wish you good luck, i am going to a seed festival in 2 weeks here in montreal and will start gardening for the first time this spring.

I am storing food for a year as well.