How to start a local grass-roots seed saving movement
In this episode Anna is sharing her seed saving expertise. Listen to the end and you’ll learn what a seed swap is, why you’d want to save seeds in the first place, the steps needed to create a seed saving movement, the upfront costs of a seed swap, and her favorite resource for saving seeds.
A seed exchange is really simple and being able to connect with local gardeners and community members is one of the coolest events that Anna, a Master Gardener, is a part of. She’s part of the 13 year strong Ogden Seed Exchange and they put on the largest seed swap in Utah, in Ogden where she lives. There’s usually 600 people who attend this event and she loves helping put it on.
To begin a seed exchange movement, you can start really small at a coffee shop, library, or outdoor location. You need 3-5 folks with seed saving knowledge who are motivated to build the event. Anna suggests to make it a free event to include the greatest number of attendees. Seed companies may be willing to send free seeds, but your focus may want to be hyper-local seeds and small companies with a similar mission. Ideally, your seeds will be open pollinated, heirloom varieties, and adapted to your climate. By saving and swappings, you’re getting smarter, stronger seeds that have adapted to your local area. Every single region, really, should have their own set of seeds that are best suited for that area.
Pick a date that’s early enough in the season. For Utah, it is the last weekend in February. From there, you want to network your buns off to connect with people who will participate. Key members approach business to donate, or attend, and or participate. Anna’s group has a raffle for which businesses can donate prizes. The proceeds of the raffle pay for the gymnasium space where the event is held.
The day of the event (Anna’s runs from 10 am to 1pm) people often line up before it even begins. Anna’s group contacts the local Master Gardener program and invites members of that program to participate, talk about the extension office, etc.
The people who bring seeds to swap or sell often are people who have big, specialized gardens. For example, some people bring exclusively tomato varieties, or medicinal herb growers. People can come without seeds and purchase seeds for around $1-$2 a pack.
Saving seeds is about quality, and so is food preservation. Saving seeds closes that food source loop and provides you with the best possible food.
Anna’s seed of wisdom is to just start. Connect with others who might be interested and see what happens!