Inspired by a party conversation, I recently read Seedswap: The Gardener’s Guide to Saving and Swapping Seeds by Josie Jeffery. Seed swapping is the sharing of seeds with friends, neighbours, and relatives, and exchanging knowledge and ideas. Not only is it super fun sounding, but exchanging seeds is a gesture of community goodwill, and can help in times of economic squeezes. It maintains food security and protects biodiversity, rare species, and seed genetics. At the same time, this fascinating activity helps to make sure that species of a plant is preserved and passed on. This sounds like a whole lot of wins!
“Seeds are, in a sense, suitcases in which people can transport their cultures with them… Many families have brought their favourite seeds on tremendous journeys.” -Mike Szuberla, Organizer of a seed swap in Toledo, Ohio
In the forward, Jeffrey says that seed saving and sowing are a crucial part of a much wider sustainability and self-reliance agenda, where “small is beautiful” and where we must think globally and act locally. Ever since humankind evolved from being hunter-gatherers to farmers, communities have had a vested interest in making sure the quality and security of food supplies. This included the saving, storing, and sowing of the most reliable and productive varieties of crops.
Seed saving and swapping can be a big community event, too, says Alan Phillips, the Chairperson of Seedy Sunday in Brighton, England. “The Seedy Sunday event in Brighton started just over a decade ago on the first Sunday in February. Now thousands of people come out of their winter hibernation for this community event, to swap seeds, meet old friends, buy seed potatoes, obtain heritage varieties, have coffee and cake, and listen to talks.”
Having experienced central Africa in the middle of a great drought, Josie Jeffrey says, and seen at first hand the reliance of people, livestock, and wildlife on wild plants, she is “absolutely convinced that conserving seeds is vital for our future. The act of conserving seeds has the potential to create local food security, and when conditions are right for sowing, seeds can be shared and can help enable communities to survive drought.”
Anticipation and pleasure encapsulate the essence of seed swapping for me. Sowing new acquisitions obtained from fellow enthusiasts who had a glint in their eye of the beauty or the food that they were sharing. Hopefully, the next generation of pleasure-seeking seed swappers is well on its way.
The Internet has masses of information on seed-swapping events. Ask around your area, because it is more probable that you’ll find plants that will grow well in the conditions provided by your local climate.
How to start a “Round Robin” Seed Swap:
- Collect names of the willing participants and provide the final list of names to everyone involved.
- Send a package filled with your surplus seeds to the next person on the list. If you collect your own seeds you can make beautiful seed packets with this fun tutorial.
- The next person will then take on packet of seeds from the package and replace it will some more seeds.
- The package is sent to the next person on the list, who removes and replies as above.
- The chain carries on until the last person on the list mails the package (which should now contain a completely different combination of seeds) back to the original organizer.
If you want to learn more about Seed Circles, Seed Libraries, and other activities and events, I recommend Seedswap – it was a lovely read, with many facts and pictures!