Seedy Saturday: Local Seeds and Local Food

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Ever been to a Seedy Saturday (or Seedy Sunday)?

If you have, you know that it is a great "feel-good" event -- all about seeds, and the hope, anticipation and potential contained in seeds -- and the coming of spring!

At a Seedy Saturday, you will find seed swaps, regional seed vendors, workshops and information displays related to seeds and gardening.  With the grower/vendors present at the event, you can ask questions about their production practices and get details about each variety -- for instance, planting dates, season length and recommended uses.  I really enjoy meeting the growers -- the people behind the seed packages -- hearing stories about the seeds and feeling connected to the seed and gardening community.  Just looking at the individuality of the seed packages, including beautiful hand-made ones, is a treat in itself for me.  Yes, it's true -- I love going to Seedy Saturday!

For the seed swaps, bring seeds you have saved (vegetables, flowers, herbs, trees, whatever!) -- and take home seeds from other seed-savers.  (Even if you don't have seeds to trade, you can probably take home seed from the swap table.  Seed savers are notoriously generous people...)

Or you can buy seeds from the regional seed companies that attend Seedy Saturdays -- a great way to obtain regionally-adapted seeds, including heritage varieties, and to support these small companies that are a key part of creating a more resilient local seed system. 

 In eastern Ontario, where I live, there are several regional seed companies that attend Seedy Saturday events.  The people operating these businesses are an important part of the sustainability and resilience of the local food and farm system.  Without them, we are dependent on large, transnational companies that make seed decisions based on global market conditions, not on what grows well in any particular region.

 Based on my experience, go to Seedy Saturday with a list of what you need; otherwise, you will want to buy one of everything!

 Seedy Saturdays (or Seedy Sundays) are locally organized and held across Canada from February to mid-May; you can find details at the events link on Seeds of Diversity website -- Seeds of Diversity is a non-profit organization whose objectives are "to search out, preserve, perpetuate, study, and encourage the cultivation of heirloom and endangered varieties of food crops, and to educate the public about the importance of heirloom and endangered varieties of food crops and the need for their continued cultivation and preservation." 

In other countries, look for information about seed exchanges or seed swaps.  For instance, in the United States, there is a national seed swap day -- the last Saturday in January.  The Seed Savers Exchange is a good place to learn more about saving and sharing seeds; its mission is "to conserve and promote America’s culturally diverse but endangered garden and food crop heritage for future generations by collecting, growing, and sharing heirloom seeds and plants."

I highly recommend The Seed Underground -- A Growing Revolution to Save Food, by Janisse Ray, Chelsea Green Publishing, 2012. Janisse Ray is a lifelong seed-saver and a poet; her book is a beautifully written series of stories about seeds, people who save them, and why we should all be saving seeds.


Originally Published: May 7, 2018

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Dianne Dowling, Contributor and President, Local 316, National Farmers’ Union (Kingston, Frontenac and Lennox-Addington Counties)

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Dianne Dowling is an organic dairy and beef farmer in the Kingston, Ontario, area and is active in food and farm organizations, including the National Farmers Union, the Food Policy Council for Kingston, Frontenac and Lennox-Addington and the Kingston Area Seed System Initiative (KASSI).