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Back to May 2017 Newsletter

Growing Seedy Saturdays and Sundays

Judy Newman

Like many other seed savers and gardeners, you may have attended your local Seedy Saturday or Sunday in the past few months. If you don’t know about them, these are annual events that take place across the country, during which people get together to swap seeds, especially those of heirloom varieties or varieties that have been in families for years, if not several generations.

This year, there were over 150 Seedy Saturday and Sunday events across the country! However, 27 years ago, in 1989, the idea of conserving heritage varieties of crops was in its infancy in Canada. It was very difficult to find heritage varieties of vegetables, fruits, flowers and grains. Sharon Rempel, a director of Seeds of Diversity at the time, had a vision of building a regional community seed collection and a group of people to conserve the seeds. She wanted to find a way to bring a large number of people together to share seeds and stories.

On March 16, 1990, her vision became a reality. Curator Roy Forster from the VanDusen Botanical Gardens hosted Canada’s first Seedy Saturday in Vancouver, BC. Over 500 people attended the event! Along with enthusiastic seed savers and seed exchangers, this inaugural Seedy Saturday’s participants included seed producers, community organizations, and growers associations. Seedy Saturdays and Sundays gradually started spreading eastwards, across the country. By the year 2000 there were 30 events, in several provinces. In 2016, for the first time, there were events held in all ten provinces in the same  year.

Each event is different, shaped by the community it is in, and the people by whom it is organized,but the one thing they all have in common is the seed swap or exchange, the raison d’etre of each day. It is a place for people to swap and share their seeds and the stories that go with them – of the best ways to cultivate the plants, the ways in which each variety got its name, and how seed savers came upon the seed. Other activities often include lunches, kids’ activities, workshops and speakers, and one event even had a pot luck!

Seeds of Diversity has been supporting and promoting Seedy Saturdays and Sundays across Canada for many years. Our free publicity of these events has helped in their growth, and that in turn has helped smaller Canadian seed companies that depend on these events for sales. We  help organizers set up new events in their communities (31 this year, for instance), connecting them to seed companies, coaching them on how to run one of these events, and sharing resources to do it.

We salute the energy, enthusiasm and knowledge of the Seedy Saturday committees and organizers. Their events support Canadian seed companies and other vendors, and are a low-cost, user-friendly way for new gardeners to learn about the wonderful world of seeds and seed sharing. We thank our own Seeds of Diversity volunteers, who staff tables at the events for us and tell our own seedy story.

One of our volunteers, from London, ON, shared her reflections on her local event with us, “Visitors and the exhibitors are so enthusiastic about gardening and happy about the prospect of the coming season.  It's like a miracle.  People come to our own display and love what Seeds of Diversity is about – they become friends and come back year after year.  Sometimes there are so many visitors at one time to our exhibit, the atmosphere becomes party-like, and that in itself attracts more people.”

Thank you, seed savers, volunteers, and organizers, for all the great work you do in making Seedy Saturday and Sunday events happen across the country!

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Judy Newman is Seeds of Diversity’s administrator.

You can see the listing of all Seedy Saturday and Sunday events on our website, at www.seeds.ca/events.

 

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