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Back to May 2021 Newsletter

Seedy Saturdays and Seedy Sundays - They Happened!

Rayna Almas

At the beginning of the year, we told you that these remarkable, individually and uniquely organized events would persist through COVID-19, but not in the ways that we’re used to. We had to say goodbye (for now) to dreams of people gathered around tables, chatting about gardening while admiring and swapping packets of seeds, and hello to…. virtual (mostly. About 90% of the events we know about made the switch, with the other 10% managing to put together in-person gatherings).

In 2020, almost half of Canada’s Seedy Saturday events had to cancel, many at the last moment, and there was no time for a “Plan B”. For 2021, we were all prepared to adapt, so that’s what we did! Of the 190 organizers we reached out to in October, we heard back from and worked with 104 in some capacity over the last five months. If you recall, we mentioned a few things that we would do to support the events: hold organizer meetings, put together a series of virtual webinars, work on ways to safely exchange seeds, help to promote local seed companies, and provide tech support. Well, we are delighted to say that we were able to check, check, check, check, and check all of those boxes. And we are equally delighted to say that we know of over 80 events that happened from January - May of this year.

After initially contacting organizers, we set up general meetings for them to meet, network, and share ideas. These meetings then developed into regional meetings and finally, as the event season loomed closer, we held a series of five meetings to address five major areas we identified:

  • running a seed exchange amid COVID-19, 
  • putting together virtual webinars, 
  • promoting local seed companies and other vendors, 
  • increasing revenue, and
  • technical components of online events

In total, we held 12 meetings over the course of three months, and our total number of attendees for the final five topic-based meetings was 112!

As anyone who has attended Seedy Saturdays in the past likely knows, a huge part of these events is knowledge sharing. This year, workshops and webinars were most commonly used to do this because they’re well-suited for online formats. With the incredible uptick in gardening amid the pandemic, there is a lot of valuable information to be shared with new and experienced gardeners alike. Events held presentations via Zoom, Facebook Live, Youtube, and a variety of other innovative platforms. 

Along the way, we found we could help with their virtual programming by offering live and recorded webinars. Why? Many events are run by volunteers and volunteer committees or nonprofits with little to no budget for speakers. Also, it’s pretty cool to be able to hear from people thousands of kilometers away! After consulting with events, we brought on speakers from all over the country (BC to NL) and created a series of 12 presentations that organizers could incorporate into their events. Topics ranged from seed saving to climate change to school gardens, meaning something for everyone. With a total of 16 live presentations at nine different events, and 36 events using various recordings, it was well worth the effort. Many of them are now available on our web site to view any time

For many (or most?) organizers, coordinating an online event was a brand new experience with a sharp learning curve. I think that’s something we’ve all experienced over the last year - the “How do I unmute myself again?” or “My internet cut out!” moments are familiar to us all. Despite this, beautiful events were created online, complete with webinars, workshops, community discussions, seed swaps, silent auctions, and plenty more. Some took place over the course of a typical Seedy Saturday day, while others opted to hold a series over the course of a few days to a few weeks. 

What About Seeds?

And Seedy Saturdays would not be what they are without - you guessed it - seeds! But how do you promote local seed companies when the companies can’t be present? Turns out, there are plenty of ways to do it, and we got to see them all courtesy of the creative people behind the events. From sharing information on web pages to posting vendor spotlights on social media to hosting breakout rooms for representatives to chat with locals, I think it’s safe to say that small scale Canadian seed companies were showcased front and center. Not to mention, most of them had no worries about their seed sales anyway. To support these efforts, we contacted all 90+ seed companies we know of in Canada and compiled their information for sharing. We also created a short video for events to share: Sourcing Local Seeds

Seed exchanges have always been the heart and soul of Seedy Saturday events and no one wanted to lose that this year. COVID-19 complicated matters, of course, with concerns about face-to-face interactions and touching packets that have been recently handled by others. This was the focus of multiple meetings, and in the end, events executed creative ways to get seeds out to their communities. Here are just a few examples:

  • Drive thru seed swaps 
  • Grab and go bags of mystery seeds 
  • Online ordering systems
  • Coordinated seed drop off and pick up hubs
  • Seed borrowing through local public library systems 
  • Outdoor little seed libraries 

As is the case each year, we had a lot of seeds come in, which means we had a lot of seeds to send back out! We sent over 2200 seed packets to 60 events across the country. 

Finally, we wanted to share just a few of the heartwarming messages we’ve received from those we worked with this season:

(Ruth Anne, Indian Head SK) - “Thank you so much for your support!  We sent out an initial email (a teaser) to our contacts and a pdf with links to the webinars. We used emails as we felt we were reaching our target audience - community gardeners, 3 garden horticultural societies in 3 towns, my usual SS volunteers, and then staff at the agricultural research station.  So, we are over 150 known contacts! Thank you, thank you. We could not have done this without your support”
(Sandra, Barrie ON) - “Congratulations to Seeds of Diversity for an amazing month of Seedy Saturday presentations, workshops and opportunities for learning [...] We look forward to working with Seeds of Diversity in the ongoing work of sustainability and environmental learning within our communities.”
(Anne, Shuswap BC) - “Thank you again for all your help. We couldn't have run the event without you.”
(Dan Rubin, presenter) - “Thanks so much. I have really been enjoying these sessions and meeting people through them.”
(Laura, Caledon ON) - “I am so excited to share how interested the community was for the Seeds of Diversity donated seeds (lettuce & tomato) [...] As the library is still unable to have the community come in and browse the collection, an on-line seed request was offered with curb-side pickup.  We included the Seeds of Diversity donations in the collection. We tucked them into a seed envelope and we are proud to say, they are all out in the community now!  Yeah!”
(Eleanor, Lillooet BC) - “Thank you so much for organizing these interesting speakers. I'm excited to watch them all. People want to learn and share more about what could increase our ability in the area to have sustainable food systems.”
(Wendy, Bradford ON) - “Thanks for all of the links. We are getting ready to launch the seed library. Due to ever changing covid restrictions, the display has been put on hold - however we are going to have an entire week devoted to plants and gardening on our social media and the presentations will be very helpful for that.”
(Carolin, Owen Sound ON) - “Thank you for all of your work in compiling and organizing this! You guys are really rocking it!”
(Marie Eve, Squamish BC) - Amazing for the content shared! I just sent it to our communication staff [...] We will soon share the links on our website Seed page and probably on our social media platforms. It has been such a pleasure to "work" with you, you are efficient, knowledgeable and lovely. Thank you for all you've done!”
(Esther, Hope BC) - “The seeds have arrived! I am very excited to share them with the community and try some out myself. Thank you so much for all your work.”
(Karen, Dartmouth NS) - “Thank you for all your support and the provided resources. We are excited about our event and the support that Seeds of Diversity Canada provides.”
(Wendy, Edmonton AB) - “I wanted to tell you how much I appreciated the meetings you hosted. I have a greater feeling of being connected to the national garden/seed saving movement and have come to think of Seeds of Diversity as friends. Please consider continuing to host those meetings post-pandemic (or during the pandemic if it drags on...).


As much as we appreciate the kind messages we’ve received (and we really do!), the truth is that Seedy Saturday and Seedy Sunday events are only possible because of the people who create them where they happen. Each and every organizer deserves a round of applause for all that was achieved this season in the face of so many challenges. 


Happy gardening!  


Back to May 2021 Newsletter

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