Share, Swap and Save Seeds

by: Sara on 03/02/2017

Today marks the last day of our Spring Sale. You can receive a 35% discount on all New Society titles until midnight tonight (March 2nd) when you order from our website using the code Spring17 at the checkout.

We are heading out to our local Seedy Sunday to sell books this weekend and it got me to wondering how Seedy Sunday (or Saturdays as the case may be) got started. Well I knew exactly where to turn, Cindy Conner's book Seed Libraries and Other Means of Keeping Seeds in the Hands of the People held the answer and I have shared it below.

If you happen to be in Nanaimo this weekend come look for our booth at Seedy Sunday!

In my research for this book I kept coming across references for Seedy Saturdays and Seedy Sundays — seed exchanges where sharing seeds was the main event. Seedy Saturdays were usually in Canada, and Seedy Sundays were usually in the UK, but not necessarily. You could declare any day a Seedy Day and host a seed share. These Seedy Saturdays/ Sundays are more than just a table to browse and take what you want.

Seeds available for self-serve at the Virginia Biological farming Conference seed swap

The growers are on hand to give advice and there are speakers and vendors. The whole day is a celebration of seeds. The Seeds of Diversity website maintains a list of Seedy Days in Canada2 and offers information to help you organize one of your own. These seed share days are characterized by low cost, local talent, and volunteer energy.

The first Seedy Saturday was held in Canada in 1990, the brainchild of Sharon Rempel. Roy Forster, curator of the VanDusen Botanical Garden in Vancouver, Cathrine Gabriel from Health Action Network, and Dan Jason from Salt Spring Seeds helped her create the first event.

In addition to seed savers exchanging seeds, small-scale seed companies sold open pollinated seed. Rempel invited agronomists from the University of British Columbia to the event. Her hope


Preparing seeds for saving

was to get the heritage varieties of seeds kept by backyard gardeners trialed and evaluated regionally, and a core collection of regionally adapted vegetables, fruits, and grains conserved and exchanged annually. In addition to the Swap Table at the event, a diversity of talks informed the public about the international politics surrounding seed control.

Rempel hoped that Canadians would become involved in setting up community seed banks that stored quantities of open pollinated seeds. She also hoped people would share the cultural legacy of their seed, and that this traditional knowledge would be conserved with the seed in community seed banks.

When Rempel started Seedy Saturday, the Canadian gene bank (Plant Gene Resources Canada, or PGRC) had one variety of lettuce in its collection. The urgency to get more diversity in the bank became Rempel’s career path. She wanted the seed that people had brought with them from the “old country,” varieties that were part of cultural heritage globally. The food, the seed, and the story are all interconnected. It was through her work that Red Fife wheat was brought back into production in Canada. It had been the wheat that fed Canadians from 1860–1900.

Good ideas spread like pollen in the wind. Through the collected talents of Rempel and her friends, a seed sharing event was begun in Canada that eventually extended to the UK. Seedy Sundays in Brighton, England, began in 2002 after two members of the Brighton and Hove Organic Gardening Group vacationed in Vancouver and encountered a seed swap. They took the idea home with them. You can find a list of other Seedy Saturday/Sunday events in the UK, as well as suggestions for organizing your own, at

National Seed Swap Day

In the US, the last Saturday in January has been declared National Seed Swap Day, thanks to the efforts of Kathy Jentz, editor/publisher of Washington Gardener magazine. The first annual Washington Gardener Magazine Seed Exchange was held in Washington, DC, in 2006.4 Making it an official day spreads the idea faster and encourages others to join the fun. There are seed share events tagging on to National Seed Swap Day around the country. You can find where they are at www. If you can’t have a seed swap on the last Saturday in January, have it a different day. You could even come up with a different name unique to your event. A seasonal or year-round seed library could grow from an annual seed swap/share day once the public interest is there and a core of seed savers has been identified.






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