Monday, February 6, 2012

Community Seed Swap--What A Gift!

 Hats off to Sustainable Bellingham's Community Seed Day!  For a gardener who loves germinating vegetables and flowers, this was the equivalent of Christmas, hitting the lottery and going to the best party ever.  For everyone who cares about preserving heirloom varieties, eating non-GMO food and living more sustainably, the Community Seed Day is a rare and precious event.

I got up at 5:30 to sort through my seeds and package the ones I wanted to share.  Between the vegetables and herbs, I had 32 small labeled packets as well as 20 seed potatoes. James, my wonderful neighbor and fellow gardener to the north, met me outside his house, and we arrived at the Majestic right at 1:00 pm.  Inside, the party had already begun:
 Bellingham Gardeners at play!

Altogether, the organizers had set up three rows of conference tables with four tables in each row, as well as six large round tables on the perimeter.   I quickly unloaded my little seed packets and potatoes, and people swarmed up, curious about my varieties and the seed companies.  As soon as people heard Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds, Gourmet Seeds International, Renee's Garden Seeds, and Territorial Seed Company, they helped themselves.  Most people had never heard of The Maine Potato Lady, and I got some good natured ribbing about my carbon footprint at Sustainable Bellingham.  However, the potatoes pile dwindled fast, leaving me free to take a deep breath and get my gifts.

I call them gifts because no money changes hands:  all the seeds were free.  Amazing, right?  They're gifts from people who love to garden and have bounty to share, and no one cares whether you are a genuine "seed swapper" or someone looking to find great seeds for your 2012 garden. 

And what great seeds and varieties I found.  First, along with 100 other attendees, I have to thank  Irish Eyes Garden Seeds from Ellensburg, WA for donating their unsold 2011 seeds to Sustainable Bellingham.  The vegetable seed packets I got were organic, and many were heirloom varieties--score!   One good turn deserves another, so I will be ordering German Butterball seed potatoes from Irish Eyes this week.  Their potatoes are Washington State Certified disease-free and suitable for use as seeds.  Next year, my carbon footprint won't look so bad!

As I went up and down the tables, my grin kept getting bigger and bigger, as I saw the amazing vegetable seeds available.  

Local farmers brought bags of leftover seeds from Fedco and other sources, and most delightful of all, people brought in all kinds of seeds they had saved themselves.

There were serious hills of saved beans:  pole, bush, runner--you name it.

Imagine:  free potatoes,  garlic and dahlias for the taking!
My fellow gardeners and I tried to be  respectful and unselfish, taking small handfuls of seeds  tucking them into envelopes kindly provided by the sponsors, and making sure we labeled them accurately to avoid a future catastrophe (eek, what seed is this!). 

Some packets looked like they had been donated from local stores; for example, I picked up an unopened packet of Territorial Seed Company's  2011 Gourmet Salad mix.  Other seeds had come from home stashes; I don't think anyone took home the 2001 lettuce seeds, but most seeds were much more recent.  Here's a tip from a local farmer:

"The bigger the seed, the longer it will keep.  The tiny seeds, like lettuce and radishes probably won't germinate after a couple years." 

All in all, I had a blast, met some great people and  came home with 48 (GULP) different varieties of vegetable and herb seeds. Call me crazy, but the Community Seed Day is my idea of a great time.

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