Cottage Gardening forum: Organizing a Local Seed Swap?

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Dec 27, 2011 4:00 PM CST
Name: Joseph
Cache Valley Great Basin
Landrace: locally-adapted diversity

I'd like to organize a local seed swap: Where people from my community can get together to swap seeds, and perhaps get to know each other better. But... I've never attended a person-to-person seed swap!!! Crying I have heard of "Seedy Saturday". Have any of you attended a seed swap? How did it work out for you? Is a pot-luck lunch OK at the same time, or would that get in the way of swapping? Any suggestions on organizing it? Or hosting it? Or advertising?

What kind of ground-rules should be in place?

Author of Mother Earth News Blog about Landrace Gardening: Lofthouse
Dec 27, 2011 4:22 PM CST
Name: Sass
up North, just yonder a ways
A Charley's Gal, YES I BE !!
what a Fantastic idea for a thread! I'd love to hear more on this too, thanks Joseph!
Dec 27, 2011 4:27 PM CST
Name: starlight1153 Zone 8a/b
I just sent Critter a cmail and link to here too. I know she holds one every year or goes to one and will have some input to help you out. Smiling
Dec 27, 2011 5:46 PM CST
Name: Julianna
Victoria, BC USDA Zone 8
Ciao Joseph-

I go to Seedy Saturdays every year. They're hosted by Seeds of Diversity Canada, so it's not just one person doing most of the work. They get a location and then organize vendors of food, drinks, gardening products, gardening literature, and commercial seed vendors, usually local but here that usually means Ontario and Quebec. Seeds of Diversity people have an army of volunteers who donate the "freebie seeds" and they get together several weeks beforehand to thresh and package the various seeds. The "seed trading table" works on a more or less one-to-one basis. Say you have 10 packets of corn seeds or whatever kinds of seeds that you want to trade - you hand them to the people at the front and they will hand you script for the number of packets you can take from the trading table. I've been to Seedy Saturdays where the trading table wasn't run this way and it was very hard to manage and control. I always pre-package my seeds - you'll all see how I do this when you get your parcels-and the volunteers are always VERY happy to get them because a lot of the donated seeds have a ton of chaff. Many people don't care about chaff - but I'm one that does, so I make a point of cleaning any seeds I give away.

Most of the Seedy Saturdays I've attended have been very wonderful events, but they're starting to get extremely popular as more and more people want to grow their own food and the economy isn't picking up as fast as most people would like. When we went to our first Seedy Saturday back in 2004, I "bought" over 20 packs of tomato seeds from the commercial vendors with nothing but my blue and white double columbine seeds. I couldn't believe it! Now, a lot of them don't trade because either they don't grow the seed-plants themselves or they get too many donated seeds as it is to possibly grow them all out. I still have some amazing vendors that "know" me, even though we only chat with them once or maybe twice a year and they trade still. I bring my big shoebox and have my trades list handy so they can quickly look at it and not miss any paying customers. You learn little things over the years.

Besides seeds, I've gotten local honey, a contraption for making home-made bean/radish/whatever sprouts, a rain guage, a home-knitted strawberry filled with catnip for my monsters, seed potatoes, garlic, and shallot sets, and they usually have a place for kids to do fun hands-on things like stick their hands into a worm bin, plant a sunflower or nasturtium in a 35mm film canister with a string to hang it around their neck, and of course, colouring with crayones. There's usually a fair bit of vegan/vegetarian type food vendors, t-shirt vendors, mushroom colony vendors, various "save the planet" type literature people, recycling mongers, and I think you can get worm castings as well.

I've gotten some amazing seeds at the trading table, but like tag sales, you really need to know what you're looking for and the viability of whatever seed you take. I don't take any allium seed from the seed trading table now because often, it's past its prime and won't germinate, but tomatoes and even peppers are good bets, beans and corn as well.

Have fun, but try not to do it all on your own. Draft an army of volunteers to help if you can.
Grazie a tutti,
Dec 27, 2011 8:12 PM CST
Name: Critter (Jill)
I've organized a Mid-Atlantic Dave's Garden seed swap for several years now. We meet at a local restaurant in February, usually with 20-30 people. I wrote about it in this DG article, and I think we're still basically doing things this same way. It's not so much of a one for one swap, it's more of a seed sharing party!

Good discussion topic... bet we can come up with some fun ideas!
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Dec 27, 2011 9:23 PM CST
Name: Jill
NW Missouri
I agree I agree Great idea. Joseph! You've got a big job ahead of you, but I'd love to hear how it goes. Maybe I'll gather the courage to try it in my area.

Critter and Sorellina, I read your postings and followed your links with interest. Two ideas with very different sized crowds - and both worked out very well. I live in a very rural area and I'm not sure how much interest there would be, but I think there is a very small garden club locally and I know there is a group of Master Gardeners - I bet they would help spread the word. I'll have to size up local interest this summer and see if there might be interest enough for a small seed swap next winter/early spring. I will have to give folks time to save some seed next summer. Smiling

I'll be watching this thread for lots of great ideas. Keep 'em coming! Thumbs up
Dec 29, 2011 3:19 PM CST
Name: starlight1153 Zone 8a/b
Joseph... Here is some info on holding a SeedySaturday

Now I don't know how much different swapping seeds would be than going to a plant swap, but seems to me they would be pretty much the same.

If there is some sort of community hall, or even a church that would let you set up for free, I would go with that. Other wise I would find out cost of place and charge folks table set up fee to cover building and refreshments. Ya may have folks just coming to see what they can get. Here the one plant thing if your just visiting, they charge a buck to get in.

You could plan ahead and put posters up around town and in grocery stores and places like walmart have free bulletin boards.

If ya do refreshments I would just keep to like tea or simple punch or kool-aid and cookies. That way expense is down, ya don't have to worry about food not being properly stored or a major clean up. Folks there for seeds anyways and be too busy getting their goodies and going. If they want something else, just like at regular markets they can bring their own stuff to munch.

With the plants, folks would set up what they had and trade or give away. Usually folks come in pairs, so one can man the table and the other one can go pick plants they want and see what everybody has.

Usually if it some new type of thing, maybe not to many folks first year, but than word will get around and it will grow from year to year.

If there are places liek John Deere or garden equipment companies, you might charge them a set up fee and have around. Places like that.

You need to decide how big you want it and how much time and energy you willing to devote to it.

If ya just want say other local farmers and gardeners, than having a private room at a restaurant would be best or a church as those places you wouldn't need to get permits or worry about insurance. heck even the outside eating area at a Mcdonalds would work.

Jan 19, 2012 8:32 PM CST
Name: aka GardenQuilts
Facebook, NGA
and the beloved Winston the pug
RosesAreRed hosted a local plant swap. She held it as a pot luck bbq sat her house. It was a wonderful day. People listed what they are bringing on a thread in the forum so that people could organize their plants in advance. There were also a lot of plants "left over" that found homes. There was an optional "gift table". People who brought a gardening related gift chose a gift. If was very informal, but nice. Meeting and chatting with the other gardeners was the best part of the swap.

We also all looked forward to Nisi's tomato plants! She is the "tomato queen" of the midatlantic! The seeds that I shared with the piggies came from Nisi's plants.
Mar 7, 2012 8:11 PM CST
Name: Rick Corey
Pacific NorthWet Zone 8a
For very small gatherings, "Meetups" often use a coffee shop.

And if there are any gardening or farming or self-sufficiency -related "Meetup" groups near you, they can serve as bulletin boards for announcing your meeting.
Dec 22, 2013 8:26 PM CST
Ontario, Canada (zone 6a)
I have attended a few Seedy Saturdays and think they are great. Each is slightly different. The ones I have been to also have had venders selling seeds and things too. I usually buy a few as well as trade. Often the venders also donate a few to the swap (but I've seen them remove it from their sale packaging so they are smaller amounts).

And the first year may be a bit slow but they quickly grow.

The ones I attended were in churches (or former churches) basements so there was lots of room for both the trade table and venders. Unless it was a small handful of friends I would recommend at least a room at a restaurant, a church or community center room seems to work well for Seedy Saturdays I've been to.

One had all seeds scattered willy nilly on one table, I found it hard to sort through them all for what I was interested in. The other has them sorted by type so it was much easier to find what you were interested in, tomatoes or flowers or knew where to look (or not look).
Dec 23, 2013 7:51 AM CST
Name: starlight1153 Zone 8a/b
Brenda.... Those Seedy Saturdays sure sound like a lot of fun. Does everybody set up a table or something, or do you just go around carrying your box of seeds and pull out something to give to a vendor if you see something they have that you want?

Trying to picture in my head exactly how it works. Confused
Feb 6, 2014 1:04 PM CST
Ontario, Canada (zone 6a)
Sorry slow, haven't been to this thread for a while...

The Seedy Saturdays I've been to have had one table set up for the trading. You toss your donations onto the table and you pick through what is there and take what you want.

They sometimes recommend take one packet for each packet you have donated but it really goes on the honor system. One had a garden club member at the table at all times to explain things and monitor for fairness but the other did not. One they had TONES left over at the end and the other it was barren halfway through the day...barely a single packet left (but that one also had a TONE of people coming through, could barely move through the vender area it was so packed) its really variable.

The venders usually have one table each. For one they were just throughout the hallways and you had to walk past venders to reach the swap table but the other I went to the venders were in the basement and the swap table was in the center of the main floor (with a raffle/info table as you entered the building).

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