Gardeners who care for the 100 Mile Community garden are planting a new idea for area residents: a seed exchange program.
The simple white cabinet, nestled beside the garden’s shed, features several trays ready to hold seeds along with envelopes, baggies and pens. Using the honour system, gardeners from throughout the community are invited to swap their own seeds for new ones for their gardens. Those who don’t have seeds are encouraged to make a donation to the Community Garden at Higher Ground Natural Foods.
“We’re letting this run without someone truly managing it. We’re giving this a try, we’ve never done this before, it’s new. We’ll see how it evolves and adjust as we go along,” said Karen Johnson-Puckett, who helps out at the community garden but doesn’t consider herself a driving force behind its success.
Johnson-Puckett typically helps organize 100 Mile House’s Seedy Saturday event, which had to be cancelled for the second year in a row as a result of COVID-19. She noted up to 75 per cent of fruit and vegetable diversity has been lost over the last century so promoting the cultivation and preservation of different strains of food is critical. Collecting seeds and sharing them via a swap or donation is an important part of Seedy Saturday.
“Seedy Saturdays are a little different in every community but in its purest form, it is a place to exchange local seeds that have been acclimatized to your area,” Johnson-Puckett said. “The big focus is to enhance the knowledge of heritage seeds and the value of them.”
This same idea is being used for the 100 Mile Community Garden’s new seed swap, Johnson-Puckett said. With so much attention being turned to gardening during the pandemic, now’s a great time to get into gardening and add to the region’s biodiversity, she said.
Gardener Cameron McSorley said he thinks the seed swap, slated to run from May to June, has the potential to turn into something bigger.
“The seed swap is an exercise in community building, an exercise in trust and an exercise in a semi-autonomous self-organizing system,” McSorley said.
McSorley said he’s hopeful the seed swap will carry on in future post-COVID-19 years. Whenever society faces adversity, like a pandemic, he said art and culture emerge and the seed exchange is about bringing people together.
Although Johnson-Puckett is aware there’s a chance someone may come and steal all the seeds she said that’s a chance she’s happy to take. In her experience, most people can be trusted to honour the rules. If there is an incident, the club will deal with it.
McSorley agreed and said gardening connects people with a more simplistic way of life. Gardening or the idea of gardening is something he feels everyone connects with as well as a desire to know where their food comes from.
“I can’t exactly say why gardening is so important to everyone, but it is. It’s just a way to connect with yourself, your friends, the earth and doing it in a group is just so much more fun.”