The Heady Buzz and Hope of Canada's Seedy Saturdays
We are so very lucky in Canada to have locally organized, in late winter or early spring, public events called Seedy Saturdays or Sundays. These once-a-year events, started by Vancouver agronomist Sharon Rempel in 1990, have long promoted the free exchange of open-pollinated seed saved by local gardeners and farmers. Sharon recognized that many gardeners save family heirlooms and are, more often then not, willing to share or exchange these seeds with other gardeners. The seed swap table is the heart of these events and many gravitate to share and exchange.
Family heirlooms have enjoyed a wider audience by this kind of sharing, and as such, have increased the resiliency of regional seed sheds. Now almost thirty years on there are over 100 such events held across Canada each year. These occasions give gardeners the opportunity to attend workshops, enjoy good food and refreshments, purchase seed from small-scale regional seed companies and most importantly, catch up with neighbours and friends after a long winter.
There is hope in the air and palpable anticipation for the coming season. There are small knots of people gathered deep in conversation, children dodging between legs whilst serious discussions happen about favourite varieties, best colour combinations for flowers and organic practices. There is always a great deal of energy and socializing happening and it’s a wonderful way to meet those in the gardening and farming community.
This year while we were selling seeds at Ottawa's Seedy Saturday, I was pleasantly surprised by an encounter with a young man of 10 years of age or so, who asked if a glass jar of corn seed would happen to be Painted Mountain. I replied no, it was Abenaki Calais Flint with similar red and yellow kernels but that each cob had just one colour. He replied with a, “… well I think I prefer a cob with mixed colours”. I was delighted as here was a young fellow who not only knew what corn seed looked like, but also that corn came in different varieties, one of which he knew, and notably that he had an opinion about a characteristic of this particular corn variety. I think this young man has an exciting gardening adventure ahead of him.
I hope that as the years pass, more and more children will arrive with such curiosity and confidence at seedy weekend events as this will be an excellent metric of the success that Sharon Rempel no doubt envisioned when she started the very first Seedy Saturday.
For a full list of seed events visit Seeds of Diversity at www.seeds.ca
Warm regards and happy seed gathering,