Seed exchange is a long-standing tradition at the National Bioneers Conference. A way to preserve our cultural food heritage, exchanging heirloom seed varieties promotes biodiversity. By saving seeds true in their genetics, with high germination rates, future generations of that plant are insured. Open pollinated plants are extremely important because of their resilience and adaptability to local conditions.
Elizabeth Johnson is bringing the Seed Exchange to Central Coast Bioneers this year. Current plans call for her to lead a workshop before the exchange to discuss collecting, saving, and using seeds.
Johnson has been the main facilitator for the Seed Exchange in San Luis Obispo for the past four years. Held at the public library, the exchange began with donations from local farms including Windrose, Cal Poly, and Nature’s Touch. In the past two years, local gardeners have provided the majority of the seeds.
“Seed saving grows from an increase in gardening. We are in the third big wave this century of the gardening movement,” Johnson explained, “and this movement is stronger. Young people are realizing the dire straights we are in.”
It is not just at Bioneers Conferences but across the country that gardeners and farmers are keeping and sharing seeds. The Seed Savers Exchange Yearbook for 2011 is physical confirmation. Johnson flipped to the section on potatoes. Eight double pages on potato varieties alone, make the three types sold at grocery stores seem limited, puny. Keeping the DNA in a plant active and growing is essential for the security of our national food system. Since politicians and corporations ignore these essential laws of biodiversity, it is more essential than ever we start in our communities.