Field Trip: Heirloom Expo Seed Swap

This will be my last post about the 2015 Heirloom Expo, but it’s one that couldn’t be left out. Every year the Heirloom Expo hosts a seed swap for those who have been saving seeds throughout the year. They bring their seeds to swap with other gardeners, hoping to find interesting varieties to take home and try this year. It’s mayhem. It’s wonderful. It’s worth writing about.

Baker Creek not only hosts the seed swap, but they hand out bargaining chips (AKA free seed packets) to those who didn’t bring any seeds to swap. Yes, many people grab the free seeds and run off, but the rest use those seeds to swap with other gardeners who brought seeds.

Baker Creek's Annual seed swap.

Baker Creek’s Annual seed swap.

A long table sets the stage for the madness of the seed swap

A long table sets the stage for the madness of the seed swap

People began showing up with their stash.

Calendula and Shiso are among the seeds to be swapped.

Calendula and Shiso are among the seeds to be swapped.

Home gardeners gathered on one side of the table with their seeds, while onlookers stood on the other side. Tension was mounting as the Baker Creek staff announced the procedure for swapping.

Swiss Chard and other goodies.

Swiss Chard and other goodies.

Even SLOLA participated in the seed exchange.

SLOLA.org brought the Three Sisters to swap: beans, corn, and squash.

SLOLA.org brought the Three Sisters to swap: beans, corn, and squash.

Some rare varieties were up for grabs.

Some were more organized than others for the seed exchange

Some were more organized than others for the seed exchange

Moringa seeds - loose and ready for the taking...swapping.

Moringa seeds – loose and ready for the taking…swapping.

There wasn’t much time to interview the seed savers about their stash, but one woman grinned as she dumped her seeds out onto the table. She was so excited about what she brought to share: over 100 varieties of seeds from her garden.

One woman went all out and labeled over 100 different varieties of seeds from her garden.

Tiny packets of more than 100 different varieties of seeds from her garden.

And of course, there is hemp. What else would you expect from a festival in Northern California?

And of course, there was hemp. What else would you expect from a festival in Northern California?

The point of the seed exchange is to share seeds among gardeners. Baker Creek requests that if we take the free seeds, we come back next year with seeds grown out from that packet to share. Last year I took a packet of Roman Candle seeds and grew them out, but didn’t get a strong harvest, so I didn’t save the seeds. Next year, though, I’m hoping to return with seeds to the Heirloom Expo to share.

Do you have a seed swap in your neck of the woods? Post about it here.

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