Seed swaps preserve our heritage varieties of fruit and vegetables (The Ecologist)

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Don’t buy seeds; swap them

Jan Goodey

You can’t buy a seed unless its strain has been expensively registered. But you can swap them with fellow gardeners, helping food growing and biodiversity to thrive

The UK’s biggest annual seed swap, Seedy Sunday, takes place in Hove on Feb 7. Seed swaps preserve our heritage varieties of fruit and vegetables and help subvert the domination of the seed industry by the multinationals.

Brighton and Hove’s small-scale growers have been seed-swapping since 2002 when 350 people turned up to the inaugural do, a ramshackle affair held in a Kemp Town church. Since then it’s moved to an art deco theatre and for the last two years the much bigger and more imposing Hove Town Hall.

Other swaps (see list below) tend to be smaller events held at allotments or community centres. Most take place around February in venues scattered from Stonebridge city farm in north west London to east Kilbride.

Seeds of change

Fran Saunders got involved with Seedy Sunday after the success of the first swap. Allotment-less, she has long been interested in growing in small spaces as is evident when you turn up on her doorstep, which is teeming with pots of every size.

‘I’ve completed a Permaculture course and am interested in growing medicinal herbs. I confess to not being the greatest gardener in the world, and I’m learning all the time! Seedy Sunday helps and we’re looking to do more in the community with workshops on seed saving, a possible seed bank and maybe even developing our own varieties.’

And how much does it cost to put the whole thing on?

‘£2,500. We get Lottery money which has helped develop the website. Infinity Foods [organic produce retailer and distributor] sponsor the seed packets. We’re keen to make it as accessible to everyone and not have high admission charges [entry currently costs £1.50]. It’s run entirely by volunteers who give up their time because they believe in it so much.’

Any highlights/funny anecdotes from over the years?

‘I think it was the second or third year a chap turned up with dope seeds and had a stall next to the city council! It’s always an honour when Patrick Mulvaney, chairman of the UK Food Group, agrees to speak. His knowledge is immense.’

A growing movement




Published by

Willem Van Cotthem

Honorary Professor of Botany, University of Ghent (Belgium). Scientific Consultant for Desertification and Sustainable Development.