In 1989, finding heritage varieties of vegetables, fruits, flowers, and grains was very difficult. Sharon Rempel, a director of Seeds of Diversity, wanted to find a way to bring people together to share seeds and stories. In 1990, her vision became a reality. Curator Roy Forster from the VanDusen Botanical Gardens hosted Canada’s first Seedy Saturday. Over 500 people attended, including local seed savers, producers, and growers’ associations.
The seed was sown, and by 2019, over 170 Seedy Saturday events were taking place across Canada every spring.
What Are They?
Informal drop-in events with meager entrance fees (if at all), Seedy Saturdays are primarily organized by local garden clubs, community groups, or individuals. Often held on Saturdays (hence the name), they can occur any day throughout the week.
Attracting community gardeners, organic growers, and seed producers, they offer seed-starting and growing resources through on-site workshops and invited speakers.
Unlike a seed library where seeds are borrowed at planting time with the promise that a portion of the harvested seed is returned to the library at the end of the season, the idea of Seedy Saturdays is to provide a venue for people to exchange and share seeds, and the unique stories that go with them such as how the seed got its name or how the seed saver came upon the seed. There’s no obligation to return what is exchanged to the original owner at the end of the season.
Why They Matter
Each event hopes to keep the irreplaceable genetic diversity that growing from open-pollinated, non-GMO, non-hybridized seed offers. In addition, growing from seed to seed allows each generation of the plant to better adapt to the unique environment it calls home and our quickly warming planet.
Small seed companies are often the trailblazers in maintaining a region’s seed diversity. For example, Mary-Alice Johnson of Full Circle Seeds in Sooke, BC, has been instrumental in organizing Seedy Saturday events in her community. She travels up and down Vancouver Island in the spring, attending other events and sharing and selling her open-pollinated farm-grown seeds.
She’s learned a lot from talking to other seed savers, which has ultimately helped her grow better seeds and enhance the biodiversity of her small farm.
Seeds of Diversity is a non-profit membership organization comprised of seed savers from across Canada whose mission is to protect Canada’s seed biodiversity through growing and sharing seeds. Every year, they employ an army of volunteers to keep the rarest of open-pollinated seeds alive and in cultivation for future gardeners to enjoy.
Since their conception, they’ve supported Seedy Saturday events, providing resources for those wishing to organize their seed exchanges.
For a comprehensive list of Canada’s upcoming Seedy Saturday events and resources:
Inspired but Canada’s Seedy Saturday and Sunday events in February 2002, the UK’s first-ever seed swap occurred in Brighton. Since then, other communities throughout Great Britain have organized exchanges.
Seedy Sunday UK provides a comprehensive list of events in the United Kingdom. Contact the organization directly through the Seedy Sunday website.
If this is the year you’d like to start growing from seed, check out a Seedy Saturday/Sunday event in your area! You won’t be disappointed and will come away with many tips and tricks on getting started on your seed journey.