ANNUAL SEED SWAP PROMOTES GREEN, HEALTHY LIFESTYLE
CHICO >> In the same way saved money can increase by way of compounding interest, plant seeds can benefit when growers save them and then reap annual improvement.
That sums up one of the main goals of the annual Seed and Scion Swap, held in Trinity United Methodist Church’s hall at 285 E. Fifth Street in Chico on Saturday. It was free and open to the public.
It was the 14th run for the event, according to coordinator Sherri Scott, who said 13 have taken place in person and the 2021 version — due to COVID — was held online through Facebook.
“We encourage people to save their seeds, then bring them in, potluck-style,” explained Scott, who owns Harvest and Habitat Nursery in Chico. “Folks come around and take what they need. There should be no economic barriers to having a garden.”
The event seeks non-hybrid seeds with open pollination, Scott said, adding that the participants prefer organic seeds, but “there’s no test” to confirm whether they are.
Hybrids are not at all desirable for this type of event.
“A person can’t grow them out successfully to have fruit true to its type,” Scott said. “In the next generation, there would be a variety of characteristics” — some of them not what the grower expects or wants.
Event organizers placed different types of seeds on different tables in the church hall, representing crops from cool seasons, warm seasons, plants, fruits and herbs.
A “scion swap” took place as a part of the event, as people could shares grafts from fruit trees.
Sharing seeds, stories
Before the main event began at noon, there was a half-hour “seed share” session. Seed contributors could share stories and tips: “talking about savings from a generation, dishes they make from the things they grow, techniques on growing,” Scott said.
This is especially important due to our warming climate, she explained. A large number of people have struggled with their tomatoes thriving with the Sacramento Valley’s hot summers, and need advice and guidance on helping the crops grow more effectively.
Scott said Chico-based organizations Butte Environmental Council and From the Ground Up Farms, and the Paradise-based Camp Fire Restoration Project, along with Cottonwood’s Synergy Seeds, helped
to make the event a success. She mentioned George Stevens, owner of Synergy Seeds, as an “old-time seed saver” in the area.
Other supporting organizations include Chico Natural Foods, the Butte County Local Food Network, as well as Trinity United Methodist Church.
Scott explained that not all seeds are suitable for storage for a very long period. Carrots and onion seeds are short-lived, while lettuce seeds are short-lived if exposed to temperatures higher than 80 degrees. Tomato, bean and squash seeds can remain viable “for some years,” she said, if stored in a dry and dark location.
Other exhibitors took advantage of the event’s likeminded attendees. One such organization is the Phoenix Nest Community Project, which hosted the Chico “Take a Plant, Leave a Plant” event. Volunteers Amber French St. Claire and Kat Kjellstrom said the group provides free herbs, “making sure the community has free access to these.”
Healing and recovery
Also the owner of Petals of Peace, St. Claire said her group’s products have successfully helped address anxiety, depression and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
Kjellstrom, who was a police sergeant in Globe, Ariz., before retiring, attended her first clinic 1½ years ago.
“I volunteered with Herbalists Without Borders, and it changed my life,” she said, adding that she is now a regular practitioner as well as owner of Serendipity Wellness.
Robert Howard of Los Molinos, who along with his wife, Trish, owns Double Happiness Gardens, perused the tables at the event for seeds he might use. The couple just opened their business in January. Trish Howard specializes in salvias and heritage roses, while Robert focuses on herbs and vegetables. They grow their plants in a propagation greenhouse.
Edward Fortenberry, owner of Paradise Permaculture, had purchased a “Money Tree” (pachira aquatica) at the event. He described it as a “household ornamental” with air purification benefits and pointed to the “nodes” where roots will develop.
Culturally, “It has value in mending relationships,” Fortenberry said, adding that it’s a popular plant in Central and South America.
Janel Luke, co-chair of the Camp Fire Restoration Project, said her group exists “to promote ecological stewardship as well as permaculture” in areas the 2018 Camp Fire directly affected — Concow, Paradise and Butte Creek Canyon. Permaculture’s definition is “the establishment of agricultural ecosystems that are sustainable and selfsufficient.”
“We focus on tree planting, water conservation and composting,” Luke said. “Our focus is on the specific ecology for this area.” She mentioned a partnership with TEK Chico — Traditional Ecological Knowledge — as being one of the keys to her group’s success.
Scott, the event’s coordinator, said the month of February is dedicated to several planting-related events just in time for the approaching warm weather. Events range from composting, grafting and seed starting all the way to gardening and landscaping with native plants and converting lawns to conserve water and create habitat.