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In Search of Seed


  • photo by Bob Doran
  • Sunflower

Are you a gardener, casual or otherwise? Planning a vegetable garden or maybe thinking about planting a few flowers now that spring has sprung? If so, the Humboldt Seed and Plant Exchange is the place to be this Saturday. A dedicated volunteer group of local sustainable agriculture enthusiasts now known as the Humboldt Permaculture Guild has been doing the annual exchange since way back in the 20th century -- this is the 14th, and it's bigger and better than ever.

"For years it's been at the Manila Community Center," said workshop coordinator Jared Zystro. "Last year we started ramping things up -- it was packed the whole time, so this year we're moving it to the Arcata Community Center."

Zystro describes the free event as a form of "controlled anarchy," a free-for-all give and take for garden enthusiasts. "Basically there's a series of tables inside and outside, somewhat loosely organized into categories like vegetables and flowers. Everyone sets what they've brought on the tables: Seed-saving gardeners and farmers bring seeds they've saved from the previous year. Some farmers will bring old seed they may have bought last year and didn't use. Gardeners bring live plants they've dug up and maybe divided out -- those are outside. We'll have packets and labels and containers. You just come and take what you need."

While bringing along some sort of seed/plant contribution is encouraged, it's not required, says Zystro, who hopes that anyone "in search of seed" will feel comfortable. "It's such a great celebration of spring, and such a great example of local self-sufficiency."

Zystro is in the seed business in a way: He's a California rep for a national organization, the Organic Seed Alliance, working with farmers on sustainable agriculture issues especially related to seeds, keeping them protected from GMO contamination for example. He'll kick off the workshop schedule at 11 a.m. with a discussion of backyard plant breeding. You'll also be able to share the knowledge of local farm "superstars" like Eddie Tanner of DeepSeeded Community Farm, who will talk about choosing vegetable varieties for Humboldt County's climate (at 2 p.m.). Mark DuPont of Sandy Bar Ranch and Klamath Knot Permaculture gives tips on fruit tree grafting (also at 2). Sarah Kleeger and Andrew Still from Seed Ambassadors offer demonstrations on cleaning your seeds throughout the day. You can also learn about polyculture, seed starting, composting, window gardens and permaculture for kids.

And speaking of kids, Shail Pec-Crouse of Tule Fog Farm will be there with some baby goats, little lambs and piglets in a grass-fed farm animal petting zoo. All that, plus food (organic of course) and music (starting at noon) by organic local folkies Jim Silva, Trillium, Our Weight in Gold and Jan Bramlett.

The Humboldt Seed and Plant Exchange takes place on Saturday, March 31, from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. at the Arcata Community Center. Check for the entire schedule. 



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