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Elora woman launches community seed exchange program to kick off spring

Karry Sawatsky knew that many people would be gardening during the pandemic, so she decided to make it a community activity

With more people turning to gardening during the pandemic this spring, Elora's Karry Sawatsky decided 'Why not get in on the fun together?'

Sawatsky launched the Community Seed Exchange, a project where participants can donate seeds, and get different surprise seeds in return.

“It’s like Christmas!” said Sawatsky. “You don’t know what you’re going to get. You are trading some of your favourites and that's the idea. To trade things that you’re excited about growing and then learn about new varieties.

“You get these individual packets and some people wrap them up in these beautiful papers and it's just like Christmas.”

Sawatsky said she got the idea of the seed exchange when she was sifting through her giant collection of seeds to exchange with a couple of friends, like she does every year. 

She said when she started looking for additional seeds to order online, she noticed that many seed banks are backlogged and sold out for the season. Sawatsky said that’s how she knew that a lot of people must be gardening at the time. 

“Why not make it a fun event, share seeds and get excited about the year together to look forward to especially having a sense of community since we can’t all get together, we can still experience community through an event like this,” said Sawatsky. 

Sawatsky said exchanging seeds within the community not only takes the stress off of seed companies, but also helps with biodiversity. 

“Seed saving is part of keeping heirloom seeds alive and sharing them and also adapting seeds locally,” said Sawatsky.

“Over the years, we’re actually having seeds go extinct.”

Sawatsky said exchanging seeds can also help with food security with people learning how to grow their own food. 

Anyone can participate in the Community Seed Exchange by sending up to 30 individually packaged, labelled seeds and mailing them to P.O. Box 2995 in Elora or to the Elora Brewing Company by Feb. 16. Participants will receive their seeds back by March 1.

Sawatsky said people can submit herbs, flowers or vegetables.

“I would encourage people to send in a variety as opposed to all 30 flowers and that way I can evenly distribute the herbs and vegetables too,” said Sawatsky adding that she’s already seen many neat varieties of seeds in the exchange from the tiny current tomato to the lemon cucumber which is her personal favourite. 

“People have the option to pick their seeds up when they’re ready at the Elora Brewing Company or for me to mail them back.” 

Sawatsky said she will also be running some workshops in the summer to teach people how to save and ferment seeds so they’re viable for the following year. 

"There are some tips and tricks on how to save seeds," said Sawatsky.

Information about the Community Seed Exchange can be found here


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Anam Khan

About the Author: Anam Khan

Anam Khan is a journalist who covers numerous beats in Guelph and Wellington County that include politics, crime, features, environment and social justice
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