Seed Exchanges – How to Find or Organize a Seed Swap

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Seed exchanges/swaps – a chance for gardeners to get together and exchange favorite and extra seeds – have been around for as long as humans have worked the land. But interest in these gatherings has increased over the last decade or so as more and more gardeners are planting heritage varieties. As a result, the seed saver movement has exploded. Now, there is even a designated national day – the last Saturday in January – to celebrate seed swapping.
At seed swaps, gardeners can share seeds they’ve saved from their own plants, excess seeds from their stash, or even seeds from another region. It’s a chance for gardeners to learn more about native plants and those that are well adapted to the local growing area. You can also make connections with other plant lovers.

How to find a local seed exchange

The best place to look for seed exchanges is in your local community! Take a look at community bulletins early in the year to see if there are any events in your area. One of the best online places to find local seed swaps is on Facebook, either in local gardening groups or by searching for events.

There are many ways to celebrate National Seed Swap Day:

  • You can check with your local garden club, nursery or extension agent about events near you.
  • You can search for national seed swaps in which you mail your bartered seeds around the country.
  • Or you can throw your own seed swap party, either for your circle of friends and family or as a broader event sponsored by your garden club, school or church.

If you want to run your own seed swap party, here’s how to get started:

1. Decide what sort of seed exchange event you want to do:

harvesting lettuce seeds

Will this be a small, informal gathering, as much about sharing gardening stories as about learning about new seeds? Or do you want a more educational event, perhaps open to the public, in which you provide information and instruction on seed saving with some formal presentation.

2. Set the ground rules for seed swapping:

Labeling packets of seeds

What sort of seeds would you like to share? Open pollinated? Organic? Local? Commercial? All the above or some combination? Don’t forget to consider including tubers, cuttings, and even started seedlings.
You’ll need to figure out how you will ask your guests to label the seeds they bring to swap and how you want the seeds packaged. Whether you set out seeds in bulk or in bags or envelopes, the labels should have as much information on them as possible, including:
  • The name and variety of the seed.
  • Who grew the seed and where.
  • The year the seed was produced.
  • Other useful information might involve growing tips and photos of the parent plants.
And don’t forget to ask participants to label potentially invasive plants clearly—you might even want to consider asking that seeds for such plants be left at home or at least segregated on their own table.

3. Don’t forget the refreshments!

potato salad and garden salad at a pot luck buffet

A potluck is a wonderful addition to a seed-saving event – all the better if your guests can bring something they made with frozen or canned produce from their garden the year before.
Did you freeze basil pesto last summer when your garden was overrun? A seed swap party is a perfect time to mix it with some cream cheese for a delicious dip or mix it with mayonnaise and use it to dress a pasta salad for the buffet.

jar of basil pesto


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