Seedy Sunday or Seedy Saturday refers to events in which people get together to swap seeds, especially heirloom varieties, or varieties that have been in the family for years if not several generations.
The idea of conserving heritage varieties of crops was in it’s infancy in Canada in 1989. It was very difficult to find heritage varieties of vegetables, fruits, flowers and grains. They were non existent in seed catalogues.
Canada's heritage seed program had been running for four years under the guidance of Heather Apple and COG (Canadian Organic Growers).
Sharon Rempel was a B.C. director of the fledgling Heritage Seed Program and wanted to find a way to bring a large number of people together to share seeds and stories. On February 14, 1989 Sharon designed and hosted Canada’s first Seedy Saturday. The first participants included dozens of small seed companies selling 'open pollinated' seeds; USC Canada's Vancouver office; Health Action Network; living history sites including 'The Grist Mill at Keremeos'. Over 500 people came to hear talks about seeds, swap and buy seeds and share their stories about their favorite plants. The event was held at The VanDusen Botanical Gardens in Vancouver, B.C.. The seeds sold had to be ‘open pollinated’ and not hybrids. People swapped their stories and seeds at the ‘Swap Table’ and many of these varieties became recommercialized through the small seed companies.
Sharon also invited the Vancouver “Nyala” Ethiopian restaurant to the event to provide refreshments. Ethiopia is considered the Center of Diversity globally for bread wheat. USC was running a project called ‘Seeds of Survival’ in Ethiopia; they were training people to do ‘on farm’ variety conservation and 'on farm' plant breeding.
The event is now in over sixty communities across Canada. The events are listed on the Seeds of Diversity website.
The UK's Soil Association began hosting Seedy Saturday and Seedy Sunday events since 2001. The event is now in Wales, Scotland and throughout England.
An old concept, as farmers have been saving seeds for the last 11,000 years, the problem over the last fifty years, has been the commercialisation of seeds, industrial agriculture, and in the last decade, the domination of the commercial seed market by a handful of transnational companies.
The problem is exacerbated in the EU by National Seed Lists. If a seed or variety is not on the national list it cannot legally be sold. To register and then maintain a seed on the list is prohibitively expensive, so only a few seeds make it onto the list. Those that do are selected on the basis of uniformity and handling quality of the produce. As a result many seed varieties are facing extinction due to the lack of genetic diversity.
The first Seedy Sunday in England was at Brighton on the south coast. It has since become a major event, with people coming from all over the country. It has also encouraged many others to establish Seedy Sundays.
What is seed swapping?(Ask Natural Life: Answers to reader questions about sustainable, healthy family living)
Mar 01, 2011; Q: For the past month or so, I've been seeing posters advertising a seed swap in our area this Spring. What is that all about?...