By Judy Newman
During the long, cold Canadian winter, gardeners enjoy attending Seedy Saturdays — a series of non-profit, public events across the country. They are organized by individuals and community groups that see a need for gardeners, seed companies, nurseries, gardening organizations, historic sites, and community groups to have a low-cost local venue where they can learn from one another, exchange ideas and seeds, and purchase seeds and plants in a comfortable, social setting.
Some Seedy Saturdays are hosted by established public sites; others by the voluntary effort of a few individuals in community centres or church basements. The events all maintain an informality, low cost of entry for visitors and vendors, and a general theme that is attractive to growers of heritage seeds, organic practitioners, native plant growers, and environmental groups. Since these characteristics are well aligned with Seeds of Diversity's interests, our organization has come to be viewed as a natural participant and promoter of these events. Seedy Saturdays' grassroots nature — low overhead, low admission, local talent, and volunteer energy — distinguishes them from expensive, commercially driven garden shows. Attendees are able to contribute, not just consume.
The number of events increases every year, with over 110 held in 2013 across Canada. At the core of each one is a dedicated organizer, often a member of Seeds of Diversity, who provides vision, time, and talent for their day. Many individuals help organizers with their Seedy Saturdays. The energy, enthusiasm, and efforts of dedicated volunteers make their events a success. Event attendance ranges from around 50 people to over 1,000. However, the success of a day is not judged by its attendance, but rather by the eager participation of the attendees.
No one holds a Seedy Saturday to make money — but some have profits. Many of these events donate to Seeds of Diversity. Some money comes from the food sold by cafés often catered by non-profit groups like USC Canada, which usually serve organic, local food and keep the proceeds for their work. Many days include childcare as part of their program; others do not want to isolate the children, so they have a special table or program for them. Workshops and speakers are part of the Seedy Saturdays. They cover such topics as: seed starting and saving, global seed issues, and organic vegetable growing. Seedy Saturdays held in cities often include urban agricultural topics.
In general, the region where the event is held dictates both the topics and speakers who naturally lend themselves to that area. At the heart of each day is the seed exchange. A past organizer said, "This year we had a woman who brought some runner beans that she had got from the seed exchange last year. She had grown them out and was contributing some this year. That little exchange embodied what this is all about for me."
Feedback from vendors, non-profit exhibitors, and attendees is very positive. Small seed companies "enjoy the event and appreciate the interest taken in their work." One organizer said that vendors report sales increase from year to year. However, most vendors and non-profits are more satisfied with sharing information and raising awareness of their organization. Another organizer stated, "Nobody got rich, but everyone was busy making contacts and connections, and we sure had some fun."
Order our How to Save Your Own Seeds handbook and become a member of Seeds of Diversity to broaden your knowledge of seed saving. See our list of vendors http://www.seeds.ca/sources to find Canadian vendors near your area to invite. You can ask vendors to do workshops, and also contact us for a list of speakers in your area. Other great resources include: