Jessica Damiano is a master gardener and journalist with more than 25 years experience in radio, television, print
Got seeds? Want seeds? You’re in luck: The Long Island Regional Seed Consortium is hosting its second annual seed swap on Feb. 13 at Suffolk County Community College in Riverhead.
The free event, which will run from 1-4 p.m., will include panel discussions; presentations about cultivating seed in small spaces; a unique heirloom bean from upstate New York that is part of Slow Food USA’s Ark of Taste; and a discussion about the Long Island Cheese Pumpkin Project, which began with a local grower’s quest to find elusive seeds for the pumpkins he grew up eating in his mom’s homemade pies, and grew to involve farmers and seed savers across Long Island -- and beyond.
If this all sounds fascinating and you’d like to be a part of this growing back-to-basics movement, the seed swap is for you.
Those who attend can expect to meet like-minded gardeners, local farmers and seed savers, learn techniques for saving seeds, get answers to burning questions and, of course, obtain new seeds to start at home for their own gardens.
Ken Ettlinger, whose work helped save the Long Island cheese pumpkin from extinction, will host a panel about the project, and Steph Gaylor of Invincible Summer Farms in Southold, who works closely with Ettlinger, founded the Salt of the Earth Seed Company and started the seed consortium, also will be on hand. In addition, “poet farmer” Scott Chaskey of Quail Hill Farms in Amagansett will be signing his books for attendees.
Yes, this is the Woodstock of seed saving, and these are its rock stars.
Swaps, by definition, are typically tit-for-tat, but if you’d like to start saving your own seeds and don’t yet have any to share, you still will be able to bring a small amount home to get started. The nonprofit group is a welcoming one, and it wants you to succeed. Spectators, too, are encouraged to attend. And I’m told there will be refreshments.
Be sure to bring envelopes to store your scores — and a pen to ensure you don’t plant what you expect will be broccoli but end up with watermelons.
The heirloom vegetable, flower and/or herb seeds you bring for trading should:
- Be seeds you saved yourself
- Have been open-pollinated and not crossed with other varieties
- Be fresh, ideally from last season
- Be in a jar or container, labeled with the following information: variety name and species, the year of harvest or purchase, a short description and original source.
- Not be invasive or hybrid F1
Leftover commercial seeds — and tubers, fruit scions and bulbs — also can be swapped, as long as they aren’t hybrids.
The Long Island Regional Seed Consortium was formed in 2012 with a mission to research, educate about and advocate for local seed systems, with an emphasis on “the right of every person to save seed and improve on varieties as they see fit.” It hopes to spread the word that “learning to seed save is the first step in ensuring a strong and lasting local food system.”
And it puts its money where its mouth is, so to speak, with free lessons and demonstrations such as the ones that will be available at next week’s event.
The SCCC Riverhead campus is at 121 Speonk Riverhead Rd.