Sharing the seeds of life

Growing begins with seeds—and here’s a chance to exchange seeds and promote plant diversity

Participants in the seed exchange organized by the Chico Permaculture Guild and GRUB will get the scoop on a variety of seeds, like these yin-yang seeds.

Participants in the seed exchange organized by the Chico Permaculture Guild and GRUB will get the scoop on a variety of seeds, like these yin-yang seeds.

Photo By Kyle Delmar

That Jesus talked about a mustard seed in one of his parables shows that seeds were important to the agrarian society of his time.

That a seed exchange will occur in Chico on Sunday, Feb. 28, illustrates that seeds are still a vital part of life—and that their diversity is now threatened.

Stephanie Ladwig-Cooper, a co-founder of the Chico Permaculture Guild and one of the organizers of the upcoming event, has worked as an ecological landscaper for more than a decade. A few years ago she completed coursework in permaculture, an approach to designing human settlements and perennial agricultural systems that mimic the relationships found in natural ecologies.

Now Ladwig-Cooper is excited about the event at which seeds will take center stage: The first annual Seed Exchange, which will be held at the 40-acre farm operated by the GRUB (Growing Resourcefully Uniting Bellies) cooperative.

The Chico Permaculture Guild and GRUB will cooperatively host the 10 a.m.-2 p.m. exchange, and Ladwig-Cooper said they hope to include more groups in the future.

“We’re inviting the public to celebrate seeds, local food, and genetic diversity,” she said.

Anyone interested in sharing and receiving seeds—for both produce gardens and landscapes—may attend, and the event will offer special learning and planting activities for children. Kids will have the opportunity to get their hands in some dirt and learn about growing plants from seeds.

Besides providing a fun and social time for adults and children alike, seed exchanges are important to local communities, Ladwig-Cooper said.

“Creating local seed exchanges supports local food security,” she said. “This is important because with all that’s going on with the climate and peak oil, we need local resilience through local seed banks. As a community, we can acclimate local seeds and preserve diversity.”

Ladwig-Cooper lives with her husband and two young sons in Los Molinos, where the family grows some of its own food and lives a sustainable lifestyle.

Stephanie Ladwig-Cooper has thought for years that the public needs some educating when it comes to seeds. That’s part of the reason she’s helped to organize a local seed exchange.

Photo By Kyle Delmar

The first two hours of the seed exchange will include education and information about various types of seeds, Ladwig-Cooper said, along with information about how to start, store and ensure a viable home seed bank.

Afterward, a potluck-style seed exchange will give people the chance to peruse, ask questions about, and choose public- and member-donated seeds (packaged and labeled). Some envelopes will be available for participants to use for the seeds they select, but seed exchangers are encouraged to bring their own. Limited supplies of potting soil and containers will be provided as well, so people can immediately plant some of their seeds if they desire. People don’t have to bring seeds to participate but are encouraged to do so. Ladwig-Cooper said potential seed donors can contact either the Guild or GRUB to learn more about the kinds of seeds they will accept at the exchange.

“I’ve been wanting to do [a seed exchange] for many years,” said Ladwig-Cooper, noting there’s a need for educating the public about seeds. “We hope to offer an introduction to seed diversity.” She said considerable genetic diversity has been lost in the past 100 years and that GMOs (genetically modified organisms) can potentially eliminate species completely. “Seeds represent the potential of life and the cycle of life,” she said.

Ladwig-Cooper will bring some of her own seeds to the exchange, including cilantro seeds. She said she and her family have been growing cilantro and collecting the seeds from this plant for several years.

Francine Stuelpnagel, spokesperson for GRUB, said she has a huge collection to share with people, including a lot of flower seeds. “I don’t want them to just sit and go bad!” GRUB, established in 2008, embraces learning and practicing sustainable agriculture. Fifteen members live at the cooperative, and their mission includes educating the community.

Stuelpnagel said she views the upcoming exchange as something of a “networking” event that will allow people who work with plants to share information about seeds, including planting times and dates.