Seed Swap Success!
As you can see from the new seeds I have laid out in the above photo, yesterday’s first Gardeners’ Social and Seed Swap event was a huge success. I took in about the same amount of seed packets as I brought home but scored some fantastic finds: Goji berries, Woad, several varieties of Spinach, Radiccio, Aubergine (Eggplant), Scorzonesa (Black Salsify), a variety of herbs and flowers and quite a few others.
At the end of the event there were quite a few packets of seeds left lying on the stations and so while cleaning up I put them all into a bag and took them home as well. There are tons that would have filled the rest of my seed requirements for this year and I’m kicking myself that I put in a seed order at all. I think what I’ll do with them is leave them in our allotment shed which will be built by the end of next month. That way anyone from the site can have a rummage through and pick ones out that they need.
Since I nor any of the others involved in planning the event had experience running a seed swap before we assumed that gardeners could chat to one another and swap seeds one to one. The trading areas we set up were really to encourage people to come to a particular place in the room to see if there were others who wanted to trade items. What happened in actuality is that people came and plopped all their seeds, spuds, sets and seedlings down on the tables and then rummaged through the seeds which were already there. It was like a free rummage sale and everyone seemed to have a great time looking through the items and picking up what they liked. I couldn’t get close enough to get a good picture of the peak trading time but the image above shows what the trading looked like generally throughout the event.
While I was shooting around the room selling raffle tickets and chatting with visitors I also had a brush with local fame by way of Simon Clarke from Manx Radio. He took the above picture of me and sat me down to record a piece for his ‘Countryside’ show tomorrow morning. I’m pleased that we’ve received so much support and coverage for not only the event but for all the allotments on the island.
The event I spoke to Amanda Griffin, one of the organisers of the Jurby Allotment and our resident Permaculture guru. She’s been waiting to do a seed order until after the event and was elated to find everything she needed yesterday. That will save her about £40 overall and will ensure that seeds that might have been left in cupboards and garden sheds will have a chance to grow. Amanda isn’t alone though since I probably saved £20+ myself and others saved even more. With times getting tougher for people the world over, it’s great to be able to organise an event that saves people this kind of money. The figures expand when you take into account the amounts they’ll eventually save on all the fruit, herbs and vegetables they’ll be able to grow for themselves, rather than purchase from the shop.
With the success we had yesterday there’s no doubt in my mind that we’ll make sure a Seed Swap happens as an annual event. And in light of our initial amateur success, I really encourage other gardeners, allotments and growing groups to organise one of your own. It’s a chance to meet up before the growing year, save some money, re-home unwanted seeds and take home ones you’re excited about. The main things I’ve learned from our first run and research into other seed swaps in the UK are:
1. Don’t be too strict with how seeds are swapped – people will find their own ways of doing it if given the basic idea. Our trading areas for ‘Vegetables’, ‘Fruit’ and ‘Flowers and Garden Plants’ were enough to get the ball rolling. Next year a section for ‘Herbs’ might not be a bad idea though.
2. Make the event as affordable as possible – people want to swap seeds mainly as a way to save money. We made our event free to attend but to pay for the cost of hiring the room we held a raffle which many people contributed to by either bringing in raffle prizes or by purchasing tickets. The proceeds easily covered our expenses.
3. A cosy atmosphere and the possibility of buying a drink make swapping all the more fun. We held our event in a community club that had an open fire, comfortable seating and a fully stocked bar. Other alternatives for venue could be at a private home or even at a local pub.
4. Don’t require people to show up with seeds in hand since this discourages beginner gardeners. Instead ask people to offer 50p or some other small amount to the person with seeds that they’d like. If everyone lays their seeds on the table like they did at our event, you can ask that they make a small donation of the same amount to the organisation. This happened spontaneously for us when several people came up to me with money for seeds that they wanted. These small donations could go toward paying for the room hire or for other projects in your organisation.
5. Make sure you have enough people to run the raffle, sign-in sheet or facilitate swapping. Though I managed to get all the seeds I wanted I had to go at the very end since I was so busy. I think one of my friends who was manning the sign-in desk was also swamped with what she was doing and might not have made it over to the stations very often.
6. Advertise Advertise Advertise! A journalist friend wrote us an article for the local paper and several of us printed and posted flyers at local businesses and garden centres. I also emailed the heads of many of the gardening organisations on the island asking them to send provided information and a digital flyer of our event to their members. Through all of this work we were then approached by Manx Radio to do a spot on the event about two weeks ago. This has helped to not only create more awareness about the Seed Swap but also got me in touch with several people who would like to have an allotment themselves.
7. Lastly, have an absolute blast! Gardening can be a solitary hobby but when we all get together it can be be a great time chatting about the last growing season, invaluable tips for the year to come and even make beekeeping buddies such as I found yesterday.
I hope these tips help and if you have any questions please feel free to leave them in the comment section below.