Cleveland Seed Bank’s Annual Winter Seed Swap Gets Gardeners Thinking About Spring

Sat 1/26 @ 2-4PM

For those worried about the living in a post-apocalyptic world, you can rest easy knowing a doomsday vault is protecting the seeds of the world from mass destruction. The down side is the underground cellar is located in an Arctic mountainside with IcelandAir more than likely cancelling all flights out of Hopkins.

Nevertheless, in Northeast Ohio there is hope with the Cleveland Seed Bank, which for  more than five years has been making its mission to preserve the area’s resilient food system for generations to come.

“We’re a project initiative of the Hummingbird Project, which is working for social justice through ecological regeneration and community empowerment,” Cleveland Seed Bank program coordinator Kimmy Lessman said.

“A seed bank protects seeds. So, for the Cleveland area, if anybody had any seed that they’ve been passing on from generation to generation in their family or if there are any seeds they’ve regionally adapted — which means they’ve been saving them for years — we can protect and continue to grow them out year after year to make them regionally adaptive.”

Post-apocalyptic world notwithstanding, the other real appeal of the Cleveland Seed Bank is its annual Winter Seed Swap, which takes place Sat 1/26 (National Seed Swap Day) @ 2-4pm at St. Patrick’s Parish Hall in Ohio City.

Specifically, the basically free affair (suggested $5 donation) allows everyone from green thumbs to green thumb wannabees to get their hands on some great seeds that, once planted, will yield some tasty crops. In 2018, more than 400 people attended with expectations this year’s Winter Seed Swap will include 500 participants.

“Attendance is kind of 50/50: People come to the seed swap because they are diehard gardeners and farmers,” Lessman said. “They’ve been saving seeds their whole life, so they’re just so excited to share. They’re also really interested in getting their hands on varieties that they know other gardeners and farmers are bringing.

“On the other end of the spectrum, we have people who have never planted a seed before, but they heard about this awesome opportunity. They want to know what it’s about. So there are first-time gardeners who are just starting to learn the importance of saving seeds.”

While attending the Winter Seed Swap, visitors will be encouraged to join the Cleveland Seed Bank, which is already making a presence across the area.

“Our Seed Library Program offers 24 different varieties in four different public library systems,” Lessman said. “We purchase these seeds from a reliable company and offer them for free at each library branch.”

“And at any given time, the Cleveland Seed Bank has 25 to 50 different varieties of crops that we are stewarding and growing in urban lots throughout the city, as well as being grown out by our Seed Stewards through our Seed Steward Program.”

Those varieties range from Georgia collards, gilbertie paste tomatoes and sweet chocolate bell peppers to red cored carrots, dark green zucchini and New England pie pumpkins.

“I feel like seeds are at the very basis of life,” Lessman said. “It’s the foundation of all of the food that we eat, regardless of what food that may be. It’s the foundation of our existence itself. Statistics shows that nine out of 10 bites of food that we eat every day come from a seed.”

[Written by John Benson]

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