CHICO — Like the growth of savings through compound interest, the growth of plants from saved seeds improves year after year if the seeds are grown.
At least, that’s the idea behind the annual Seed and Scion Swap, which took place in the hall of the Trinity United Methodist Church at 285 E. Fifth Street in Chico on Saturday. Everyone was welcome to attend for no charge.
According to event coordinator Sherri Scott, of the 14 iterations of the event, 13 have taken place in person and the 2021 iteration was held online through Facebook because of COVID.
“We encourage people to save their seeds, then bring them in, potluck-style,” said Scott, who owns Harvest and Habitat Nursery in Chico. In this community, people take what they need as they pass through. A person’s ability to plant and maintain a garden shouldn’t be contingent on his or her financial situation.
Participants prefer organic seeds, but “there’s no test” to determine if they are, so the event seeks non-hybrid, open-pollinated seeds, as stated by Scott.
It’s not the kind of thing where hybrids are wanted.
Scott remarked, “A person can’t successfully grow them out to have fruit true to its type.” The grower may not be pleased with all of the traits that appear in the next generation.
The church hall was filled with tables of seeds representing a wide variety of crops, including those grown during the cool season, the warm season, as well as plants, fruits, and herbs.
As part of the celebration, attendees could trade grafts from fruit trees in a “scion swap.”
Planting and discussing new seeds, and swapping tales
There was a half-hour “seed share” session before the main event started at noon. Scott suggested that those who donated seeds could talk about “generational savings, dishes they make from the things they grow, techniques on growing.”
She said the urgency of this matter is magnified by the fact that our climate is changing. Many people in the Sacramento Valley have had trouble with their tomato crops thriving in the region’s hot summers and could use some pointers on how to improve their results.
For example, Scott mentioned the contributions of the Chico-based Butte Environmental Council and From the Ground Up Farms, the Paradise-based Camp Fire Restoration Project, and the Cottonwood-based Synergy Seeds. George Stevens, proprietor of Synergy Seeds, was one of the “old-time seed savers” she spoke of.
Trinity United Methodist Church, Chico Natural Foods, and the Butte County Local Food Network are also involved.
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Scott noted that seeds fare well in long-term storage conditions. Seeds of carrots, onions, and lettuce don’t fare well in temperatures over 80 degrees Fahrenheit. She said that seeds for tomatoes, beans, and squash can be kept “for some years” in a cool, dry, dark place.
Others who set up shop at the event capitalised on the presence of people with similar interests. The Chico “Take a Plant, Leave a Plant” event was organised by the Phoenix Nest Community Project, one such group. Amber French St. Claire and Kat Kjellstrom, two of the group’s dedicated volunteers, have said, “making sure the community has free access to these,” meaning the herbs are provided at no cost.
Rest and rejuvenation
St. Claire, who is also the owner of Petals of Peace, claimed that the products sold by her company are effective in treating PTSD, depression, and anxiety (PTSD).
Kjellstrom, a former police sergeant in Globe, Arizona, attended her first clinic about 1.5 years before she retired.
She said, “I volunteered with Herbalists Without Borders and it changed my life; now I’m a regular practitioner and the owner of Serendipity Wellness.”
During the event, Robert Howard of Los Molinos, who owns Double Happiness Gardens with his wife Trish, looked through the seed catalogues on display to find something suitable for their garden. In January, the couple launched their company. While Robert is an expert with herbs and vegetables, Trish Howard is an expert with salvias and heritage roses. A propagation greenhouse is where they tend to their plants.
Paradise Permaculture owner Edward Fortenberry bought a “Money Tree” (pachira aquatica) at the fair. He called it a “indoor ornamental” with the ability to clean the air and showed me the “nodes” where the roots would form.
Popular in Central and South America, “It has value in mending relationships,” Fortenberry said.