Members of the Kaw Valley Seeds Project are no dummies. They know the best times to schedule an event about growing things is in the season of sweaters, chapped lips and slush. In February, gardeners depend on dirty thoughts to get them through. If the 300 in attendance at the first annual Kaw Valley Seed Fair is any indication, this year’s event will be a hot spot.
Kaw Valley Seed Fair
When: 10 a.m.-3 p.m. Feb. 26
Where: Douglas County 4-H Fairgrounds, 2110 Harper St.
Founded by former Lawrence resident Diana Henry, the mission of the Kaw Valley Seeds Project is to save a living reserve of seeds known to grow well in the unique soils and climate of the Kaw River Valley. This can only be accomplished through a collaborative local effort of growing, eating, sharing, bartering and selling local seeds.
“I realized we were losing our good heritage,” Henry says. “Most of us don’t garden, or we buy seeds that come from a long distance that might not favor the unique conditions of the Kaw Valley. Primarily, I wanted to help shore up our local food supply.”
Though there weren’t that many seed savers out there, the group found several families who had saved seeds that particularly thrive in the area’s soils and hot, humid summers. For example, a variety of plum tomatoes from Denizen that had been passed down for several generations is an enormous producer.
Sponsored by the Douglas County Extension Master Gardeners, the fair has something for experienced gardeners and novices alike. Like last year, exhibitors from around the state will help people understand the value of primary, or open-pollinated, seeds and how to find and plant them. It will also feature local and regional speakers who will address diverse topics such as growing garlic, saving tomato seeds, using integrated pest management instead of chemical pesticides, and grafting trees.
“The great thing about these presentations,” says Kaw Valley Seed Project participant and North Lawrence gardener Kirsten Bosnak, “is that the speakers all address practical subjects that the average person can walk away and apply.”
While their parents are listening to presentations, children can participate in activities of their own.
The seed exchange is the highlight of the fair. People can bring heritage seeds their family has saved as well as heirloom seeds from unknown sources. In exchange, they can take some seeds home to plant. It’s the collaborative nature of the organization and the fair that Bosnak really appreciates.
“I love the idea of having a seed reserve for crops that do well right here built up by a community of people who believe in that,” she says. “The event makes not only a statement about health and frugality, which are big benefits to growing your own food, but also about community. Without the collective effort of many, the project just wouldn’t work.
“If we all help each other with local food production, our collective grocery list will shrink.”