Archive for Sunday, February 5, 2012

Garden Calendar: Seed fair seeks to entertain, build reserve

February 5, 2012


Come out to the third annual Kaw Valley Seeds Project Fair this Saturday for an opportunity to share and pick up seeds, learn about gardening and seed saving, and just have fun.

The Seed Fair is organized by the Kaw Valley Seeds Project, which is an outgrowth of the Kansas Area Watershed (KAW) Council. The KAW Council sponsors the event with the Douglas County Extension Master Gardeners.

Kaw Valley Seeds Project Seed Fair

When: 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday

Where: Building 21, Douglas County Fairgrounds, 2110 Harper St., Lawrence

Cost: Free

More information is available at 842-4418 and

About 35 exhibitors/vendors are scheduled to be at the Seed Fair, including local farmers and nonprofit organizations like the Kansas Native Plant Society and Kansas Rural Center. Food will be available and there are activities especially for children.

The seed exchange table is the real highlight of the Seed Fair, though. “People can bring whatever seeds they have and put them out to share with other people who attend,” explains Dan Bentley, director of the Kaw Valley Seeds Project. Fair attendees are not required to or expected to bring seeds in order to take seeds from the table, but sharing is encouraged. Most of the seeds are vegetables and flowers, and typically a wide range of species is available.

“Hopefully,” Bentley adds, “we will get some heirloom seeds that have been saved using proper methods to keep the seeds true — maybe seed passed down from someone’s grandmother or something similar. We want seeds for the seed reserve that carry with them stories of people’s lives and how they intersect with the seeds themselves.”

The seed reserve Bentley is referring to is a collection of seeds grown in, saved in, and appropriate for our area. The seed reserve is maintained by Kaw Valley Seeds Project, and building it is the organization’s primary goal. Since many seeds have a fairly short shelf life, project members grow and harvest seeds from the reserve each year. Most importantly, seeds in the reserve must be collected in a manner to maintain varietal purity, which can be difficult with open- and cross-pollinated varieties.

Also, all of the seeds in the reserve are from primary or standard (nonhybrid) varieties. Because of the way hybrids are created, seeds from hybrid plants do not resemble the parent plant and thus are unfavorable for seed saving.

Kirsten Bosnak, one of the Seed Fair organizers and a member of the Kaw Valley Seeds Project, notes that she grew popcorn last year with seeds from the reserve. She then collected seeds and returned them to the reserve to increase the stock.

“Building the seed reserve is a slow and careful process,” says Bosnak, who has been interested in local food and gardening for many years. “I’m really interested in going to the next step of not even buying seeds, but making seed collection and replanting part of the contained cycle of my garden.”

Bentley, who says he has been gardening for more than 60 years, is also interested in closing the cycle.

“With seeds you save yourself, you can kind of control the end product,” he says. “I’m still learning about seed saving, especially some of the more advanced techniques.”

Bosnak also notes that the Seed Fair is a great opportunity to interact with other gardeners and like-minded people. “I really love being part of this community of people.”

— Jennifer Smith is the Horticulture Extension Agent for K-State Research and Extension in Douglas County. She can be reached at 843-7058.


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