Farming and gardening are sewn into the DNA of the people of Pocahontas County, so much so that many growers use heirloom seeds that have been in their family for decades. Others buy new seeds and start a new tradition in their families.
Sharing seeds has also been a long held tradition and, inspired by seed cooperatives in other areas, Nicolle Sawczyszyn, of Morgantown, and Carla Baudet, of Green Bank, started a seed swap here in the county.
Sawczyszyn is taking an international permaculture class which gave her the idea to try the swap locally.
“Our role as humans in stewarding and partnering with the land is what permaculture is,” she said. “So one of our assignments in this class is all about community – your local community, and your local environment. It’s kind of like, what can you do to help your neighbor?”
Sawczyszyn spoke to Baudet about starting the swap and they approached the local libraries about being the collection sites.
“If we could swap – A: it’s a hundred percent free; and B: the seeds that will be entered will be organic, heirloom quality – not genetically modified seeds,” Sawczyszyn said. “At the same time, there’s nothing wrong with procuring seeds and encouraging people to go out in their backyard or garden to collects seeds that we know are already viable and their DNA is dialed into our region, which again, is so unique.”
Word went out and soon residents were taking seeds to their local libraries to be picked up by Sawczyszyn and Baudet, who labeled and catalogued them and created a GoogleDoc list of all those available. Then, individuals who were interested in the swap could email a form, marking which seeds they wanted and the packs were created specific to that person.
“It wasn’t just a free program to give away seeds, it was an investment from the community members – whether you invested twenty packs or you did two packs – you still would have an opportunity to select from the collective offering of the inventory of the five libraries put together.”
Sawczyszyn said she was pleased with the outcome and boasted that 210 seed packs were donated in the first swap.
“We offered herbs; we offered vegetables and we offered a variety of flowers, as well,” she said. “Some were perennial, some were annual, and a lot of these seeds also self seed. People were so generous.”
Although the seeds have already been divvied up for this swap, Sawczyszyn hopes the program will expand and become even more popular.
“It exceeded any expectation we had for it and just the mere fact of getting in touch with like-minded people,” she said. “We definitely have gotten a lot of interest about next year and maybe the libraries themselves could coordinate it. We wanted a safe location in the community with adequate parking and everybody knows the local libraries.
“Our thought was to help our friends and neighbors and people who are new to growing that want to put a little bit of their own food in the ground and learn the process,” she continued. “There’s nothing better to me than teaching kids how to grow, how to cook, how to fend for themselves at an early age.”
Sawczyszyn sees the potential for growth in the program to include educational classes and meetings to bring together the growing community.
“You have opportunities for teaching and learning, maybe once a month or every other month and then a couple social events,” she said.
“They say in life you should try something new every day. Well, this provides an opportunity for people to try a whole bunch of different seeds in their garden at once. Or it brings back a memory. It’s kind of neat in that regard.
“I think it’s a home run,” she continued. “I’d like to see it grow. I really think it’s something that will bring people together on a real basic elementary level and that’s gardening.”