4 Seed Saving Events to Attend This Year

seed packets

Mark your calendars and get your PTO requests in now—it’s time to get down and dirty with your fellow seed lovers.

Photo by FotoDuets on Shutterstock.

Officially, National Seed Swap Day is the last Saturday of January each year. But in reality, these festive events—which often include live music (think fiddles and banjos), and adult beverages (child-friendly seed swaps also abound)—occur sporadically throughout late winter and early spring, and sometimes again in fall.

Seed swaps are are typically regional affairs, so check with your local seed preservation organization or Master Gardeners group to find an event near you. If you can’t find one in your neck of the woods, here is a handy guide for how to start your own.

Other seed saving events, ranging from intro-level bootcamps to high-spirited harvest festivals to serious academic conferences, occur throughout the year, and are often geared toward a national audience. Here is a sampling of those scheduled for 2018. Many local libraries also offer seed-saving workshops, so be sure to check your local community calendar, too, to see what’s on offer.

Seed Savers Exchange 38th Annual Conference and Campout

Heritage Farm | Decorah, IA | 7/20-7/21

Seed Matters is a special initiative from the Clif Bar Family Foundation. Managed by Allen Rosenfeld, the Foundation’s director of programs for food systems and economics, the organization's mission is to promote public seed breeding and research—as opposed to corporate-backed research, which has dominated the field in recent years—and ensure that future seed development is focused squarely on the needs and interests of farmers.

Seed Savers Exchange 6th Annual Seed School

Heritage Farm | Decorah, IA | 8/17-8/19

If you don’t quite feel ready for the Seed Savers Exchange Campout, check out this weekend-long seed saving bootcamp. Students from all over the country will gather to learn the in’s and out’s of seed growing, harvesting, and saving. It’s a practical course with plenty of hand-on experience in the garden aimed at newbies. And you’ll leave the weekend with a copy of “The Seed Garden: The Art and Practice of Seed Saving.”

The National Heirloom Expo

Sonoma County Fairgrounds | Santa Rosa, CA | 9/11-9/13

This event is also put on by the Baker Creek Heirloom Seed Company, which maintains a presence in Northern California through its Petaluma Seed Bank, a large seed store in a quaint town not far from the location of the Expo. Now in its eighth year, the Expo attracts some 20,000 heirloom seed enthusiasts each September, who are they treated to more than 100 speakers, 350 vendors hawking a variety of products, and scores of special exhibits and games for the under-12 set. Expect plenty of taste-testing opportunities.

Heritage Harvest Festival

Monticello Estate | Charlottesville, VA | 9/21-9/22

Now in its 12th year, the Heritage Harvest Festival is the brainchild of famed plantswoman and seed saver extraordinaire Ira Wallace, one of the cofounders of Southern Exposure Seed Exchange. This cooperative of southern organic seed farmers produces an impressive catalog of heirloom varieties, along with this annual festival, which takes place at the historic estate of Thomas Jefferson—a man well-known for his love of agriculture and unique crops. The Heritage Festival seed swap is legendary, and if you go, you’ll have a chance to meet some of the colorful seed-growing characters who reside in the region.