Salish Seed Guild 2023 Wrap up

2023 was a good gardening year in Whatcom County. The year opened with a very successful seed swap in February, 2023. Many volunteers contributed to the event. Virginia organized volunteers to pack seeds into envelopes, Brian did all the heavy lifting with the web site and actual lifting setting up and cleaning up with Jerry and Harper, Suki brought cookies, Harper and other musicians played for us. WWU students stepped in as seed ambassadors to help us talk to the participants and keep the flow of donations moving. Many other volunteers contributed to make it an excellent event. Over 120 people participated.

We planted a seed garden at Inspiration Farm for the third year in a row. Clean up started in March, followed by seed starting, planting, transplanting, trellis construction, weeding and finally seed harvest and processing in August and September. There were pole edible pod peas, pole beans, bush beans, two kinds of onions, two tomato varieties, lettuce, Bloomsdale spinach, dill and smaller amounts of other items. All the seed from the seed garden will be available at the seed swap in February 2024. None of it would have been possible without the dedicated support of volunteers, particularly Brian, Celt, Danny and Kurt, and our gardening librarian Magenta. Despite the success of the seed garden, it was too much work for too few people. Going forward, we are going to focus on our core mission of gardening education. Brian gets a big thank you for many, many hours, endless patience with novice seed growers, and loaning us a piece of his farm.

There were several educational events in 2023 besides the seed swap. Brian gave a series of permaculture workshops at Inspiration Farm and other venues. Look for more this year. Celt gave a series of talks for the Whatcom County Library System on seed saving, winter gardening, traditional preservation methods, and gardening with medicinal herbs. WCLS has invited her back in 2024. Check the library calendar for dates and locations.

We were able to provide packed seeds for distribution by donation at several locations during spring 2023, including Living Earth Herbs, the Rome Store, Birchwood Neighborhood gardeners, and several food banks. Virginia did an amazing job getting the seeds packed and running them around the county. This year, we will have just a few distribution locations, but the library system has picked up the mission. We are providing WCLS with seeds and technical help as required, but they are off and running with their program.

The Adopt a Seed and Adopt a Tomato projects had difficulty closing the loop to get seed back from participants. Thank you to the gardeners who grew out the seeds and tomato starts. Some of the seeds were saved and have come back to be distributed at the seed swap. Trying to run the projects in a centrally organized way ran straight into the constraints of organizer bandwidth. The best part was the enthusiasm of the participants, mostly first time seed savers. This year, we are encouraging everyone interested to adopt a seed or tomato on their own.

Between the seed swap and the seed distribution locations, we packed and gave out over 7000 packets of seed, not including bulk seed at the seed swap. We are pleased to have touched the lives of hundreds of people over the year, as volunteers, workshop participants, on farm tours, at the seed swap, and in the larger community.

The estate of Les Ishimoto, Kevin, and Suki provided substantial gifts, much of which went to the purchase of bulk seed. Whatcom County is under interdiction for brassica seed, due to club root disease, so we were unable to grow brassica seed at Inspiration Farm. We will have purchased bulk brassica seed available at the seed swap. Many thanks to the many donors, whose gifts added up to the funds necessary to put on the seed swap, distribute seeds and grow the seed garden.

As the seasons turn, so does the cycle of life and death. In recent years, we have lost Bill Sterling, Les Ishimoto, and Larry Williams. Krista Rome got a full time job and has left the board. Terri Wilde moved to a mountain and is with us in spirit. Our faculty member connection with WWU suffered a tragedy. We are blessed the support of long time volunteers and new and excited gardeners.

If you are interested in continuing to support this effort you can still get involved with Inspiration Farm’s seed growing efforts here.

We wish everyone a great gardening year in 2024!

Celt Schira and Brian Kerkvliet

What are your thoughts?