BECOMING A SEED GROWER
for the Symbiosis Seed Exchange
Our seed exchange relies on local gardeners to continue to grow and improve seed for our collection. Unlike many other organisations we do not have one big farm where grow out all our seed but instead operate as a decentralised network of keen growers who send in good quantities of locally-adapted seed to an administrator(s) for packing and making available through this website for other home gardeners around the Coastal Otago bioregion.
This is awesome because:
It's difficult for small-scale home gardeners to save seeds for all their needs; instead they can focus on doing a really good job of one crop while someone else focuses on doing a good job of something else.
When multiple growers take on one variety, the seed that comes back is equally diverse because it has been grown in different conditions and selected by different hands. This builds the strength and resilience of the seed line over time. It also creates a buffer against weather, birds, or other dramas wiping out an entire line.
It's empowering for communities. Seed-saving is a basic skill set that anyone can learn and that puts the power of food back into the hands of families. Some crops can be grown in as little as one square metre of space.
If you're interested becoming a seed grower this 2022-23 season, please have a look at this open-access Google Spreadsheet that details the heritage varieties we have small stocks of and/or that are getting old. Please add your name and suburb/area into the spreadsheet alongside the variety you'd be keen to grow out as well as contacting me by email or phone so that I can organise getting those seeds to you. (I'll send you the seeds for free but please cover the $4.50 postage or make arrangements to pick-up from Opoho). Don't be shy! I'm happy to assist you with variety-specific information and hearty encouragement. The more growers per variety the merrier.
Please also feel free to send in / grow out other seeds that you'd like to see made available through Symbiosis Seeds, i.e delicious, nutritious, open-pollinated, organic plants that you've successfully grown for at least one season in your garden. Add them to the spreadsheet so that others can see. We could do with bulking up the varieties available in our 'heritage lettuce mix' and perhaps include a few hardy tomatoes. It would be cool to start offering more edible/beautiful/medicinal/useful perennials, landraces, green crops, and pollinator plants, and it would also be cool to rediscover varieties that have disappeared from our collection, such as "Pūrākaunui Purple cabbage" and "Sugar Snap pea." Other nutritious, lesser-known species very welcome.
All that said, please note that this is a small, volunteer-run, very locally-oriented organisation so don't send in seeds that have been grown outside Coastal Otago (or perhaps Southland) or seeds that are readily available elsewhere (i.e from other seed growers or from the wild). The place for those seeds could be to swap them at a local seed swap or share them with a seed library.
When you grow seed for us, you have the option of donating them (a great way of supporting our project!), exchanging them for credits for free packs of seeds from our collection, or being paid money for the seeds that you grow.
The criteria for becoming a seed grower are pretty simple. Some of the key things that we need from you are:
You have some garden space available to dedicate to growing seed. This can involve leaving crops in the ground for longer than you normally would if you were just eating them. You can become a seed saver for us with as little as one square meter of spare space. Some crops require a larger amount of space.
You are willing to 'adopt' at least one crop to save the seeds for
You are keen to learn about the correct process of selecting and saving seed for that specific variety
If all you have is land and you are willing to let us use it to grow seed crops, that is also very helpful. We can take care of the rest if need be. Please get in touch to learn more!