Seed exchange in Sudbury is also an idea exchange

With a ray of sunshine and temperatures above zero, gardening grows in our minds as snowbanks give way to warmth and hope.

The March 3 Seedy Sunday event saw a continuous flow of interested Sudburians visiting the Cavern at Science North.

“It was a huge success,” says Rachelle Rocha, one of the organizers. “We tried to keep a tally. Kids, adults, everyone, there was a real crush at the opening. I don’t think I be wrong to estimate we had over a thousand people during the course of the six hours.”

Seedy Sunday is a day when people come to swap, sell, buy, and trade seeds. Ideally, the focus is on preserving heritage varieties, but this can also include locally adapted varieties that have been seed-saved. Education is also important, so a speakers’ corner, book reading to children and vendors were all engaged in sharing information and encouragement.

Sharon Rempel organized the first “seedy” day at VanDusen Botanical Garden in Vancouver in 1990. Now. from Chilliwack, B.C. to Wolfville, N.S. and - depending on where you live Feb. 25 to May 25 - there are celebrations similar to this weekend’s Sudbury activity.

Several include seed swaps in their April 20th Earth Day celebrations. There are cities all over the country (locations can be found on the Seeds of Diversity website, In total, there are more than 150 Seedy Saturday and Seedy Sunday events annually.

”Our volunteer group has grown quite a bit and they are an essential ingredient in today’s achievement,” Rocha says.

Rocha was asked what was the primary ambition for 2024. “The focus of our event this year is to increase the skill and confidence of our community with respect to harnessing the tremendous advantages of our climate, growing seeds and saving seeds, which, over time, will become better adapted to our environment.

“During the past 100 years, our culture has prioritized a cheap, commodity-driven food chain and sacrificed much of the biodiversity of our food crops. The overall state of health and vitality has suffered.

"The Seedy Sudbury Committee members are hoping to reclaim a future filled with delicious, colourful, locally available fruits and vegetables, and flowers to feed our pollinators who ensure successful fruiting.”

At an afternoon seminar, Garth Wunsch and others spoke as elders. Wunsch has more than six decades of experience with seasons, soil and planting. His garden in Lively is an expression of what is possible. The organizers would like to boost more opportunities for interaction with elders next year.

Professor Emeritus Gerard Courtin was on site representing The Community Garden Network and more specifically, The Delki Dozzi Garden.

“I’ve been here in Sudbury five-plus decades and in 1971, Sudbury’s perspective on environmentalism changed. It is encouraging to see now so many new residents are interested in gardening and volunteering.”

Monica Reda was attending her first Seedy Sunday. “I’ve always had pots with flowers on balconies, but now I have a home – about half an acre – and there was an established garden on the property. That was one of the features I was looking for when shopping,” says the now-retired Reda.

“I’ve never attended a Seedy Sunday. My mum, Paula, is also a first-time visitor to Seedy Sunday. This activity is fascinating and exciting.”

“The flavour in heritage varieties is leaps and bounds beyond grocery store vegetables and fruit. Heirloom tomatoes are attractive to me,” says former Science North scientist Dan Chaput. “Yes, I am also a first-time attendee. This is terrific to see such a turnout.”

Bread is the staff of life, and Meredith Teller, baker and food artist, brought her sourdough to the event. It was a lightbulb moment for some as they thought about the grains that get milled and fermented to then become loaves.

Teller points out what she has on display: “This is nutrient-dense. Coated with toasted pumpkin, oats, flax, poppy, sunflower … it is an epiphany to some that bread is wheat seeds.”

“Harvesting locally is a growing interest,” observes April Lilley. Her talk on “Food, Tea and Medicine,” demonstrated wild collected species and their uses. Where to find them, when to harvest them and what to do with them next were questions from the audience.

“We were promoting milkweed in the Sudbury landscape last year,” says Prof. Dave Pearson. “This year I am here to talk about using Indigenous apple trees to promote family gardens, community gardens and food forests in northern communities.”

Rocha made a final point that will be of value to those who could not attend Sunday’s event. “We have already supplied the Mackenzie Street Main Branch and the Lively library with seeds.”

Seeds of Diversity Canada produced a book called “How to Save Seeds” and for $15 you can purchase it at Seasons Pharmacy and Culinaria.

The Local Journalism Initiative is made possible through funding from the federal government.

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Hugh Kruzel, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Sudbury Star