Sunday, October 25, 2009

Seedy Sunday : (Gabrielle at the keyboard today)
The best things in life may, or may not be free, but it always feels great to get something for nothing. Today, having “passé à l’heure d’hiver”, I went to the plant and seed exchange that’s held near Dinan. It’s a fabulous little community event that takes place twice a year, in spring and autumn, on the day the clocks change. People take any plants and seeds that they’ve got in abundance and exchange them for others or just give them away to people who’ve come to see what’s going on. No one sees the colour of money and that’s the simple beauty of it.

The first time I participated, as opposed to just being there for a look round, I took some little painted signs to hook over the door that said “Je suis au jardin” (I’m in the garden). These went down so well I earned myself a bit of an instant reputation and I’ve really enjoyed going and meeting up with the regulars ever since. I always seem to come away with a wonderful mix of local plants, some of which I’ve no idea what they are till they flower!

Coincidentally the oldest seed swap event in the UK is held in the town I used to live in, Brighton. Seedy Sunday has more of a political element to it, as at the heart of the event is campaign to protect biodiversity and protest against the increasing control of seed supply by a just handful of large companies. The control of seed and the creation of hybrids which don’t produce seed is annoying for growers in the western world, as it creates an expensive dependency, but its disastrous for subsistence farmers elsewhere in the world, as poor farmers who’ve traditionally saved seed increasingly have to pay for new seed every year.

I love the fact that this global campaign to protect local varieties of seeds stretches around the world, but that it has its roots in our own gardens. By growing open-pollinated varieties, then saving and swapping the seeds, growers can keep alive “outlawed” varieties, conserve biodiversity and limit corporate control of the basis of life.

The French event isn’t so overtly political, but it could be, as I have never known a French person who isn’t willing to talk about ideas. I’m thinking that it would be a good idea for me to do some translation study of the excellent information from Seedy Sunday’s website and then share the ideas at the next event in spring. Today I wasn’t so well prepared and I didn’t have much of interest to swap, or so I thought, but it all went, including some horseradish root—the essential ingredient for the traditional English sauce eaten with roast beef. I’ll make up for it next time by painting some more of those popular “I’m in the garden” signs.