Deepali Sharma doesn’t know anything about gardening. But after her son began a seed-growing project in daycare, she became interested in the activity.

“I have a four-year-old son who’s very eager to learn more about plants and seeds,” she said. “He likes to grow things in cups.”

It’ll be a fun mother-son activity, Sharma, an Athens resident, said, because she wants to help him expand his interests in the outdoors. She wants to looks for green or tropical vegetables, cilantro and tomatoes at the upcoming event.

If You Go

What: Spring Seed Exchange

When: 1 p.m., Saturday

Where: Athens Community Center, 701 E. State St.

Admission: Free

Community Food Initiatives will have a seed exchange Saturday between 1 p.m. and 3 p.m. at the Athens Community Center. People can buy and trade open-pollinated seeds. 

The event will provide different types of seeds to grow vegetables, herbs and flowers for both new and experienced gardeners.

Open-pollinated seeds come from plants that are pollinated by natural forces such as insects and wind, according to Community Food Initiatives.

Jess Chadwell, Ridge and Hollow Seed Alliance developer, said open-pollinated seeds can be saved from year to year, which builds its resilience to the environment. Ridge and Hollow Seed Alliance is a seed company program that is a part of Community Food Initiatives. 

“When you’re saving seeds from plants year after year, those plants are able to adapt to our changing growing conditions,” she said. “It helps to secure our food source in the future.”

94 percent of the global commercial vegetable seed market is controlled by eight major companies. Within the last 80 years, that monopoly on the seed market has contributed to significantly less seed varieties, according to Community Food Initiatives.

Corporate seed companies sell more hybrid seeds, which are less genetically diverse and can’t be used in the next growing season because hybrid seeds are more vulnerable to certain diseases compared to open-pollinated seeds, Chadwell said. But open-pollinated seeds are still sold at stores, and consumers should pay attention to the packaging.

Amanda Balch, an Athens resident, has grown fruits and vegetables since she was five years old because some of her family members had their own gardens.

“We were low-income families so it made it easier for us to have access to vegetables,” she said.

Throughout the years, she has grown strawberries, watermelon, cantaloupe, cucumbers and sweet potatoes.

Balch said she usually saves seeds from her fruits and vegetables every year, but she still wants to see what different seeds the event will offer.

When her young nieces and nephews visit her, she lets them plant seeds wherever they want in her garden.

“It’s a surprise,” she said. “We just randomly plant seeds everywhere and watch to see what comes up.”

Gardening has helped Balch relieve her stress over the past five years.

“To me, it’s kind of like having a new baby,” she said. “You plant the seed and then it sprouts, so you’re excited. And when you get to eat it, it’s the top of the excitement.”


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