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Swap seeds, traditional knowledge at Ecology Center on Friday

Swap seeds, traditional knowledge at Ecology Center on Friday

With spring right around the corner, it's the perfect time to swap home-grown seeds, share a potluck dinner and hear some hoe-down music in Berkeley.

This Friday, Feb. 26, the Bay Area Seed Interchange Library will hold its 11th annual seed swap.

In addition to meeting local gardeners, participants will have the chance to learn about seed saving classes and the library.

According to its Web site, the library is part of a growing network of concerned farmers and community gardeners dedicated to conserving the remaining genetic diversity of the planet's seed stock. The group has created a library of healthy vegetable, herb and flower seeds to make them available free to the public.

This effort is important because of the diminishing availability of diverse seeds.

According to the library, in the last two decades, most of the world's family-owned seed companies have been bought out by multinationals such as the Monsanto and Novartis corporations.

"These companies are not interested in creating sustainable food systems and communities. They are busy replacing carefully bred strains of vegetables and flowers with their own hybrids and patented varieties. Hybrids don't produce viable seed, and the seed from patented varieties cannot legally be collected and used. Instead, the seeds must be bought fresh each year, forcing gardeners and farmers to purchase from corporate seed sources annually," according to the group's Web site.

Traditional knowledge of seed saving and plant propagation techniques are harder and harder to come across.

"To create a positive ecological future for the planet, we need to begin teaching each other the skills necessary to save our own seeds. We've got to engage with traditional agricultural knowledge, and work to anticipate the needs of future generations," according to information on the Web site.

The library is a project of Berkeley's Ecology Center.

Bring a garden-related "white elephant" treasure to raffle. The event is wheelchair accessible.

Time:    7 to 9:30 pm.
Location:    Ecology Center, 2530 San Pablo Ave, near Dwight Way, in Berkeley
Cost:    food and seeds to share or $10 donation
Info:    510-658-9178,

Emilie Raguso is a multimedia reporter in Oakland who focuses on issues of criminal justice, food and Oakland culture. She is passionate about social media, documentary photography and sustainable living. Her work has appeared on Salon and NPR, as well as in The Modesto Bee, Greater Good magazine and the East Bay Express. Write her at, follow her on Twitter (@emraguso) and see more of her work at