In early January 2016, a group of people gathered to talk about hosting a community seed swap. Ten weeks later, we produced the first Free the Seeds! Seed and Start Fair at Flathead Valley Community College on March 19. In addition to a traditional seed swap, the fair hosted 19 skill-sharing workshops, 33 information booths from local producers and gardening resources, and two roundtable discussions on topics key to supporting local food access: enhancing local farmer resources and building a local seed library.
We anticipated 400-500 people might show up. Instead, more than 1,600 people attended—1.7% of Flathead County’s population! Attendees included not just those from the Flathead Valley but also people from Cut Bank, Libby, Seeley Lake, Missoula, and Roosville, B.C. This attendance confirmed what we thought: there is a strong desire and need for more local food access, and together we have the resources to build that access for everyone. Since then, Free the Seeds! has been committed to organizing a free, annual seed and start fair each March.
View the 2016 schedule of events and workshops (PDF)