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Long Island Seed Consortium founder Stephanie Gaylor holding tomato seeds she has preserved over the years. (Credit: Carrie Miller, file)
Long Island Seed Consortium founder Stephanie Gaylor holding tomato seeds she has preserved over the years. (Credit: Carrie Miller, file)

Thinking of switching things up in the garden next season?

The not-for profit Long Island Seed Consortium will host its first-ever seed swap next month in hopes of getting gardeners, farmers and food enthusiasts excited about growing interesting varieties and saving their own seeds. 

“We want to form a vibrant seed economy here on Long Island, so the more people are saving seeds the better,” said consortium founder Stephanie Gaylor, owner of Salt of the Earth Seed Co. of Mattituck.

Scheduled for Saturday, Feb. 7, at Suffolk Community College’s Riverhead Campus, the event will feature a free class for beginning seed-savers at 1:30 p.m., taught by Ms. Gaylor and other group members, at 1:30 p.m. will host a free beginner seed-saver class at 1:30 p.m. to help those interested in learning about the seed saving process.

Following the lesson, growers can swap seeds and learn about growing different varieties that are well-suited to the region’s maritime climate, said consortium director Ken Ettlinger, a professor of botany at the college.

Mr. Ettlinger has saved thousands of varieties of seeds since he started in the 1970s and said that without seed-savers, ancient varieties of produce can be lost.

“One of the things I am interested in is the preservation of older varieties that are becoming extinct, and part of that is understanding what varieties are no longer being grown commercially,” he said. “It has become cheaper and easier [for farmers] to buy from large, multi-national companies.”

During the early 1900s Long Island and Connecticut were among the biggest seed producers in America, he said. But the science has since been lost.

“We are trying to go back to that model,” he said. “Because you get a lot of diversity and diversity makes for more sustainable [produce].”

Mr. Ettlinger has been educating people about saving seeds for nearly 40 years and said it’s not too difficult to get started.

“If you start saving the seeds from your garden, you will begin to realize they really begin to become adapted to your soil,” he said. “You’re actually making a better, more adapted variety.”

Ms. Gaylor said the consortium has received donations from the Seeds Savers Exchange, a larger organization with a similar goal, and private donations they will share, along with varieties from their own library.

Anyone planning to bring seeds to the event should only carry open pollinated or heirloom seeds they saved themselves, with the variety clearly labeled, she said.

For more information, visit the Long Island Seed Consortium Facebook page.

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