The Seed and the Story: CAAH and Arkansas Seed Swaps

2011 Russellville Seed Swap. Photo by author

The Seed and the Story is a bi-weekly column exploring folklife, sustainability, oral history, human rights,and community in Yell County, Arkansas.   The column is published in the Post Dispatch and is syndicated in the Courier.  Please remember to support your local paper and independent media!

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Beginning earlier this month the organization CAAH (Conserving Arkansas’ Agricultural Heritage) began their yearly series of Seed Swaps across the state.  With the motto “One for the cutworm, one for the crow, one to share and one to grow,” the organization seeks to preserve both the agricultural folkways of Arkansas and the seeds themselves, many of which have been in families for generations.

They operate a Seed Bank on campus at the University of Central Arkansas, studying and preserving the genetic diversity of regional seeds and host twelve statewide swaps, providing a space where community members can trade heirloom seeds and gardening knowledge, sharing the wealth with both fellow community members and the CAAH organization.

I’ve had the pleasure of meeting project leader Dr. Brian Campbell and hear him speak about this project and his other work, and I attended the Russellville Swap last year.  Regardless if you’re a master gardener with decades of experience or a person who’s never put a thing in the ground but posses an interest in learning more about growing your own food, CAAH is an excellent resource.

They seek to raise awareness about the problems with crop monoculture, wherein regional heirloom seeds are replaced by hybrids, the seeds patented and owned by major corporations.  As growers shift to these seeds, the regional ones die out, taking with them genetic diversity, regional traditions and a hardiness to local conditions. Just take the example of tomatoes.  There are only few varieties sold in grocery stores but literally hundreds of different heirloom tomatoes you can grow at home, ranging from pink to green to yellow and each with their own unique taste.  Heirloom gardening opens up a whole new world of eating.

Last year when I attended the swap in Russellville there were several people who brought seeds to give away and an even larger group of folks who just wanted to meet other gardeners in the area, many of whom were starting their first plots.  I came home with some okra seed, daffodil bulbs, a hummingbird vine, and French melon seeds, all of which have done well. If you have seeds passed down in your community, donating some to CAAH is an excellent way to make sure they never die out.  But don’t feel like you have to have seeds to swap to attend the event. It’s for everyone, gardener or not.

The event in Russellville will take place on the 25th of this month at All Saints Episcopal Church from 10:00-1:00.  If you miss the Russellville event, you can make it to the Conway swap on Sunday the 26th 1:30-3:00 at the Faulkner County Library.   You can check out the full list of swaps below.

You can read more about CAAH and learn what’s in their Seed Bank here:  If you want to read more about last year’s swap and see a few more photos, go here. If you have seeds that have been passed down to you, I’d really love to hear about them!  I don’t know about you, but I can’t wait for spring.  What are you going to be growing?

Date Community Location/Address Time Local Contact
Feb 11 Yellville Fred Berry Conservation Education Center 1-4 Pamela WestermanKatie Murray 
Feb 18 Mountain View Ozark Folk CenterBois D’arc Conference Center  1032 Park Ave 1-4 Tina Wilcox, Ozark Folk Center
Feb 25 Beebe/Searcy ASU-BeebeFarm 10-12 Alicia Allen, Conway Urban Farming Project,
Feb 25 Little River County Ashdown Farmer’s Market, 222 Frisco 10-12 Clayton Castleman, Ashdown Farmer’s Market
Feb 25 Russellville All Saints Episcopal Church, Sutherland Hall, 501 South Phoenix 10-1 Carolyn McLellan, Russellville Community Market
Feb 26 Conway Faulkner County Public Library1900 Tyler Street 1:30-3 Nancy Allen, Faulkner County Library 501-327-7482
March 3 Hot Springs The Art Church Studio301 Whittington Ave. 3-5 The Art ChurchSouthern Seed Legacy

March 3 Jasper Newton County LibraryCommunity Room 10-2 Jennifer Tapp, Newton County Library
March 3 Fayetteville Global Campus, 2 East Center Street, Fayetteville Square 1-4 Katy Deaton, Fayetteville Community Gardening Coalition (FCGC)
March 10 Eldorado Barton (El Dorado) Public Library200 East 5th Street 10-12 Nancy Arn, Barton Public Library
March 10 Eureka Springs Eureka Springs Carnegie Library194 Spring Street 10-2 Kate Zaker, Carnegie Library
March 17 Little Rock Christ Episcopal Church, 509 Scott St, LR, AR 72201 10-1 Katy Elliott, Arkansas Sustainability Network   





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