Grassroots Party happens Saturday in Poncha Springs

Seed savers rejoice! It’s time once again to gather with other local gardening enthusiasts to discuss gardening, seed saving and locally grown and produced products.

The fifth annual Seed Exchange and Grassroots Party takes place on Saturday, March 31, from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. The event will be held in the Poncha Springs Town Hall, 330 Burnett Ave., adjacent to Chipeta Park. “This year Poncha Springs will also be hosting its annual Easter Egg Hunt the same morning at 10:30 a.m. It will be a real community event,” Anna Ward, event organizer, noted.

Ward’s group, the Scarlet Runner Seed Collective, is hosting the exchange. She created the collective in 2013 hoping that local growers and gardeners would save seeds from plants – flowers, vegetables and herbs – that have acclimated to the unique and challenging Chaffee County growing environment. The group’s mission is “to selectively choose varieties that can withstand the dynamic climatic extremes of the Rocky Mountains in order to increase the resilience of plant species in our community.”

This year’s event has expanded by collaborating with other gardeners, growers and community members to generate enthusiasm about gardening, seed saving and the importance it plays in the community.

At the exchange, community members bring in seeds to share, with a good number of the seeds derived from vegetable varieties that have been successful in Chaffee County for many years. “I know there are seed savers in the community, as some of the older Italian families are still growing varieties of seeds that their ancestors brought over from Italy,” Ward added.

She aims to increase individual interest in growing for seed and saving seeds. She said it takes a tremendous amount of education to understand how to choose varieties that will do well here, select the plants that are chosen for certain attributes and ensure their preservation as they mature and produce seed.

In addition, fellow organizer Leisa Hust has been asking seed companies for donations, and attendees are encouraged to bring in leftover seeds they are no longer using. People are asked to read seed packets carefully, however, to ensure that hybrid seeds are not being exchanged. Companies that have made donations thus far include Annie’s Heirloom Seeds, Botanical Interests, Johnny’s, Native Seeds/SEARCH, Peaceful Valley, and Seed Savers Exchange.

“We want people to know that there is a gardening community here and that finding a local grower or garden help and advice is possible. We also want to let the community know that there are many growers here producing food and flowers, as well as value-added products and services.”

The exchange and garden party is free for both vendors and attendees. Food will be available for sale and donations are needed and accepted to cover the cost of renting the space and creating advertising materials. Ward’s mother, Suzanne Ward, is organizing children’s events for the party, including baby goat petting, crafting pollinator garden flags and making seed balls and willow crowns. Fire trucks will also be on site for children to view. Ward hopes to have guest speakers at the event as well. Musicians are welcome to provide impromptu music at the garden party, Ward said. “Last year we had some local Poncha Springs musicians come and play music. It was such a treat.”

Follow the Scarlet Runner Seed Collective on Facebook or on Instagram @scarletrunnerseedcollective.