Sunday, January 16, 2011

Road Trip: Louisville 15K Farmers Seed Swap

On Saturday, I took a rare road trip and drove three hours each way to visit my friend Mary in Louisville and participate in the seed exchange of Fifteen Thousand Farmers in Louisville, Kentucky. Fifteen Thousand Farmers ("FTF") is an initiative to turn Louisville citizens into backyard farmers. They started small and last year had signed up 1250 new backyard farmers for events. They hold a gardening event on the 15th of each month. Mary briefs me almost every month. This month, it held a seminar by Ivor Chodkowski, a local farmer and entrepreneur, on "Planning your Spring Garden." After the seminar, they had a potluck (filled with garden produce), cooking demonstrations (with spaghetti squash) and a seed exchange. It was extremely well attended (even without cocktails as a draw) and there were at least 200 people there. Johnny's Seed Catalogs were handed out to everyone (until they ran out of catalogs). There were even door prizes, but neither Mary nor I won one.

After answering questions about gardening, Ivor spoke to the audience about grasshoppers distribution, a Community Supported Agriculture organization, and related issues. Sadly, there are virtually no places in Louisville to butcher meat for small farmers or individuals. This makes me sad because my family (i.e., my father and uncle) would buy a cow every year at the county fair and have it butchered to supply our annual meat needs. Although I now certainly could not eat a whole side of beef by myself each year, I could probably eat a quarter if other people wanted to go in with me. My friend Iced Tea Latte butchers a pig every year and a side of been (and graciously shares with me). It's a great way to buy local. However, all meat processors now seem to focus only on factory farms these days. . . . .

My favorite tip from Ivor was to buy seeds which advertise "prolific" fruits. Good sign.

Of course, I really came for the seed exchange. I've never attended one before. I thought that I should contribute something slightly exotic so that I would add value (being from out of town and all). The promotional materials recommended bringing seeds in a jar, so I filled a jam jar with black chick pea seeds. I suspected (correctly) that no one else would bring such seeds. Most people put seeds in plastic baggies (which is much more efficient). I thought that we would walk around with our jars of seeds, meet people, chat, and exchange seeds (for which I had brought small coin envelopes). However, instead, they set up long row of tables (organized by food groups) and people would leave their labeled bags of seeds. Some people just dropped off store-bought seed packets, but most people brought their own seeds. Then, you would just help yourself from each envelope that spanked your fancy. From the seed exchange, I got the following: OT Heimi Vietamese mecum peppers, loofah gourd seeds, sugar pie pumpkins (for Beth and Mike), San Martin Peppers, Thai Basil, Thomas Jefferson Marigold, Arkansas Cow Peas, California Poppies/Orange cosmos, and Okra. Mary gave me heirloom underground railroad tomatoes and jolokia peppers -- but holy jolokia! – I lost the peppers!!! You have no idea how much nashing of teeth and searching of luggage there was this afternoon when I could not find them. My father wanted CaJohn's Holy Jalokia sauce for Xmas and I was seriously looking forward to growing my own hot peppers and making my own sauce. Now, I will have to search them out and buy them.

Life goes on. The event was catered by Heine coffee and I met Gary Heine – who is one of the organizers of 15K Farmers. I'm not even a coffee drinker and I had coffee (with lots of milk and sugar). It also has a new home – the Dismas Charities St. Ann's site site, which is a re-entry program housed in a former Catholic church school. 15k Farmers is associated with Growing Power, which you've read about here before.

It was a nice way to spend a few hours on Saturday afternoon. Then I let Mary spoil me for the rest of my trip.

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