With the warmth and sunshine of spring just a few weeks away, the thoughts of Ojai gardeners inevitably turn towards the lovely flowers, healthy vegetables, and beautiful fruits they can choose to plant this year in their gardens.
To encourage local gardeners and food growers, for the fifth consecutive year garden lovers can enjoy the benefit of free advice on plantings from their neighbors, friends, and fellow growers -- as well as free seeds!
The Ojai Seed and Plant Swap, beginning at 1 pm on February 25th at Chaparral Auditorium downtown, attracts scores of Ojai gardeners, growers, and experts in pollination, organic agriculture, water conservation, who will offer seeds and planting advice at no cost. It’s a simple idea with profound implications for food in an agricultural town such as Ojai, said Dave White, of the Center for Regenerative Agriculture, which along with Food for Thought Ojai and the Ojai Valley Green Coalition organized this year’s exchange.
“It’s a long-standing custom in agricultural communities that farmers and growers give away seed and trade their knowledge,” White said.
Many of the seeds come vegetables and flowers grown from local elementary schools in programs organized by Food for Thought Ojai. The seed packets are labeled by the children who. during their lunch periods can choose to help plant, tend, and harvest the vegetables grown at their schools.
“One of the great things about local seed exchange is that you’re getting varieties that are adapted to local conditions,” said White, who directs the Food for Thought’s effort. “Even if you buy the best seed from a big company, you will be getting seeds that are not from Ojai, and may not be well suited for our community.”
The event, which last year attracted hundreds of people, features growers from Ojai, Ventura County, and beyond, and also encourages the sharing of expertise and wisdom on pollination and water conservation, among other important tools for gardeners. Renee Roth, who leads the Save Our Water Ojai campaign, will bring displays and discuss how to install greywater systems to recycle water from laundry and kitchen use into the garden. Also present will be the Ojai Valley Bee Club, led by Glenn Perry, an internationally known bee expert who helped convince the City Council to pass an ordinance in 2016 to encourage bee-keeping by homeowners. And Steve Sprinkel, who oversees the farming for the popular organic market and restaurant, The Farmer and the Cook, in Meiners Oaks, will be on hand to answer questions and explain Community Supported Agriculture.
To David White, the Ojai Seed and Plant Swap is the beginning of a local food revolution. “You could walk away with $100 worth of free seed, but a monetary exchange is not really the point,” he said. “This is about supporting the community of local food and local food growers.”
A donation of five dollars is requested at the door. Chaparral Auditorium is located at 414 E Ojai Avenue, opposite Azu Restaurant. The event will begin at 1 in the afternoon. Call Dave White at 805-390-0747 for more information.