Big Wild Year couple to give keynote at Debaj seed swap


Tehkummah to host seed swap this Saturday, Debaj next weekend

MANITOULIN – Seed swap season has returned back to eastern Manitoulin Island with two exciting events that offer opportunities to learn about gardening and food growth techniques while also exchanging heirloom seeds for new varieties in a fun, social environment.

The first event is this Saturday, February 22 when the third-annual Tehkummah Seed Exchange comes to the Triangle Senior Citizens’ Club from 10 am to 2 pm.

“I want to encourage more people and inspire them to be more aware of and to cherish seeds, like they used to be cherished in years past,” said organizer Anastasia Eranosova. 

Seed swaps are events where people who have grown heirloom plants and saved the seeds during harvest time will gather to offer up their seeds and take home new varieties for planting in the coming growing season. The Island hosts two such events, with the older of the two being at Debajehmujig Storytellers in Manitowaning and the newer taking place in Tehkummah.

“I find it amazing that we jumped on the idea of a seed swap as well and received so much support. It gives me hope, seeing so many people interested in attending both the events and exchanging seeds,” said Ms. Eranosova.

The first 15 people to come to the Tehkummah event will receive door prizes. 

There will be a 1 pm keynote address at the event, delivered by Peggy Baillie of Three Forks Farm in Warren. Her presentation centres on regionally adapted seed varieties.

“For example, if you’re buying seeds that are from plants that have grown in the southern US, they might not do well if planted here in Northern Ontario because there’s less sun, warm days and a shorter season. Regionally adapted seed varieties give a lot more potential to seeds within our climate,” said Ms. Eranosova.

There is a kids’ activity starting at 11 am for everyone aged three and older, including adults, to make seed paper—paper that has seeds within its structure so it can be buried and used to grow plants.

Island musician Matt Maranger will be on hand to offer his talents on the banjo and guitar. A lunch and numerous treats are available in the seed café.

Some artisans will also be present and a number have donated their products for a draw of a gift basket or two.

“I hope people will realize how important it is to still be able to grow our own food without having to buy the hybrid seeds that are in stores (which cannot be re-planted in future years). It’s about cherishing the connection we have to seeds and realizing how important they are,” said Ms. Eranosova.

Just 20 minutes up the road in Manitowaning, Debajehmujig Storytellers is preparing for its ninth-annual seed swap and makers’ market which will take place one week after Tehkummah’s event. 

“Our theme this year is the International Year of Plant Health (as designated by the Food and Agriculture Organization),” said organizer Ashley Manitowabi.

The Debaj event is a staple in Manitoulin growing communities and, similar to the Tehkummah event, offers more than just swapping seeds.

“We have vendors, presenters and live music in between. We’re serving lunch of hot soup and breads for people to enjoy and it’s all free. Everyone’s welcome,” said Mr. Manitowabi.

He stressed that one doesn’t need to have seeds to swap in order to take part. Debaj has a seed bank with several varieties available, with the organizers simply requesting that those who grow their seeds save their own seeds after harvest time and bring them to the next year’s event.

“We encourage everyone to come explore and see what’s happening, learn how gardeners save seeds and enjoy sharing stories. You can learn a lot of stuff about the different seeds that exist and where to get them from,” he said.

When The Expositor spoke with Mr. Manitowabi there were already 10 vendors signed up for the makers’ market. He said he was hoping as many as 20 would sign up for that portion fo the day.

The keynote speakers for the day would be recognizable to Expositor readers—Delphanie Colyer and Jeremy St. Onge of Big Wild Year fame are coming to the Island from North Bay to discuss their experience of living off entirely wild foods for the duration of 2019. Wiikwemkoong species at risk co-ordinator Theodore Flamand will be presenting about his project, as well as sharing teachings about the importance of respecting the land that he has learned through generations of his family.

Manitoulin Phragmites Project co-ordinator Judith Jones will be there to discuss invasive species and the importance of taking care of the indigenous plants in a natural environment.

Finally, Kerri Latimer’s Kagawong-based Copper Pot Oil Co., which creates artisanal oil infusions, will discuss her business and the importance of sustainable, ethical and resilient living. 

Mr. Manitowabi said Debaj would also be trying to revive a preserve swap, something the group tried two years ago for the first time.

“Around this time of the year you can sometimes get tired about all the preserves you’ve made, and want to try something new. So you can bring your preserves and swap it with someone else,” he said.

Mr. Manitowabi encouraged all to come out and find something to enjoy at the seed swap event.

“Come check it out. I think it’s important to celebrate seeds because that’s where all life starts out. You can come visit the vendors, listen to the speakers and discover new seeds that you can try to plant this year,” he said.

Both events are free to attend and are suitable for all ages. For more information about the Tehkummah event, contact Ms. Eranosova at 705-822-3780. For further details on the Debaj event, call Debajehmujig Storytellers at 705-859-1820.