This week, the day finally arrived and the 1840 Farm Seed Exchange began. In the next days and weeks, over 80 participants will be exchanging seeds with each other. Seed packets will literally be traveling from Okinawa, Japan and Caribou, Maine. I never imagined that a gardener who lives over 10,000 miles from 1840 Farm would be eager to participate in the seed exchange, but I was thrilled to have them join in! By visiting the Google Map for the 1840 Farm Seed Exchange, you can see where the participants call home.
I was inspired to start the seed exchange after reading Andrea Wulf’s book Founding Gardeners. As I read, I learned how important this seemingly simple act was to the men who were the Founding Fathers of our country. Men the likes of George Washington, Benjamin Franklin, John Adams, Thomas Jefferson, and James Madison took part and wanted to be remembered not as statesmen, but as farmers. These men believed strongly that our country’s agrarian strength should be our most treasured asset. I am willing to bet that there were just as many women and children who felt the same way.
They all took great pride in their gardens and shared seeds from their posts in Europe and eventually, The White House. By several accounts, President Thomas Jefferson chose to push aside state matters in order to personally write to each citizen who had requested gardening advice or the exchange of a few seeds. While it might not have been a strong political strategy, it certainly illustrates his belief that “The greatest service which can be rendered to one’s country is to add a useful plant to its culture.”
The Founding Fathers weren’t solely responsible for my decision to propose the seed exchange. I was motivated by the thought of my great grandparents tending to their own farm and garden fifty years ago. While half a century has passed, I find myself tending our garden at 1840 Farm a mere 100 miles from where their farm was nestled in the mountains of New Hampshire. I was also inspired by my children who I hope will continue to cultivate not only their gardens, but the pride that comes from holding their food supply firmly in their own arms with fresh garden soil under their fingernails.
Gardeners of every skill level are participating in this exchange. There are Master Gardeners with years of botanical knowledge as well as participants who are gardening for the first time. No matter the level of expertise, we are all hoping to experience the wonder of tending a small seed as it grows into the plant that nature had intended. There is something incredible about planting a small, seemingly lifeless seed and then watching it reach for the sunlight and grow stronger every day.
Thanks again to everyone who took part in the 1840 Farm Seed Exchange. The participants are helping to keep a long-held gardening tradition alive. For centuries, gardeners have been exchanging seeds with each other with the hope that their gardens would be made more diverse, more successful, and more communal. I hope that they will all enjoy exchanging their seeds and receiving seeds from another gardener in the exchange. I know that I will.
Congratulations to Connie from Boise, Idaho. She was randomly selected as the winner of the 1840 Farm Seed Collection. She will receive seeds to grow Bloomsdale Spinach, Buttercrunch Lettuce, Cherry Belle Radishes, Chioggia Beets, Genovese Basil, Kentucky Wonder Beans, Purple Beauty Bell Peppers, and Sugar Baby Watermelon.