National Eat Your Veggies Day:
Seed Sharing Programs in Washington D.C.
Written By: Amaris Norwood
SEED SHARING AND COVID-19
“Seeds are doorways to history, culture, and to new connections.” - Slow Food DC
In 2020, seed orders rose 8 to 10 times higher than in 2019. During the pandemic, several people have turned to gardening as a pastime, where others have used gardening to combat food insecurity. However, while seed sales have increased over the past year, so have shortages in seed supply. As COVID-19 has endangered many agricultural and food workers, it also has threatened those in the seed supply chain, and similar to the panic-buying we witnessed of items like toilet paper, in 2020, people were also overbuying seeds. Consequently, garden stores and nurseries were running out of seeds. A typical packet of seeds contains more seeds than most people need, which is why there are seed saving groups and institutions. However, these institutions were also affected by the pandemic and some had to close temporarily to plan how to address the increase in demand.
The pressures of COVID-19 have exacerbated threats to seed diversity, sovereignty, and access, putting community seed access, and consequently food security, at an even higher risk. To make seeds more accessible, a local D.C. organizer named Reana Kovalcik started Share a Seed in D.C., an initiative for seed sharing with Slow Food USA. As of now, Slow Food USA has 6 Share a Seed programs across the country. Share a Seed has been inspired by traditional seed swaps and mutual aid movements. In addition to increasing accessibility, the program hopes to build connections amongst community members in a time of isolation. To execute this work, Share a Seed works with local farmers markets and grocery stores to collect seeds at drop-off locations and local mutual aid groups help with seed distribution. Below, you will find some information on D.C. organizations and markets helping to implement the Share a Seed program.
Planita Power is a mutual aid organization combating food injustice, fostering cultural healing, and building sustainable green spaces for the QTBIPOC community. Planita Power works with various D.C. local organizations to feed BIPOC folks in the DMV. Planita Power distributes not only seeds but also seedlings and growing containers.
Image from Planita Power Facebook
Kyanite Kitchen is a mobile community pantry and grocery store. Founded during the pandemic by Kya Parker, the Kitchen provides the DMV area with free groceries, toiletries, organic produce, and vegan meals. Parker hopes to get community members back into the relationship of “growing their own food, learning about sustainability, and getting back to nature.” With Share a Seed, Kyanite Kitchen works to connect D.C. residents with seeds. In the future, it hopes to create “a mobile plant pantry” where people can donate seedlings, soil, and gardening tools.
Photo from Kyanite Kitchen Twitter
Happy Hour Fund
Happy Hour Fund is a grassroots mutual aid fund combating COVID-19 disparities through providing financial support and necessities to excluded workers in L.A. County and the D.C. metropolitan area. The fund came about by the idea that if everyone donates a small amount like the amount people would spend on happy hour, it could significantly impact. 100% of proceeds go to excluded workers, service workers, informal sectors, and those who cannot access unemployment benefits, healthcare, or other social services. Along with DC Fair Food, the D.C. Happy Hour Fund has a seed drop-off location at the Mt. Pleasant Farmers Market.
Photo from HappyHourFund.org
DC Fair Food
DC Fair Food is a local student/farmworker alliance where students, youth, people of faith, and community members build solidarity with the Coalition of Immokalee Workers. The Coalition of Immokalee Workers is a farmworker organization advocating for better wages and working conditions in Florida. With the support of DC Fair Food, the CIW is building a more just and sustainable food system. DC Fair Food shares a seed drop-off location with the Happy Hour Fund at the Mt. Pleasant Farmers Market.
Photo from DC Fair Food Facebook
FRESHFARM is a nonprofit working to promote sustainable agriculture and improving food access, education, and equity in the Mid-Atlantic region. The nonprofit runs “producer-only farmers markets,” providing local farmers and food producers with economic opportunities. In addition, It distributes food through programs increasing food access for low-income communities, innovates in food education, and building healthier communities. FARMFRESH has multiple locations for seed drop-offs in the DMV area, including in Arlington, Columbia Heights, Dupont Circle, and Monroe St.
Photo from FRESHFARM Facebook
Good Food Markets (GFM)
Good Food Markets is a mission-driven grocery store developing retail solutions in and for communities in food deserts. Through partnering with local growers, producers, and distributors, Good Food Markets’ retail team can offer a full-service grocery selection in a smaller space. Located in the Woodridge neighborhood of D.C., GFM provides the community with quality produce, essential grocery items, and healthy on-the-go meals. Good Food Markets on Rhode Island Avenue serves as a drop-off location for seeds.
Photo from GoodFoodMarkets.com
How To Get Involved
If you are interested in donating your spare seeds, or finding out more about the Share a Seed program, you can visit Share a Seed’s webpage. The Share a Seed program is active in Washington, D.C., as well as in Dallas/Fort Worth, Texas; Denver, Colorado; Las Vegas, Nevada; Springfield, Illinois; and Yolo County, California. According to Slow Food USA: “All seeds are welcome, though we recommend donating seeds that are no more than one year old and have been properly stored in a cool, dry place. We also recommend that seed sponsors donate seeds appropriate to the climate of the receiving chapter(s).”