The Hailey Farmers’ Market will kick off the local produce and crafts season Saturday at 9 a.m. at Roberta McKercher Park, between Third and Fourth avenues on Main Street. There, the Wood River Seed Library will host a booth there offering locally derived seeds and plant starts for outdoor and indoor plants.
The Food Resilience and Plant Exchange will provide seeds for herbs, vegetables, plants and flowers, many drawn from a local seed library that was founded in 2014 to collect varieties that do well under local conditions. The goal is to preserve the successful seeds and distribute them to the community, said Manon Gaudreau, treasurer for the Upper Big Wood River Grange No. 192 and co-manager of the Wood River Seed Library, which is hosted at the grange hall on Fourth Avenue in Hailey.
“We have hundreds of varieties of seeds here now,” Gaudreau said.
The 2019 seed library inventory, much of which remains available, includes a diverse listing, including Amsterdam spinach, black-eyed Susans, acorn squash, stupice tomatoes, amaranth, bok choi and netted cantaloupe.
“We just received seven corkscrew willows to give away,” she said. “They need a moist climate for someone who lives near a river. People make baskets from them.”
Gaudreau recently completed a teacher training in seed saving with Rocky Mountain Seed Alliance where she learned the importance of saving seeds for today and tomorrow.
“More than ever there is an emergency to wake up and save seeds,” she said. “Big companies are taking control of the seed system and they focus on only a few varieties that they produce en masse for regions that are already food production regions. In doing this it leaves out seeds that can adapt to regional areas like ours at high altitude.”
Gaudreau said that in the face of diminished biodiversity, it is imperative that people keep planting seeds adapted to local climates.
“There has been a biodiversity of seeds for ages,” she said. “Seeds can evolve and adapt to climate change, but we need to keep planting them for this to happen. Some years the climate will be such that some seeds do better than others. Their diversity is their resilience.”
Gaudreau said history provides lessons on the dangers of monoculture.
“We don’t want to go the way of Ireland during the potato famine, when one disease killed the whole crop,” she said. “In Peru there were hundreds of varieties of potatoes adapted to many ecoregions.”
Gaudreau said each individual seed has the genetic potential to evolve and survive.
“What grows best here are cold-season vegetables, including leafy greens,” she said. “There are also Siberian tomatoes that do well in a cold climate such as ours, even though tomatoes originally came from warm climates. Here they grow more slowly and are nutrient dense.”
Along with Amy Mattias, Gaudreau co-founded 5B Resilience Gardens, which registers local gardens under the guiding principles of enhancing food production, taking care of pollinators and enriching soils. The 5B Resilience Gardens program is an offshoot of the nonprofit Sun Valley Institute for Resilience.
Ultimately, Gaudreau said her work relates to the age-old idea of eating what grows locally and eating it in season.
“It’s rewarding work that feeds my soul,”’ she said.