Bonus Episode: Free The Seeds 2nd Annual Seed and Start Fair and Swap | Kalispell, Montana 2017

Free the Seeds Soil Workshop

Free the Seeds is back!

Free The Seeds Website

Robin Kelson is here to talk about the 2nd Annual Seed and Start Fair and Swap!

Congratulations on all the success lately!

Thanks Robin! It’s all because of amazing guests like you!

We’re gonna talk about the 2nd Annual Seed and Start Fair and Swap! This year it’s March 4th from 8AM-3:30PM @ FVCC, ARTS & TECHNOLOGY BLDG

We decided this year to make it longer to accommodate the enormous response we got last year. We didn’t expect 1600 people to show up the first time we did this! It was huge success and it was a huge piece of feedback about how important this is for the community and how interested they are in it! Negotiated with the college to get more space and more time!

To accommodate all the people who want to learn about read seeds, real food and real skills. We think we found a match with space and time and information!!

Well, I’m just gonna start there? If someone wants to start a program of their own where do they start?

FVCC Sustainable Ag Program

Were fortunate that at FVCC they have a Sustainable Ag Program that is committed to teaching how to grow sustainable and with resiliency. So they were primed for creating the space for doing this … they were very generous in letting us have this space because hopefully bring attention to the great programs at the college and they appreciated that feedback. So finding places in the community where you have like minded people is a great place to start and you get a lot of built enthusiasm and community support… and we certainly have that at the college for sure!

It’s great to hear that about Kalispell…. so do you want to tell people what Free the Seeds is about!

Free the Seeds is a community powered opportunity about educating ourselves about

  • real seeds

  • real food

  • real skills

because we think that will support our community’s sustainablitly and resiliency capability. That is really what we are trying to createe the opportunity for. 

Pre Seed Drop Off

we have this massive seed swap … this year we have pre-drop off events to gather up seeds from last year or previous year that you:

  • bought or
  • saved
  • that you don’t plan on planting if you bring them into the drop-off items

You will have a chance to enter the raffle. Items that people made or donated.

You can bring dirty seeds so we have people who will help clean them and people will package them in smaller envelopes. Last year, which was our first year, we were dumfounded by how many people showed up and we ran out of seeds which we don’t want to do this year. We are going to package them.

Cry Jay in Kalispell and a couple of school organizations who are going to donate the time to package the seeds in smaller envelopes so everyone gets to gets a variety of seeds. We want everyone to go home with some seeds.

If you bring them into any of our 3 drop off locations you can enter our raffle.

Here are the details for early drop-off and raffle entry:


Columbia Falls Imagine If Library •  130 6th St W. Hours: M-TH 10-6; F&S 12-4

Kalispell Imagine If Library • 247 1st Ave. E Hours: M-F 10-6; S 10-5

Whitefish Good Seed Company • 100 2nd St E, #305 (top floor, end of hall) Hours: M-F 9-5

or you can go to the website

(406) 471-0022


A clearly labeled Free the Seeds! Donation Bin is located at the entrance of each location for your convenience.

Bring your seeds in non-glass containers (envelopes, Zip-loc-type baggies, or sealed paper bags are great)

Label each container with at least these 3 pieces of information: (1) plant common name and variety (2) year seeds collected (3) seed source (who grew it and where). Ex: “Peas, Sugar Snap; 2014; Robin Kelson, WF Community Garden”. If you include your name, we’d love to acknowledge you on our website!


TO ENTER RAFFLE: Attach your name and contact information (tel and/or email) to your whole seed donation, or inside each container.

RAFFLE winners TBA @ 12:15, after Seed Swap, on March 4th. You do NOT have to be present to win.

THANK YOU for sharing seeds with your community… and delivering them early!

Need to be Non-GMO or Open Pollinated or Heirloom Seeds

Booths And Workshops

Besides the seed swap did I see it said there were like 50 booths and workshops?

Because we had the seed swap and the booths in the same rooms. Yes this year the seed swap is from 8-12 and it has it’s own room and one room only for seeds. You can bring seeds the day of the event or drop them off ahead of time. And even if you don’t have seeds you can still get seeds. The goal is everyone goest home with seeds. That’s from 8-12.

In other rooms unrelated to the seed swap we have booths. in the vicinity of 40 booths up to 50 and 18-20 workshops those will be going on from 10am-3pm.

Some of them are going to repeat, we had some very successful people …

I was at the front door it was so fun! I would do that again gladly but the number one complaint fi there was a complaint was I couldn’t fit, I had to sit on the floor etc!

We had like 50 people in the room which is capacity, instead of increasing the variety we asked our speakers to be give them 2xs . Once in the morning and once in the afternoon  so that more people could come

Todd Ulizio Building Soil Free The Seeds Workshop

Basic information workshops on

  • seed starting
  • seed saving
  • fruit tree pruning and grafting
  • how to compost and build healthy soil 
  • food preserving

all of them intended to be useful info if you are a beginner or seasoned grower

and give you additional tools to put in your tool kit

So that’s a couple of things that are different.

Food Trucks

Another complaint we had was “we were all so hungry!” so there will be food trucks available for food and coffee!

Free The Seeds Kids Workshops Seed Tape

Kid friendly activities for ages 8+

make that available throughout the time… run continuously in a  in a kid friendly way!

In the food court organization and the Cry Jay Organization that supports youth and justice……

School Gardens Free The Seeds Workshop



In addition is another thing we have is Food Corps and go into local districts and teach  students about real food.

  • how the school garden can be connected to Montana State Curriculum Standards;
  • explore methods for effectively managing a class of 20+ students in an outdoor classroom setting, and
  • learn some basic gardening techniques that will make your school garden functional and easy to manage!

I got the worms for the vermiculture project in my classroom! It was so fun, but Idk how it’s working… I’m not sure I got it working right…. well have to see if they survived the cold… I had this bucket of dirt that was a plant someone gave me that actually had worms in it that were a little healthier… but I am definitely gonna attend because I could use all the help I can get. Especially if it has standards attached we hear that all the time… are you meeting your standards? …. What standard are you meeting with this lesson? …

So I have the info onthe Cry Jay Organization which is a traditional system, victims of crimes and with kids that are empowered kids and engage them that help them develop resiliency and help them see new ways….

Touching Spirit Bear by Ben Mikaelsen

I read this great book called Touching Spirit Bear by Ben Mikaelsen who lives in Bozeman and it really makes you think should we really be locking everyone up in jail? 

One other things are different this year then last year

Two Community Conversations

One was let’s come here if you want to talk about building a seed library and the other was Come here if you are a farmer and want more support developing a small farm community and business

led to additional participation by the community and enthusiasm and it was a direct result

Good Seed Co Website     imagine if Library logo

Good Seed Company and Imagine If Library  partnered that is going to be opening and announced at the Seed Fair!

It will be housed at the CFalls Imagine If Library and the CFalls middle school going to grow plants to save seeds to donate to the seed library so they are gonna start getting that engine running. That seed library is also gonna be a resource for classes  and workshops for 

  • seed plants 
  • seed starting and
  • seed saving

everything related to seeds

excite and thrilled it’s generated that conversation the dircetly Concept of a seed library!

small farmer community conversation are also rolling out a series of programs that helps famers with business matters and financial matters and things related to building a successful and resilient business farm

this year we decided to have more community conversations … throughout the day … we have a couple of those lined up

Food Forests

Food Forests in our Parks working with the city of Kalispell has received a tiger grant

taking out some rails and they are going to convert that into a park and they are seeking and soliciting input form the community what do we want in that part and we are going to sponsor a conversation about building a food forest in that park. Learn how successful they are in other cities and see if it’s something you would like to support the city!

Do you know anything about food forests in case listeners haven’t heard about them?

A Food Forest is designed is to be a sustainable growing system and are designed for a way for community access to food for free. You are allowed to harvest the fruit from the tree as a community member… If there are mint plants feel free to snip off some mint and take it home and make tea or put it in your lemonade or take some strawberries … apples ….

and nuts right?

and nuts for the community!  I am less clear what are the specific species that would grow here, people putting in food forests all over the valley and other parts of Montana.

great sustainable resource

the concept of a food forest in a public space is a way for community members to consider the possibility it’s available to everybody! You don’t have to buy it.  Food is for everyone! A powerful community building expressions that’s what people have found in other communities where they have put them in.. Great way to build  your community and educate your neighbor. It’s fun to install and powerful ….

I think they put one in where my mom lives. I went to the little elementary school…  I think there’s a big one in Seattle… there’s something I read about the bushes on the ground and trees with the nuts are a certain height and how it’s an ecosystem. I always get frustrated that I want to go to the store and buy and apple there… and I want to know why they don’t have a sink at the grocery store? So I can just buy it on my lunch hour and eat it?

Great way to learn about Currants, aren’t familiar with currants you can pick some and eat …

I remember talking to Bob Quinn who lives on the other side of the mountain but he was talking about having about 26 different fruits etc that he could grow to eat locally all year round. And I think currants were one of them.


Conversation on growing in a changing climate

And so that’s one conversation another one is focused on growing in a changing climate run by


Climate solutions partnership between government and private organizations in this glacier country ecosystem. that supports individuals and businesses how to make climate smart decisions … there’s a particular aspect of that that relates to growing food and building healthy soils… that’s a pretty cool topic. 

2 community conversations we had last year were so successful we wnated to expand this year and help more people think and participate and listen in a variety of topics

In the process of finalizing the logistics of this we wanted to give people another opportunity to get a mini version of what’s possible!

5-10 minute quick conversations where you can just go in and out where different people will be talking about actions that are taking place in the community now. Quick and easy way to get more info then you would at a booth, but less then a workshop so it’s food for thought… we tried to give a variety of different ways to help people move forward in what ever way it brought them to the fair… Anything that has to do with 

  • read seeds
  • real food
  • real skills

and how to make that info available to you!

that’s our goal!

Seed Library Basics

Do you want to explain to people who maybe don’t know what a seed library is?

Yes, a seed library is a modern take on an old idea, back in the day when our ancestors grew food, people learned that by … unexpected pests that might show up, it’s important to save seeds. So people have developed seed libaries… people who gorw and save seeds will donate them to the Quote unquote library and you basically check out a handful of seeds like a book… 

  • spoonful in an envelope
  • 25 seeds is 25 plants

You take those seeds and grow them in the garden and you enjoy the produce that it produces… we ask that you save one or two seeds… and bring them back the next year or two… the idea over time you will learn how to save seed and you start bringing your extra seed back… 

If you grow lettuce seed and you grow it in your garden and I grow it in my garden we each bring it back to the library we’re both putting slighlty different seeds back into the mix. When someone gets those seeds again they’re getting the benefit having grown in slightly different conditions the genetics are going to be helpful to the person who takes the seed to the third garden down the road … sharing is a key element…

The first time I ever saw a broadfork was at the seed fair and I just bought us one. I think Amazon is creating a whole section of garden tools. I think its amazing at events what you learn.

Workshop Descriptions

  • So we have learning about Cover Crops ANGEL ROSARIO from the NRCS is going to teach about cover coping
  • identify and beneficial insects • understanding to encourage polinators and beneficials
  • basic seed saving and basic seed starting
  • food growing 101 – what to do after you get the seeds planted
  • lessons learned from building a solar greenhouse – not just a solar greenhouse a lot of elements to make this a food producing doing it all year round – rocket mass heater built it down tot he growing – hugleculture – elements to make it functional and sustainable
  • IMPROVING YOUR UNDERSTANDING OF SOIL MINERALIZATION, AND WHY IT MATTERS by Todd Ulizio from Two Bear – one of the popular ones last year
  • AERO strengthen community based food systems and ways to do that
  • Fruit Tree Grafting
  • Fruit Tree Pruning
  • Introduction to honey bees and bee keeping
  • Growing and saving medicinal herbs
  • Another thing on making herbal remedies
  • Also distilling oils from medicinal herbs
  • How to gather native seeds
  • Bee keeping mason bees – native pollinators different from honeybees where you build basically a mason house not a hive…
  • never-till gardening
  • permaculture
  • how to make your own sourdough locally sourced – like yogurt is made from a gathering the beneficial yeast in your local environment… Julie Lang
  • Couple more herb workshops

There’s a wide variety what to do with the plants and food harvest as well as how to grow it!

None of those are the children ones which are pretty cool:

  • seed tape making
  • microgreens
  • seed bombs
  • mason bee houses

lots of activities that look really fun to me!

They do sound super fun, I did that last year and I thought it was one of the best ones.

Free the Seeds Facebook Page

Community members are donating their time to do this resources in this community!

Volunteers and Sponsors

Shouldn’t we mention something about volunteering or sponsoring. Didn’t it say it costs like $7,000 to put this on and people can sponsor for as little as $100?

Yes Pamela Lund is in charge of Volunteers  you can connect with her on the website and yes definitely we can use sponsors and it’s also once click on our website.


(406) 471-0022


WHEN: 8 am-noon

WHERE: Room 144 A/B, FVCC Arts & Technology Bldg .

About the author, Jackie Marie

I'm an artist and educator. I live at the "Organic Oasis" with my husband Mike where we practice earth friendly techniques in our garden nestled in the mountains of Montana.

Leave a Comment