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Free the Seeds! returns with new growth

February 26, 2018 GMT

Amidst the heaps of snow covering the Flathead Valley, a reminder of the coming spring returns to Flathead Valley Community College March 3 for the third annual Free the Seeds! event.

A project of Farm Hands: Nourish the Flathead, Free the Seeds! offers everyone from new gardeners to experienced farmers the opportunity to learn more about the many aspects of homegrown food and receive or trade seeds to get started.

The event features a seed swap where participants can pick from a variety of vegetables, flowers and other plant seeds donated by local sources as well as over 40 booths and 23 workshops presented by local experts on topics ranging from beekeeping to soil health.

“The goal has always been to have more people growing food in the valley,” said Gretchen Boyer, program director at Farm Hands. “When we think of our local food system and our local food, we often forget how important seeds are.”

Participants are welcome, but have no obligation to bring seeds to participate in the swap and can choose from over 20,000 packages of seeds.

Workshops will cover topics for participants of every skill level and interest, including pruning, pest/weed control, turning lawns into gardens, seed saving, composting and more.

Speakers will also provide information on farm-to-restaurant, farm-to-school, and farm share opportunities in the valley.

“Supporting local farmers with our dollars creates a healthier community for all of us,” Boyer said. “We believe that local food access to our community is super important to our community being self-supportive.”

Since the event began three years ago, attendance has exceeded expectation, and this year, organizers expect around 2,000 participants.

Seeds, workshops, kids activities and all other aspects of the event are free and open to all participants.

“The idea is to focus on seed saving and spreading seeds and having seeds be free and available to people,” said FVCC’s Agriculture Program Director Heather Estrada. “I think that’s something that the event tries to capture is just that excitement for planting and starting some new life in the spring.”

According to Estrada, Farm Hands take feedback from participants each year to determine what topics people want to learn about the next year.

This year, Estrada will lead a workshop on the influence of soil texture and ph on plant growth and health, a topic several participants requested last year.

“It can get a little messy. People will bring raspberry canes and different roots of things to share, dig stuff up out of their gardens,” Estrada said. “We might get a little dirt on the floor, but it’s pretty cool.

The event runs from 9 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. in the Arts and Technology Building at FVCC.

Workshops, booths, and kids’ activities will run from 10 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. with a 45-minute break for lunch at 12:15 p.m.

Food will be available for purchase at the event all day.

For more information about Free the Seeds!, visit www.freetheseedsmontana.com.

Reporter Mary Cloud Taylor can be reached at 758-4459 or mtaylor@dailyinterlake.com.