25 August 2023

Community seed exchange idea certainly growing on Boorowa

| Sally Hopman
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Woman with bags of seeds

Lyn Diskon from the Boorowa Community Op Shop, shows off the new seed exchange. Photo: Sally Hopman.

Lyn Diskon is the sort of person who, if she sees a need for something, does her best to make it happen.

Back in 2017, it was an op shop for her town, Boorowa, in the Hilltops region of southern NSW.

There had been a Vinnies in the town but nothing since it closed. But because the shop no longer operated it didn’t mean that the demand had disappeared too. People still needed cheap clothes and bedding, toys for the kids – and also that special feeling of searching through other people’s junk/treasures to find your own special gem.

Having a place in town where people could also drop in, just for a chat, without being pressured to buy anything, was also high on the agenda.

So Lyn, working with the Rotary Club of Boorowa, and other community organisations, set up their own op shop.

The shop, run by volunteers, raises money for the town, their town. Op shop volunteers select which community cause the money deserves to go to – and it does. Beneficiaries over the years have ranged from the hospital auxiliary to the school, sports clubs, community health – wherever it is needed. But one thing stays the same – the money raised in town, stays in town.

“It’s all about if you see a need, try to fill it,” Lyn, who is now president of Boorowa Rotary, said.

READ ALSO Extraordinary school garden blooms from bright idea in Boorowa

So when she went to the Dunedoo Show recently and saw someone with a seed exchange program, she thought “if Dunedoo can do it, so can we”.

The next thing anyone knew, she had scrounged around at home and found seeds that were sitting unproductively in a drawer, asked friends and family and even ventured into one of those big hardware stores to ask if they could donate any seeds. (Bunnings at Young was the first to oblige, donating more than 30 packets of seeds to the Boorowa cause.)

The idea, she says, is simple. Rather than allowing them to go to waste, she repackages the seeds, dividing them up so there are less to plant (and less waste), repackages them, labels what they are and adds some planting advice.

From flowers to vegies to herbs, she has it covered – the Boorowa seed exchange now takes pride of place on the counter of the op shop.

“It’s simple things like this that can make a difference in the community,” Lyn said.

Packets of seeds

The Boorowa Seed Exchange is already up – and nearly blooming – with flowers, vegies and herb seeds on offer to the community. Photo: Sally Hopman.

The seeds can be locally saved, excess, ones brought back from another region, or just donations. People can decide what they want to swap. The only restrictions are poisonous plants and those illegal ones.

“A seed exchange is just how it sounds – it loans seeds to gardeners as a free-to-use, hands-on educational resource to enable the community to learn about gardening, seed-saving and native plant life,” Lyn said. “The reason it’s so great is the sense of community it creates.

“No one hesitates to buy from a kid’s lemonade stand or lend out a garden tool if someone needs to borrow it. Seed exchanges are the combination of two great things … community and the garden.”

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“Seed exchanges also support information sharing and preservation. Gardening is a localised knowledge, built through experience. While written guidelines can be helpful, person-to-person information sharing is how gardeners can learn how to be successful in their own unique environments.

“Localised knowledge can tell a gardener when to actually start seeds to avoid frost damage and other climatic issues. As our climate changes, it will be even more important to preserve and share this understanding of how to garden in a range of conditions.”

The seed exchange is at the Boorowa Community Op Shop, 113 Pudman Street, open Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays.

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