It was a simple sign that my husband and I found in Vashon on Vashon Island early in February this year that made us enter a building and mingle with the people inside. The sign said “8th Seed Share”, and in the building were tables and tables with jars and bowls of seeds for all kinds of edible plants, a lot of them, maybe all of them of heirloom varieties. Some fragrant steam rose from a crockpot, and people were discussing seeds and making careful choices. We went away with what I think was six kernels of a corn variety and a marvelous experience that still fills our hearts.
The initiator of the Vashon Seed Share, which takes place on the second weekend of February every year (so, hopefully also in 2021) is Jennifer Williams. Jen is the owner of the 2-acre “Wild Dreams Farm” ( www.wilddreamsfarm.org/) on one of the main thoroughfares on Vashon Island. And her story is as inspiring as the project through which I met her. For she started out as a student of politics and held down a work study job with a landscaping company – which basically triggered what has become a life-time task to her today. And probably also because Jen says, her mother is an amazing gardener. In short: Set against working inside again, Jen started farming at “Terry’s Berries”, a farm on River Road outside Puyallup, where she rode tractors and mowers. A year later, she and her family moved to Vashon Island – and here her own farm story begins.
“Imagine an abandoned house, falling apart cars even, and black berry thickets all over the place”, Jen remembers. Well, she set to it, and after a while the property was turned into a market garden, a lavender farm, a homestead, and – today – a biodiverse food, medicine, and seed farm. Jen became more and more fascinated by seeds, on which she read up and visited every workshop possible. Today, she is offering workshops on seeds and seed saving herself.
“It’s a slow process to become a seed seller”, Jen contemplates. “You sow, then you wait until there are seeds, but you only see their outcome another year later. Meanwhile you have to look for a good germination grade and that there is no cross pollination.” During the wait for new seeds, Jen grows all kinds of produce that she sells to a Vashon farm club of 15 families. Until Covid times, she was also selling on farmers markets, holiday markets and at other events. Having no farm stand and with a sudden rise in seed demand due to an increased interest in growing one’s own produce during the pandemic, Jen found herself with a problem. “It’s not easy to put yourself out as a seed seller.” But her networking paid off, and now “The Country Store & Farm” (www.countrystoreandfarm.com/) carries a full seed collection of her farm and the “Harbor Mercantile” in Burton a slightly smaller one; both are Vashon Island institutions.
Inspiring people to grow and save seeds is Jennifer Williams’ heart-felt mission. “It’s about supporting a community food system and preserving variety, not relying on a chain manager’s decision what is distributed”, Jen reasons. Her passion about restoring a healthy relationship between human being and Nature basically clicks together around seeds. Whether you call it spiritually or personally motivated, Jen’s seed share is also very much an ecological statement as to restoring biodiversity and feeding the greater ecosystem, as it is a political one.
“There is so much wrong with the current food system”, states Jen. “Think about access to healthy food, food options even in places such as schools, the lack of healthy food … The system is all about wealthy corporations and not about serving the people.”
With her seed share and patiently growing seeds for her seed selling business, Jen is trying to create more consciousness about food, more curiosity about nature. I asked her what her wildest dreams about post-Covid-times might be. “I’m even more committed to grow seeds by the increased gardening that has begun this recently”, says Jen. “And I’d like to give more workshops, maybe also in other communities in the region.” Meanwhile she is busy with the Vashon Seed Project and other groups with similar missions, carefully raising another year’s crop of seeds. Seeds for dreams of maybe another garden Eden that we can still create if we only make the effort.