Starting a Round Robin Seed Swap

If your community does not have a seed swap for you to source seeds, you can hold one of your own. Start with a small round robin or seed circle swap.

Participants in either round robin or seed circle swaps can be local. If they are, this will save money on shipping and ensure varieties in the swap are appropriate to grow in your area. Participants can be long distance as well, or a mix of local and long distance. Try to keep the swap domestic. It can be a challenge to send seeds overseas.

Get started with a round robin seed swap by collecting the names and contact information of those who will participate.  Draw up instructions to swap participants. Let them know that when they receive the box, they should both take seeds from and add seeds to it. Provide tips on which types of seeds to add (hybrid vs. heirloom). If you have distance-swappers, remind your participants to provide zone information with their added seeds and check zone information before taking seeds. Instruct them to send the box to the next participant on the list.

Round robin seed swap box. Photo by Ashley Andrews.

Gather up the seeds you have available for swapping, and package them with your swap instructions and list of participants. Then, send the box off to the first person on the list. The first will send it to the second and so on. When the box makes it back to you, it will have in it a variety of seeds from a variety of people. Pick what you would like to keep. Then, you have a couple of options.

You can send the seeds back around again. This works well if there are still a lot of seeds left and still time to get them started. Or, you can properly store the seeds to use for next year’s swap. If you go this route, you only have to jump start the swap with your own seeds in the first year. After that, it will be self-sustaining.

Another option is to start a seed circle. A seed circle differs from a round robin because participants sign up at the beginning of the growing season to receive specific seeds at the end of the season. Each person in the circle agrees to grow one or two of the requested varieties, save seeds from those varieties and send them to their fellow swappers who requested the seeds. To learn more about seed circles, watch for my next blog post.


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