2009 Bona Fide Seed Exchange

On Sunday, May 11, the annual “Intercambio de Semillas” – Bona Fide Seed Exchange – took place on the streets of Balgue. With the help of countless hands, from Javier hauling a truckload of plants from the farm to town in his vintage 80s Toyota 4×4 to the grandmotherly Doña Ines blasting Nica pop to attract people in the heat of the afternoon, everything went off well. Key to the show were Nevis, Maria and Aleyda of Escuela de Campo, who prepared numerous treelings, seedling medicinal plants, and packets of seeds to exchange for bags of rice, mangos, cacao beans, and most interesting of all, a freshly caught fish!

Every year the seed exchange offers us a direct opportunity to share some of the research and work we are doing on the farm with local communities. Posters and flyers placed in key towns on the island advertise the event – though quite a few of the people who come are those simply walking down the street who stop by to see what is going on. From the nursery, we share both locally popular fruits like nispero and mamey, as well as new varieties that are doing well on the farm and hold potential to be good food resources and opportunities to improve plant diversity in the area, like jackfruit and pitanga. As many people are unfamiliar with these plants, we explain to them how they are grown and how their fruits can be used – for example in juices, which are extraordinarily popular in the hot days of summer. From the garden, we share a variety of legumes that grow easily here and add nitrogen to depleted soils, in addition to different herbs and vegetables that we have grown and collected seeds from. And from the medicinal garden, we share plants that broaden the selection of natural remedies available and can be used to combat common illnesses.

While we hope eventually to attract crowds of people eager to discover the latest varieties of plants and trees coming from Bona Fide, the highlights of last Sunday came in small doses. Watching a 12-year-old girl come in search of a specific plant and then go down the line of trees and name almost every one of them – something not even I could do at the beginning of the day – is inspiring. Or seeing the delighted smile as a gentleman walked off with four trees he had come specifically seeking in a bucket on his shoulder. Or best of all, spending the day managing the various exchanges while out of the corner of one’s eye catching continuous glimpses of the breadfruit tree Doña Ines traded for three years ago, now rising above the roof of her house and producing fruit that, she happily explains, is “ricissimo” – absolutely delicious!

This blog contribution was written by Catherine McGill our garden co-manager and attache to the Escuela de Campo. Thanks to Cat for all her hard work. Much appreciated.

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