Seeding the future

When Torrie Birkemeier moved to Brown County with her husband, Kyle, about a year ago, she began looking for seeds to grow local varieties of plants on their homestead.

Birkemeier is a gardening expert who teaches online classes in urban farming.

She found that while there were people here who gardened and kept seeds from year to year, there was no coordinated way for them to share their seeds with other gardeners.

When the couple lived in Phoenix, a group of gardeners would share surplus vegetables, which led to them sharing surplus seeds, too. In a short time, what started as a single box of seeds that was passed from event to event became five boxes that circulated around the city.

Inspired by that experience, Birkemeier organized Seed Brown County and set up a March 19 seed swap at the Brown County Public Library.

It was bustling with all ages sharing stories, seeds and knowledge.

The Indiana Native Plant and Wildlife Society had a booth and so did the Brown County Soil and Water Conservation District. At both, information was available on how to garden productively and responsibly.

Jack Cathcart came from T.C. Steele State Historic Site to share hollyhock seeds they are using to restore the gardens there — inspiration to the Steeles and many other painters after them.

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Kyle’s mother, Carol Birkemeier, manned a table where children could learn the names of parts of plants by arranging “plant” of their own on tacky paper.

At the center of it all was a table spread with seeds of all kinds, open to anyone who wanted to take some.

“The idea is, here, excess seeds that are left, there’ll be a Brown County seed box, and everyone in the community can access those seeds,” Torrie Birkemeier said.

In the long term, Birkemeier would like to see people creating seed-saving gardens. Perhaps Brown County could even have a small, public seed library, where people could “check out” seeds.

“The drive for the project is really to get more seeds that are grown locally into our community’s hands,” Birkemeier said. “The idea is that we cultivate stewards, people that are dedicated to preserving the cultural diversity and being a voice for seeds.”

With the response to the March 19 swap, Birkemeier is excited for the future of the program.

That next step, for now, is the next seed swap — and plant swap — scheduled for Saturday, April 23, from 1 to 3 p.m. at Deer Run Park.

Saving seeds is “really a skill that has skipped a few generations,” Birkemeier said.

“So, that’s another driving force, is to prepare our young people and equip them with skills to grow their own food and take care of their own needs.”

More from the Seed Swap

Find out more

Seed Brown County

Organizer: Torrie Birkemeier


Phone: 812-322-5888

Get involved

April seed and plant swap

Where: Deer Run Park

When: Saturday, April 23

Time: 1 p.m. to 3 p.m.

Author photo
Ben Kibbey is a Brown County transplant from the cornfields of central Ohio. He covers county government, business, outdoors, sports and general news.