A mutual aid, community-focused seed, and gardening program
Reana Kovalcik, Slow Food DC Board Member, and Slow Food USA Southeast Regional Councilor founded Share a Seed in January 2020 as a direct response to the supply chain shortages caused by COVID-19. The project seeks to connect community members with the land and their food system and to help replace scarcity with abundance through resource sharing.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, interest in gardening and growing skyrocketed. However, inequities in the supply chain, which were dramatically exacerbated by the pandemic, kept many communities from the resources they needed to get growing. Stores were shuttered, seed companies were closing their online sales, and many communities lacked the connections to growers who could help them cultivate their green thumbs. Kovalcik started Share a Seed as a direct response to the pandemic-fueled seed shortage with the hopes that the program could expand access and grow relationships during and post-pandemic.
“When gardening really started to take off as a safe and supportive pandemic pastime, it became obvious right away that access to the resources to grow was far from equitable,” Kovalcik said. “I knew this was an important moment to seize when so many people who had never grown or gardened were starting to take an interest, and I also knew that I wanted to do something to correct that imbalance in access – even in just a small way. Share a Seed is a mutual aid-inspired program, which means that is created by and meant for community members, works on a resource-sharing model, and seeks to empower folks with key tools and resources.”
Share a Seed asks gardeners and growers to share their spares – everything from seeds to gardening supplies – so that more people can get growing. Kovalcik, along with five other Slow Food chapters (CA, CO, IL, NV, TX) across the U.S. that are also piloting the program, take donations online (labeled U.S. domestic seeds only) as well as at in-person events and then redistribute the seeds and growing equipment back into the community. Several participating chapters are also working with local libraries to set up “seed libraries” where community members can check out seeds at no cost.
“When the system fails to provide, we fall back on the community,” says Kovalcik, “To me, this is what Share a Seed and Slow Food are all about: community, togetherness, connection.”
For seven months, Kovalcik has been carrying her seeds, gardening supplies, and tools across Washington DC to get them into the hands of new growers. Whenever possible, she partners with fellow mutual aid organizations that target services to underserved communities. Kovalcik helps to pair up growers of all experience levels with seeds that will work for them, whether they’re growing outdoors in a large plot or only have a small amount of space indoors.
How does it work?
“If you have seeds to spare you could help build community, enhance food sovereignty, and restore relationships to food and land by donating your surplus through our Share a Seed initiative. All seeds are welcome, though we recommend donating seeds that are no more than one year old and have been properly stored in a cool, dry place. We also recommend that seed sponsors donate seeds appropriate to the climate of the receiving chapter(s) and we ask that only domestic seeds be donated and that seeds are clearly labeled. In the first years of the program, six Slow Food chapters from across the country will be taking seed donations and hosting events to help their communities grow. In Washington DC alone we have received over 2,000 donations of spare seeds and unused garden equipment from growers looking to help future green thumbs get started. We have held numerous partner events and connected communities without access to growing materials, seedlings, and the confidence to grow”.
This project is currently piloting in six U.S. Slow Food chapters serving as a model for other Slow Food groups interested in approaching issues from a community-based and mutual aid-oriented perspective.
What does Share a Seed hope to achieve? Greener, more equitable communities. Help Slow Food and the Share a Seed Project foster connection, increase food sovereignty, and get more people growing by sharing your spares today. Let’s get growing!