Thank you for your interest in the history of the San Luis Valley Seed Exchange, the brainchild of Leigh Mills (see below). Joyful Journey Hot Springs Spa is honored to continue to create a space and place for locals and visitors to gather, engage, share, and preserve the integrity of the art of seed saving. Please join us for the 2021 event!

SLV Seed Exchange History

By Leigh Mills [Written in 2017]

Humble Beginnings

It began with a seed give-away held in the Colorado Room of the Saguache County Library in March and April of 2010. Both events were a great success and many seeds were given away to an eager public who patiently waited almost ½ hour to get their free seeds. The America the Beautiful Fund plus a couple of other seed companies donated hundreds of packages and there were enough to use in the Saguache Community Garden Project and host the Give Away.

Inspired in 2011

The seed give away was so successful, and the abundant free seeds so easy to obtain, that I decided to host two events as the Director of the Saguache Community Garden: one in Saguache at the Methodist Church’s community room and another in Crestone at their old Community Building. I expanded the event with a topbar beekeeper, other invited seed savers, a reference table filled with gardening books, and a table where gardeners can bring their seed, package it and offer them to other gardeners. It too was a very successful event which started the annual tradition and inspired many gardeners to start growing and saving seeds.  The San Luis Valley Seed Exchange was born.

First Hand-Off

By the end of 2011 I was a toasted, fried, cooked kitty and the thought of even organizing a shopping list almost brought tears to my eyes. Kyle Grote and the folks at the Cho Ku Rei Ranch took on the organizing task and I helped a bit and came as a seed-saver. The Moffat School’s gym and its cafeteria were rented and both spaces had many people enjoying the great Cho Ku Rei food and the multitude of seeds that were shared amongst the hundreds that attended the 2nd Annual SLV Seed Exchange.

Back to Me – 2013

The Cho Ku Rei folks did a great job, however, they had a full plate already with their other ventures – so I ‘took it back’ and organized the 3nd Annual SLV Seed Exchange at the Joyful Journey Hot Springs. This was the first time their conference center was utilized for this gathering and it was a perfect fit. The Infinite Bee blog was up and running and one of the first posts was about this event. The event also got great press and two articles were written about it. One in the Valley Courier newspaper and the other in the Colorado Central Magazine.

Tide Shifts                     

I was going full speed, writing, gardening, traveling, organizing TWO large events, and preparing hundreds of packages of seeds for the 2014 seed exchanges…yes, plural. I somehow got it into my mind to spread the word and engage the southern part of the San Luis Valley into the seed exchange vision. Actually, I was trying to find someone to take over the event and getting others involved in the organizing. Not…..I’m such a control freak that I ended up doing both events mostly by myself. I did a great job! However, both events were lightly attended compared to years past and I burnt myself out again. I wrote a bit about the events and here’s the link to article about the 4th Annual SLV Seed Exchange at the Crestone Charter School in their lovely gymnasium.

Letting Go

For those new to The IB, I wrote about a revelation I had in April of 2014. By that fall, I was determined to NOT organize a seed exchange; and if it fell by the way, so be it. I was approached by a couple of folks and one of them ended up hosting the 5th Annual SLV Seed Exchange back at the Joyful Journey Hot Springs Conference Center in February of 2015. It was a big change from the last ones, but well attended and folks who came expressed their joy that it was still a happening event. I had plenty of fresh seed from 2014 and was content to attend as ‘just a seed saver’. Here are a couple of pics and the link to The Infinite Bee blog post.


Up and Running!    

I did quite a bit of nothing in 2015, even letting my garden go fallow for the first time in 9 years. Of course, it was one of the wettest years in living memory here in the SLV and I still gardened a bit. I also had garden seed from the previous year and the first of my photo cards so when I was approached by the folks at Joyful Journey if they could start hosting the seed exchange ‘in house’ I gave them my blessings and attended the 6th Annual SLV Seed Exchange in February of 2016. I had a great time and was very please with all the people who showed up; lots of new faces and always great garden seed. Joyful Journey’s master gardener gave dome tours and there was discounted soaking for the event’s attendees. Our Food Is Art hosted the food and the event managers were very happy.

The Vision Grows   

Inspired by the success of last year’s [2016] seed exchange, the organizers at the Joyful Journey Hot Springs and Conference center expanded the 7th Annual SLV Seed Exchange to include speakers and other tidbits designed to entice attendees to hang out and enjoy all the amenities that they, and the event, have too offer. I’ve got several types of fresh garden seeds: Peas, 5 kinds of Lettuce, Chives, and some flower seeds. I also have gobs of my brand new, professional-looking photo cards and will be there to share gardening information and experiences.

As we head into 2021, we will be celebrating the 11th Annual San Luis Valley Seed Exchange. How the time flies!

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